If you attended a lecture for undergraduate medical students, you would find very few textbooks; instead, you would observe a sea of laptops, each fulfilling the job of a whole library. Undergraduate medical education (UGME) is constantly undergoing reform as medical schools attempt to ensure that teaching is continuously being delivered via the most effective methods and that UGME reflects changes in NHS clinical practice(1). As a result, teaching has evolved from a primarily large-group didactic approach to student-centred problem-based learning (PBL) with increased small-group discussion(2). These changes in pedagogy alongside the increasing utilisation of technology have encouraged the development of e-learning resources, such as question banks, teaching videos, podcasts and informational websites(3,4).

In my first year of UGME, I explored online video resources, including ‘Osmosis.org’, to aid my learning of complex concepts that I struggled to understand using textbooks(5). The simple, animated diagrams brought the content to life and visualising the information enabled me to gain detailed comprehension much quicker. The shortcomings of textbooks arise because they present written statements of fact, whereas video formats force authors to convey information coherently and build understanding with simplified, multimedia explanations(3). This appeals to visual and aural learners who may become disengaged with a reading approach(6). Students using ‘Osmosis.org’ can easily browse the whole spectrum of specialities and the user-friendly search bar allows them to quickly find relevant content. With 2.97 million people subscribed to the ‘Osmosis.org’ YouTube channel, video resources are evidently a very popular learning method(7).

In addition to learning new concepts, I also use technology to reinforce my knowledge through question banks. For example, ‘CAPSULE’ combines patient cases and multiple-choice questions to contextualise clinical knowledge and highlight areas for revision(8). The case-based questioning allows students to effortlessly establish PBL-style group discussion outside scheduled teaching, in a way that would be completely different and far more difficult using textbooks alone. Furthermore, students wishing to engage with the PBL approach for individual study are now able to, supporting the modern UGME pedagogy(9). This critical thinking not only improves knowledge retention but also develops essential knowledge application skills for clinical practice(2). Another benefit of ‘CAPSULE’ is the ease of accessibility; with a mobile application available, students can access revision questions from anywhere with internet access. These features are likely to explain how ‘CAPSULE’ attracted 4,500 distinct monthly users within one year of being made available to all undergraduate UK medical students(9).

The massive popularity of modern technologies epitomises the current revolution in UGME pedagogy to increasingly utilise the large accumulation of high-quality e-learning resources. Such resources have benefits over their paper-based predecessors of being more accessible, quick to browse and allow students to tailor their tuition to individual learning styles(10). On top of this, the expanding assortment of e-learning resources has a major role in supporting the modern PBL technique, potentially rendering textbooks obsolete in future UGME. Although clearly a major change, this shift is demonstrably a positive development and further technological advancements will surely encourage the continued evolution of UGME.


1. Rees PJ, Stephenson AE. The future of medical education in the UK. Br J Gen Pract. 2010 Nov 1;60(580):795–6. 

2. Barrows HS. Problem‐based learning in medicine and beyond: A brief overview. New Dir Teach Learn. 1996 Dec;1996(68):3–12. 

3. Ellaway R, Masters K. AMEE Guide 32: e-Learning in medical education Part 1: Learning, teaching and assessment. Med Teach. 2008 Jan;30(5):455–73. 

4. Wynter L, Burgess A, Kalman E, Heron JE, Bleasel J. Medical students: what educational resources are they using? BMC Med Educ. 2019 Dec;19(1):36. 

5. Osmosis from Elsevier. Osmosis.org [Internet]. 2023 [cited 2023 Nov 2]. Available from: https://www.osmosis.org/about

6. Prithishkumar I, Michael S. Understanding your student: Using the VARK model. J Postgrad Med. 2014;60(2):183. 

7. Osmosis from Elsevier. YouTube GB. 2023 [cited 2023 Nov 2]. Osmosis from Elsevier. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNI0qOojpkhsUtaQ4_2NUhQ

8. Brighton and Sussex Medical School, Ocasta. CAPSULE. 2023 [cited 2023 Nov 2]. CAPSULE. Available from: https://www.capsule.ac.uk/about

9. Karunaratne D, Karunaratne N, Wilmot J, Vincent T, Wright J, Mahmood N, et al. An Online Teaching Resource to Support UK Medical Student Education During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Descriptive Account. Adv Med Educ Pract. 2021 Nov;Volume 12:1317–27. 

10.Lin H. Teaching and Learning Without a Textbook. Int Rev Res Open Distrib Learn [Internet]. 2019 Jan 18 [cited 2023 Nov 1];20(3). Available from: http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/4224

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