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Medical School Without Lectures?: A Move Toward Active Learning

medschool_small.jpgWhat's medical school without lectures? Since the dawn of formal medical education at Schola Medica Salernitana in Salerno, Italy in the 9th century, lectures have been the focal point of curricula. Now, The Washington Post looks at a move past memorization, from lectures to problem-based learning, at Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.

Larner will be the first medical school to eliminate lectures from their curriculum starting in the summer of 2019. But Larner is not the only non-lecture school. The Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University was established in 2004 with the no-lecture curriculum already set.

Instead of lectures, Larner/University of Vermont students will learn in small groups, providing a more hands-on, case-based approach. School officials believe this plan will help students retain more information. Small-scale studies on active learning have shown the positive effect of this approach on academic performance1,2

How does Lerner/Case Western's approach work? Students are placed into groups of 8 with a faculty facilitator. Each week, students receive a clinical case based on the organ system they're working on. The case follows learning objectives and guides students through clinical science and medical humanities concepts. Students work together to solve the case and then are encouraged to share what they learned and how. Students are rotated through groups so they have an opportunity to work with different individuals and foster teamwork just like in a real world clinical setting.

VisualDx believes active and problem-based learning is the key to success. VisualDx is founded on the belief that information-assisted decision-making is far more beneficial than just memory-based education. VisualDx supports and encourages a logical method of clinical reasoning. As the leading clinical decision support system, we teach students how to quickly build an appropriate differential and avoid common diagnostic pitfalls. Medical students can also use the quiz function available in the mobile app to quickly test their visual diagnostic skills based on VisualDx's extensive medical image library and visual cues.


  1. 1. Gross MM, Wright MC, Anderson OS. Effects of image-based and text-based active learning exercises on student examination performance in a musculoskeletal anatomy course. Anat Sci Educ. 2017 Feb 7. doi:10.1002/ase.1684 [PubMed]
  2. 2. Chiu PH, Cheng SH. Effects of active learning classrooms on student learning: a two-year empirical investigation on student perceptions and academic performance [Abstract]. High Educ Res Dev. 2017;36(2):269-279. Accessed July 31, 2017. 

About VisualDx

VisualDx is an award-winning diagnostic clinical decision support system that has become the standard electronic resource at more than half of U.S. medical schools and more than 1,500 hospitals and institutions nationwide.  VisualDx combines clinical search with the world's best medical image library, plus medical knowledge from experts to help with diagnosis, treatment, self-education, and patient communication. Expanding to provide diagnostic decision support across General Medicine, the new VisualDx brings increased speed and accuracy to the art of diagnosis. Learn more at