Google web search as a teaching and learning tool: developing the diagnostic skills of Optometry students

Dr. Frank Eperjesi, LHS

Anecdotal evidence indicates that optometry undergraduates often use Google Web Search to support them with their learning, for example in preparing for coursework assignments and diagnosing eye diseases. A preliminary search of the literature (PubMed, Medline and Web of Science) revealed a paucity of published work on the topic of using an internet search engine as a learning and teaching tool. Tang and Ng (2006) showed that 58% of medical cases can be diagnosed correctly by experienced medical doctors using carefully selected search terms and Google Web Search. These authors suggested that doctors in training would find Google searches educational and useful in formulating a differential diagnosis. Twisselmann (2006) reminds us that ‘Google is not set up asa diagnostic decision support system—although it can bea useful aid to differential diagnosis once a diagnosis hasbeen made’ and that ‘other internet resourcesexist, for example PubMed and other specialty databases, which might be morespecific and useful than Google and of course these sources contain mainly peer reviewed information.’



The primary aim of the proposed study is to determine whether conducting internet searches using Google Web Search adds value to the learning experience of optometry undergraduates and in particular whether it aids in solving diagnostic problems. The secondary aim is to compare the key search terms as identified by the undergraduates with those selected by experienced clinical teachers. This will inform the clinical teachers on the ability of optometry undergraduates to identify key signs and symptoms by the time they enter their final year of study.