The UCF College of Medicine is taking the lead nationally in the use of interactive systems that help medical students participate more in their learning. From iPads that broadcast normal and irregular heart sounds to software that allows students to test themselves, these new interactive teaching methods make learning more interesting, engaging and relevant.

Those features appeal to “millennial-aged” learners like UCF medical students, who prefer group learning that’s interactive and provides frequent feedback, rather than passive lecture-based learning.

A company named Inkling has spent the last year developing electronic textbooks and is working closely with the College of Medicine. At a recent presentation to students and faculty members, Inkling representative Eric Petit explained that textbooks are boring, heavy and expensive, and that students studying from computers have many advantages over those studying on printed pages. With E-books, students can interact with the material rather than study in isolation. And Inkling’s system uses social networking so students can share notes and receive faculty instructions and feedback right on their fingertips.

End-of-chapter quizzes help test the student’s retention of material – and offer additional explanation of why an answer is wrong. E-textbooks include three-dimensional, animated drawings and give a student the ability to hide labels on those drawings, fill them out and test their knowledge. The books also contain video presentations of topics such as physical exams and patient interviews.

E-textbooks also have a bottom line advantage. Students can purchase specific chapters of a medical textbook that a faculty member assigns for $1.99 to $6.99 a chapter, rather than having to buy the entire book.

This year, the Harriett F. Ginsburg Health Sciences Library purchased E-textbooks for students. Petit said the UCF College of Medicine is one of just four medical schools nationwide that is a leader in embracing interactive learning. The others are Stanford, Brown and University of California-Irvine.

“This is instant information at the point of care,” said library director Nadine Dexter, a proponent of interactive learning who oversees a library that is 98 percent digital. “Medicine is exploding with information. This new way of providing information to our students is stunning, engaging and exciting.”