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© The Author(s) 2018. Objective: The primary aim of this overview was to synthesise results from studies including digital education and its effect on knowledge or learning outcomes, student satisfaction, student enrolment, attendance rate, course completion rate, clinical practice, health outcomes for patients and cost-effectiveness in health-care education. A secondary aim was to report on successful instructional design strategies, and barriers or contextual factors influencing the effectiveness of online learning course delivery in healthcare education. Method: We conducted an overview of systematic reviews (SRs) for digital education interventions delivered to health-care students and practitioners. Results: We scanned 848 titles, reviewed 247 abstracts and assessed 49 full-text articles against pre-determined inclusion and exclusion criteria. This overview includes data collected from 31,730 participants across 16 SRs. The quality of evidence included in the SRs ranged from very low (n = 2), low (n = 6) to moderate (n = 8). The best available SRs were of moderate quality (7.4 of 11 AMSTAR). SR authors did not report other teaching methods as being superior to digital learning. In most cases (n = 9), digital education when used in addition to traditional methods augmented knowledge acquisition. Other SRs (n = 7) did not show statistically significant differences across interventions including digital education as a replacement, or additive resource to traditional intervention. Conclusion: Student enrolment, attendance rates, course completion rates, cost-effectiveness and changes in clinical outcomes for patients are underreported in the existing evidence. Although the quality and quantity of data are limited, evidence-based instructional design for digital education is becoming more possible, especially as educators establish learning activities that track to learning objectives for knowledge acquisition in health care.

Original publication




Journal article


Health Education Journal

Publication Date





497 - 514