Many medical students have difficulty learning basic science, either because they find the material challenging to comprehend or because they believe it has limited clinical application. Computer-assisted instruction (CAI)—ie, computer animation—can clarify instruction by allowing students to visualize complex, dynamic processes in an interesting presentation. At West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM) in Lewisburg, a series of computer animations have been developed to present concepts in molecular and cellular biology. The author conducted an investigation to compare the efficacy of one representative computer animation with that of traditional textbook material. The subjects were 22 students who had been admitted to WVSOM but who had not yet begun classes. The experimental design of the study consisted of a prelesson test, a lesson, and a postlesson test. The lesson explained the process of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) replication using either a computer animation (n=12) or a chapter from a textbook (n=10). Lesson comprehension as measured by the tests was significantly higher for subjects who used the computer animation than for subjects who used the textbook (P<.01). Furthermore, reviewing the text after studying with the computer animation did not raise test scores, suggesting that the animation was sufficient for learning and the text was unnecessary. After the study, a majority of subjects indicated a preference for the animation over the text. These results demonstrate that CAI can be an effective tool for relating basic science to medical students by improving comprehension and eliciting interest in the lessons.

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