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MetaLight: freely available online software for teaching and learning Meta-Analysis

Date and Location




Saturday 21 September 2013 - 13:30 - 15:00
Presenting author and contact person

Presenting author

James Thomas

Contact person

James Thomas
Abstract text
Background While there are many courses and resources for meta-analysis available and numerous software applications to run meta-analyses, there are few pieces of software which are aimed specifically at helping those teaching and learning meta-analysis. Valuable teaching time can be spent learning the mechanics of a new software application, rather than on the principles and practices of meta-analysis. MetaLight is a freely available online software application that runs simple meta-analyses and contains specific functionality to facilitate the teaching and learning of meta-analysis (URL: Discussion The screen of MetaLight is split into three main areas as displayed in Figure 1. Across the top of the window is a grid that lists all the studies in the meta-analysis along with statistics that enable effect sizes to be calculated for each. Occupying the largest area of the screen is a panel that displays the results of the meta-analysis in the form of forest and funnel plots; its pooled effect sizes and heterogeneity statistics are displayed to the left of this. The MetaLight interface (Figure 1) has been designed to develop understanding of: the relationship between effect sizes and their appearance on the forest plot; the impact on results of selecting a fixed or random effects model; and how funnel plots are constructed (Figure 3). It also contains a forest plot exercise feature that enables students to ‘draw’ a forest plot based on descriptive text, rather than being presented with one to interpret (Figure 2). MetaLight runs using the Microsoft Silverlight browser plugin and is therefore easily deployable to most PC/Mac desktops which facilitates its use in PC lab teaching situations. Conclusion MetaLight was developed specifically as a tool to facilitate the teaching and learning of meta-analysis; we have presented here some of the ways it might be used in a training situation.