Evaluation of an international medical E-learning course with natural language processing and machine learning

Aditya Borakati

BMC Medical Education 21(1); March 2021.
DOI: 10.1186/s12909-021-02609-8



In the context of the ongoing pandemic, e-learning has become essential to maintain existing medical educational programmes. Evaluation of such courses has thus far been on a small scale at single institutions. Further, systematic appraisal of the large volume of qualitative feedback generated by massive online e-learning courses manually is time consuming. This study aimed to evaluate the impact of an e-learning course targeting medical students collaborating in an international cohort study, with semi-automated analysis of feedback using text mining and machine learning methods.


This study was based on a multi-centre cohort study exploring gastrointestinal recovery following elective colorectal surgery. Collaborators were invited to complete a series of e-learning modules on key aspects of the study and complete a feedback questionnaire on the modules. Quantitative data were analysed using simple descriptive statistics. Qualitative data were analysed using text mining with most frequent words, sentiment analysis with the AFINN-111 and syuzhet lexicons and topic modelling using the Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA).


One thousand six hundred and eleventh collaborators from 24 countries completed the e-learning course; 1396 (86.7%) were medical students; 1067 (66.2%) entered feedback. 1031 (96.6%) rated the quality of the course a 4/5 or higher (mean 4.56; SD 0.58). The mean sentiment score using the AFINN was + 1.54/5 (5: most positive; SD 1.19) and + 0.287/1 (1: most positive; SD 0.390) using syuzhet. LDA generated topics consolidated into the themes: (1) ease of use, (2) conciseness and (3) interactivity.


E-learning can have high user satisfaction for training investigators of clinical studies and medical students. Natural language processing may be beneficial in analysis of large scale educational courses.