Our previous work has demonstrated that students enjoy using the ART and feel that it helps promote understanding and integration of pharmacological understanding and independent learning
. The aims of the current study were to explore student perceptions of the use of personal ART handsets and the associated individualised feedback and to determine whether ART performance (as measured by feedback scores) was associated with summative exam outcomes.
Key themes which emerged from the student questionnaires and interviews, overlapped somewhat with those reported in our previous study of anonymous ART use, including identification of learning needs, increased motivation and consolidation of knowledge
. Whilst this may not seem surprising, it is important to note that the individual ‘tracked’ nature of the use of the ART did not adversely affect students’ positive perceptions of using ART. Whilst students did initially exhibit some anxiety with regard to the individualised use of the ART, as was previously suggested in the literature
, some of this anxiety was related to a lack of understanding of the nature of the system. Student’s anxiety seemed to have been allayed as they got used to using the system, received feedback, and fully understood the level of anonymity inherent in the system.
Themes novel to student use of personal ART identified include: the ability of the students and lecturers to “track” learning at a deeper level, the ability for students to keep track of own performance (correct and incorrect answers), and target their own learning needs effectively. Additionally, we identified a significant correlation between formative performance via individualised feedback and summative exam scores. Although we are unable to attribute the correlation between feedback and summative exam scores, this finding provides confidence in our ability to identify students at an early stage who may require additional support.
Students valued the opportunity to track their learning through the personalised ART formative feedback. In addition, the feedback received by students was completely objective which served as an accurate reminder for students of how they performed on each of the topic areas in the pharmacology lectures. As described previously, early formative feedback is particularly important in developing confidence in this cohort of students, with 87% expressing poor or moderate biology knowledge at the start of the course. In our previous study of the use of anonymous ART , students typically noted down only those questions which they answered incorrectly to review later. This could potentially skew the students’ perception of personal performance; the personalised feedback received by students in the present study outlined both incorrect and correct answers.
While objective formative feedback has been suggested to be key to improving student performance
[19, 20], other literature has stressed the importance of detailed individual feedback
. The ART system utilised in the present study allows for the provision of feedback which meets all these requirements, as it provides frequent, detailed, individual and objective feedback and as such should act to improve student confidence
 and knowledge
. The availability of formative feedback from the first week of the course allowed students to develop confidence in their abilities and thus enabled them to target areas of weakness more effectively.
Despite a strong, positive correlation between formative performance (feedback scores) and corresponding summative exam marks, only 43% of students agreed that the use of ART allayed exam anxieties. This is likely the result of the fact that many students on this course are anxious about their exam results as they may be expected to achieve the NMP qualification to maintain their current job role. Whilst students did not want tutors to contact them expressing concerns regarding their level of understanding, knowledge of the strong correlation between formative feedback performance and exam performance may further encourage these students to take responsibility for their own learning and seek appropriate help and support.
Further research in the area of individualised feedback using ART technology could seek to clarify whether use of individualised feedback is related to better exam performance. This was not achievable in the current study due to absence of a control group to compare students who had access to feedback and those who do not. As NMP students had previously reported benefits of using the anonymous ART system
, the authors felt that it would be unethical to give ART access to only a proportion of the students on the course purely for the purposes of comparing exam results. However, such an experimental study could add weight to the current evidence of the potential benefits of using this individualised feedback system technology in the classroom.