Introducing Anki, a Spaced-Repetition Program, as a Study Tool for First Year Medical Students

Date
2022-02
Authors
Kanja, Kassidy
Abe, Jonathan
Ko, Caleb
Kasuya, Richard
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Abstract

Description of Innovation
Anki is a free flashcard program that can be downloaded from the internet onto electronic devices. Unlike other flashcard programs, it uses a learning technique called “spaced repetition” whereby Anki uses an algorithm to automatically test students with newer and more difficult flashcards more frequently than older and less difficult ones. To use Anki to study for exams, students may make their own flashcards in the form of “decks” (sets of flashcards divided by subject) and/or download “decks” from the internet made by peers from other medical schools.

Evaluation of Innovation
In the past several years, Anki gained popularity among medical students from both allopathic and osteopathic schools (Rana et al., 2020) after it was shown that students who used Anki performed better on the USMLE Step 1 than students who did not use Anki (Deng et al., 2016).
Anki was introduced to JABSOM students when JABSOM’s ℅ 2023 made Anki decks which covered material on JABSOM’s MD2 (Cardiology and Pulmonology) unit. These decks were then shared with students from the ℅ 2024, the majority of whom reported success with using Anki to study for MD2 exams (Koshi et al., 2021).

Context
During the start of medical school, most first year students (MS1s) have difficulty identifying study habits that best suit their individual learning styles. This project introduced Anki to MS1s during JABSOM’s MD1 (Health and Illness) unit in hopes of easing the ℅ 2025’s transition to medical school and expanding upon the findings of Koshi et al., which were limited to JABSOM’s MD2 unit.
The distributed Anki decks came with certain limitations. First, they only covered material related to MD1 PBL cases. Second, they were released one at a time after students finished their corresponding PBL cases so as to not interfere with the PBL process. Lastly, decks from PBL cases 5 and 7 were omitted to encourage students to practice making their own flashcards.
This project also consisted of online workshops that taught students how to use Anki and “AnKing,” the most commonly used premade Anki deck for the USMLE Step 1 and 2. Students’ comfort with and utilization of Anki were monitored throughout the unit via weekly surveys.

Objectives
Made and shared Anki decks covering most MD1 PBL material with the ℅ 2025 to introduce and transition them to using Anki.
Hosted workshops to teach the ℅ 2025 how to use efficiently Anki and AnKing as well as how to make their own flashcards and decks.

Discussion
The JABSOM ℅ 2025 (n=77) were emailed 9 Anki decks out of a total possible 11 PBL cases. An average of 66.14 students (85.9% of the class) used the PBL decks. At the beginning of this project, 30.8% of respondents felt somewhat or very comfortable with creating new Anki cards. At the conclusion of this project, this percentage increased to 65.7%. The final survey showed that all 67 respondents would recommend Anki as a study resource to future students. All but one respondent planned to continue using Anki as a study resource.

Conclusion
Most students gave positive feedback about the Anki decks, reporting they were helpful study tools. Furthermore, most students reported that this project eased their transition into medical school and would continue to use Anki to supplement their studying in future units.

Target Audience
The intended audience of this presentation includes health professionals, and medical school faculty, educators, and students.

References
1. Deng F, Gluckstein JA, Larsen DP. Student-directed retrieval practice is a predictor of medical licensing examination performance [published correction appears in Perspect Med Educ. 2016 Nov 18;:]. Perspect Med Educ. 2015;4(6):308-313. doi:10.1007/s40037-015-0220-x
2. Koshi E, Nielsen T, Fujiuchi B, Walter M, Kuniyoshi C, Sakai D. Qualitative Assessment of Anki as a Tool for Medical Education. Health Professions Education Conference (HPEC). 2021. hdl.handle.net/10125/73407
3. Rana T, Laoteppitaks C, Zhang G, Troutman G, Chandra S. An Investigation of Anki Flashcards as a Study Tool Among First Year Medical Students Learning Anatomy. The FASEB journal. 2020;34(S1):1-1. doi:10.1096/fasebj.2020.34.s1.09736

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