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ArticleCognitive loadDirected self-regulated learningInstructional designLearning supportsOtologyTemporal bone surgeryVR simulation
Andersen SA, Frendø M, Sørensen MS.
MedEdPublish. 2020;9(1):51.
Publication year: 2020

Aims: According to the guidance hypothesis, tutoring during technical skills training can result in tutoring over-reliance, reflected in a negative effect on performance when tutoring is discontinued. In this study, we wanted to explore if similar effects would be found for cognitive load.

Methods: Two cohorts of novice medical students were recruited for distributed virtual simulation training (five practice blocks of three procedures): 16 participants received intermittent simulator-integrated tutoring and 14 participants served as a reference cohort and did not receive simulator-integrated tutoring. Cognitive load during simulation was estimated using secondary task reaction time. Linear mixed models were used to account for repeated measurements.

Results: Overall, the tutored cohort had a significantly higher cognitive load than the reference cohort (mean difference = 7 %, p=0.006). Simulator-integrated tutoring did seem to lower cognitive load when active but also caused the tutored cohort to have a substantially higher cognitive load in subsequent performances where it was turned off (mean difference = 7 %, respectively, p<<0.001).

Conclusions: Concurrent feedback by simulator-integrated tutoring causes tutoring over-reliance and modifies cognitive load. This suggests that tutoring, in addition to degrading motor skills learning also affects the cognitive processes involved.

Understanding the effects of structured self-assessment in directed, self-regulated simulation-based training of mastoidectomy: a mixed methods study

ArticleCognitive loadInstructional designLearning supportsMastoidectomyOtologySurgical trainingTemporal bone surgeryVR simulation
Andersen SA, Frendø M, Guldager M, Sørensen MS.
J Otol 2019 23 Dec [Epub ahead of print].
Publication year: 2019

OBJECTIVE: Self-directed training represents a challenge in simulation-based training as low cognitive effort can occur when learners overrate their own level of performance. This study aims to explore the mechanisms underlying the positive effects of a structured self-assessment intervention during simulation-based training of mastoidectomy.

METHODS: A prospective, educational cohort study of a novice training program consisting of directed, self-regulated learning with distributed practice (5×3 procedures) in a virtual reality temporal bone simulator. The intervention consisted of structured self-assessment after each procedure using a rating form supported by small videos. Semi-structured telephone interviews upon completion of training were conducted with 13 out of 15 participants. Interviews were analysed using directed content analysis and triangulated with quantitative data on secondary task reaction time for cognitive load estimation and participants’ self-assessment scores.

RESULTS: Six major themes were identified in the interviews: goal-directed behaviour, use of learning supports for scaffolding of the training, cognitive engagement, motivation from self-assessment, self-assessment bias, and feedback on self-assessment (validation). Participants seemed to self-regulate their learning by forming individual sub-goals and strategies within the overall goal of the procedure. They scaffolded their learning through the available learning supports. Finally, structured self-assessment was reported to increase the participants’ cognitive engagement, which was further supported by a quantitative increase in cognitive load.

CONCLUSIONS: Structured self-assessment in simulation-based surgical training of mastoidectomy seems to promote cognitive engagement and motivation in the learning task and to facilitate self-regulated learning.

Failure affects subjective estimates of cognitive load through a negative carry-over effect in virtual reality simulation of hip fracture surgery

ArticleCognitive load
Rölfing JD, Nørskov JK, Paltved C, Konge L, Andersen SA.
Advances in Simulation. 2019;4:26.
Publication year: 2019

BACKGROUND: Cognitive overload can impair learning, and different factors might affect cognitive load during simulation-based training. In this study, we investigate the role of failure in repeated practice of virtual reality (VR) simulation of hip fracture surgery on cognitive load (CL) estimated by secondary-task reaction time test and two questionnaires.

METHODS: The VR simulation training program consisted of three competency levels of increasing complexity starting with the placement of a Kirschner wire in a fractured hip of one patient, adding clinical variability at the intermediate level, and performing the entire dynamic hip screw procedure in 24 different patients at the highest level. Thirteen consecutive passed simulations were required to advance to the next level. Performance was measured as passing/failing a procedure and the number of failed procedures within the latest three and five simulations. CL was measured objectively using reaction time testing during simulation and subjectively using the NASA-TLX and PAAS questionnaires. The study was carried out at a simulation center from November 2016 to March 2019. Forty-two first-year orthopedic surgery residents from the Central Denmark Region and the North Denmark Region participated in the training program.

RESULTS: A failing performance in the simulated procedure was associated with a higher CL than passing a procedure. The subjective CL estimates were affected by the number of failures during last three and five procedures with a higher number of failures being associated with a higher CL. In contrast, relative reaction time estimates of CL were not affected by previous failures.

CONCLUSIONS: Questionnaires for estimation of CL seem to be affected by participant frustration after failure-a meta-cognitive “carry-over” effect. This could be a general limitation of the subjective questionnaire approach to estimate CL. Reducing CL through instructional design and handling of participant frustration might improve the learning outcome of simulation training programs.

Cognitive load and performance in immersive virtual reality versus conventional virtual reality simulation training of laparoscopic surgery: a randomized trial

ArticleCognitive loadDirected self-regulated learningImmersive simulationInstructional designSurgical trainingVR simulation
Frederiksen JG, Sørensen SM, Konge L, Svendsen MB, Nobel-Jørgensen M, Bjerrum F, Andersen SA.
Surg Endosc. 2020;34(3):1244–1252.
Publication year: 2019

BACKGROUND: Virtual reality simulators combined with head-mounted displays enable highly immersive virtual reality (VR) for surgical skills training, potentially bridging the gap between the simulation environment and real-life operating room conditions. However, the increased complexity of the learning situation in immersive VR could potentially induce high cognitive load thereby inhibiting performance and learning. This study aims to compare cognitive load and performance in immersive VR and conventional VR simulation training.

METHODS: A randomized controlled trial of residents (n = 31) performing laparoscopic salpingectomies with an ectopic pregnancy in either immersive VR or conventional VR simulation. Cognitive load was estimated by secondary-task reaction time at baseline, and during nonstressor and stressor phases of the procedure. Simulator metrics were used to evaluate performance.

RESULTS: Cognitive load was increased by 66% and 58% during immersive VR and conventional VR simulation, respectively (p < 0.001), compared to baseline. A light stressor induced a further increase in cognitive load by 15.2% and a severe stressor by 43.1% in the immersive VR group compared to 23% (severe stressor) in the conventional VR group. Immersive VR also caused a significantly worse performance on most simulator metrics.

CONCLUSION: Immersive VR simulation training induces a higher cognitive load and results in a poorer performance than conventional VR simulation training in laparoscopy. High extraneous load and element interactivity in the immersive VR are suggested as mechanisms explaining this finding. However, immersive VR offers some potential advantages over conventional VR such as more real-life conditions but we only recommend introducing immersive VR in surgical skills training after initial training in conventional VR.

The effect of distributed virtual reality simulation training on cognitive load during subsequent dissection training

ArticleCognitive loadDirected self-regulated learningInstructional designSurgical trainingTemporal bone surgeryVR simulation
Andersen SA, Konge L, Sørensen MS.
Med Teach. 2018;40(7):684–689.
Publication year: 2018

BACKGROUND: Complex tasks such as surgical procedures can induce excessive cognitive load (CL), which can have a negative effect on learning, especially for novices.

AIM: To investigate if repeated and distributed virtual reality (VR) simulation practice induces a lower CL and higher performance in subsequent cadaveric dissection training.

METHODS: In a prospective, controlled cohort study, 37 residents in otorhinolaryngology received VR simulation training either as additional distributed practice prior to course participation (intervention) (9 participants) or as standard practice during the course (control) (28 participants). Cognitive load was estimated as the relative change in secondary-task reaction time during VR simulation and cadaveric procedures.

RESULTS: Structured distributed VR simulation practice resulted in lower mean reaction times (32% vs. 47% for the intervention and control group, respectively, p < 0.01) as well as a superior final-product performance during subsequent cadaveric dissection training.

CONCLUSIONS: Repeated and distributed VR simulation causes a lower CL to be induced when the learning situation is increased in complexity. A suggested mechanism is the formation of mental schemas and reduction of the intrinsic CL. This has potential implications for surgical skills training and suggests that structured, distributed training be systematically implemented in surgical training curricula.

The effect of implementing cognitive load theory-based design principles in virtual reality simulation training of surgical skills: a randomized controlled trial

ArticleCognitive loadDirected self-regulated learningInstructional designLearning supportsMastoidectomyOtologySurgical trainingTemporal bone surgeryVR simulation
Andersen SA, Mikkelsen PT, Konge L, Cayé-Thomasen P, Sørensen MS.
Adv Simul (Lond). 2016;1: 20.
Publication year: 2016

BACKGROUND: Cognitive overload can inhibit learning, and cognitive load theory-based instructional design principles can be used to optimize learning situations. This study aims to investigate the effect of implementing cognitive load theory-based design principles in virtual reality simulation training of mastoidectomy.

METHODS: Eighteen novice medical students received 1 h of self-directed virtual reality simulation training of the mastoidectomy procedure randomized for standard instructions (control) or cognitive load theory-based instructions with a worked example followed by a problem completion exercise (intervention). Participants then completed two post-training virtual procedures for assessment and comparison. Cognitive load during the post-training procedures was estimated by reaction time testing on an integrated secondary task. Final-product analysis by two blinded expert raters was used to assess the virtual mastoidectomy performances.

RESULTS: Participants in the intervention group had a significantly increased cognitive load during the post-training procedures compared with the control group (52 vs. 41 %, p = 0.02). This was also reflected in the final-product performance: the intervention group had a significantly lower final-product score than the control group (13.0 vs. 15.4, p < 0.005).

CONCLUSIONS: Initial instruction using worked examples followed by a problem completion exercise did not reduce the cognitive load or improve the performance of the following procedures in novices. Increased cognitive load when part tasks needed to be integrated in the post-training procedures could be a possible explanation for this. Other instructional designs and methods are needed to lower the cognitive load and improve the performance in virtual reality surgical simulation training of novices.

Notes From the Field: Secondary Task Precision for Cognitive Load Estimation During Virtual Reality Surgical Simulation Training

ArticleCognitive loadInstructional designVR simulation
Rasmussen SR, Konge L, Mikkelsen PT, Sørensen MS, Andersen SA.
Eval Health Prof. 2016;39(1):114–120.
Publication year: 2016

Cognitive load (CL) theory suggests that working memory can be overloaded in complex learning tasks such as surgical technical skills training, which can impair learning. Valid and feasible methods for estimating the CL in specific learning contexts are necessary before the efficacy of CL-lowering instructional interventions can be established. This study aims to explore secondary task precision for the estimation of CL in virtual reality (VR) surgical simulation and also investigate the effects of CL-modifying factors such as simulator-integrated tutoring and repeated practice. Twenty-four participants were randomized for visual assistance by a simulator-integrated tutor function during the first 5 of 12 repeated mastoidectomy procedures on a VR temporal bone simulator. Secondary task precision was found to be significantly lower during simulation compared with nonsimulation baseline, p < .001. Contrary to expectations, simulator-integrated tutoring and repeated practice did not have an impact on secondary task precision. This finding suggests that even though considerable changes in CL are reflected in secondary task precision, it lacks sensitivity. In contrast, secondary task reaction time could be more sensitive, but requires substantial postprocessing of data. Therefore, future studies on the effect of CL modifying interventions should weigh the pros and cons of the various secondary task measurements.

Cognitive Load in Mastoidectomy Skills Training: Virtual Reality Simulation and Traditional Dissection Compared

ArticleCognitive loadDirected self-regulated learningSurgical trainingTemporal bone surgeryVR simulation
Andersen SA, Mikkelsen PT, Konge L, Cayé-Thomasen P, Sørensen MS.
J Surg Educ. 2016;73(1):45–50.
Publication year: 2016

OBJECTIVE: The cognitive load (CL) theoretical framework suggests that working memory is limited, which has implications for learning and skills acquisition. Complex learning situations such as surgical skills training can potentially induce a cognitive overload, inhibiting learning. This study aims to compare CL in traditional cadaveric dissection training and virtual reality (VR) simulation training of mastoidectomy.

DESIGN: A prospective, crossover study. Participants performed cadaveric dissection before VR simulation of the procedure or vice versa. CL was estimated by secondary-task reaction time testing at baseline and during the procedure in both training modalities.

SETTING: The national Danish temporal bone course.

PARTICIPANTS: A total of 40 novice otorhinolaryngology residents.

RESULTS: Reaction time was increased by 20% in VR simulation training and 55% in cadaveric dissection training of mastoidectomy compared with baseline measurements. Traditional dissection training increased CL significantly more than VR simulation training (p < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS: VR simulation training imposed a lower CL than traditional cadaveric dissection training of mastoidectomy. Learning complex surgical skills can be a challenge for the novice and mastoidectomy skills training could potentially be optimized by employing VR simulation training first because of the lower CL. Traditional dissection training could then be used to supplement skills training after basic competencies have been acquired in the VR simulation.

Cognitive load in distributed and massed practice in virtual reality mastoidectomy simulation

ArticleCognitive loadInstructional designMastoidectomyTemporal bone surgeryVR simulation
Andersen SA, Mikkelsen PT, Konge L, Cayé-Thomasen P, Sørensen MS.
Laryngoscope. 2016;126(2):74–79.
Publication year: 2016

OBJECTIVES/HYPOTHESIS: Cognitive load theory states that working memory is limited. This has implications for learning and suggests that reducing cognitive load (CL) could promote learning and skills acquisition. This study aims to explore the effect of repeated practice and simulator-integrated tutoring on CL in virtual reality (VR) mastoidectomy simulation.

STUDY DESIGN: Prospective trial.

METHODS: Forty novice medical students performed 12 repeated virtual mastoidectomy procedures in the Visible Ear Simulator: 21 completed distributed practice with practice blocks spaced in time and 19 participants completed massed practice (all practices performed in 1 day). Participants were randomized for tutoring with the simulator-integrated tutor function. Cognitive load was estimated by measuring reaction time in a secondary task. Data were analyzed using linear mixed models for repeated measurements.

RESULTS: The mean reaction time increased by 37% during the procedure compared with baseline, demonstrating that the procedure placed substantial cognitive demands. Repeated practice significantly lowered CL in the distributed practice group but not in massed practice group. In addition, CL was found to be further increased by 10.3% in the later and more complex stages of the procedure. The simulator-integrated tutor function did not have an impact on CL.

CONCLUSION: Distributed practice decreased CL in repeated VR mastoidectomy training more consistently than was seen in massed practice. This suggests a possible effect of skills and memory consolidation occurring over time. To optimize technical skills learning, training should be organized as time-distributed practice rather than as a massed block of practice, which is common in skills-training courses.