The effectiveness of sequencing virtual patients with lectures in a deductive or inductive learning approach

<p><b>Background:</b> Virtual patients (VPs) can be sequenced with other instructional methods in different ways.</p> <p><b>Aim:</b> To investigate the effect of sequencing VPs with lectures in a deductive approach, in comparison with an inductive approach, on students’ knowledge acquisition, retention, and transfer.</p> <p><b>Methods:</b> For two different topics, 84 out of 87 students have participated in the lecture and VP sessions. Students from female and male campuses have been randomly assigned to one of the two learning approaches (deductive and inductive), yielding four experimental groups. Each group received a lecture session and an independent VP learning activity, which either followed the lecture session in the deductive group or preceded it in the inductive group. Students were administrated knowledge acquisition and retention written tests as well as transfer tests using two new VPs.</p> <p><b>Results:</b> There was no significant effect for the learning approach on knowledge acquisition or retention, while for knowledge transfer, males have benefited from the inductive approach in topic 1 while in the more complex topic 2, they have benefited from the deductive approach. On the other hand, females seem to be largely unaffected by learning approach.</p> <p><b>Conclusions:</b> Sequencing VPs in inductive and deductive learning approaches leads to no significant differences on students’ performance when full guidance is offered in the inductive approach.</p>