Background: Distance education methods have taken on greater importance as medical student education has moved off campus into the community. What the best methods are for conveying information to students at distant sites has not been determined. Objective: To determine if students at distant community sites who received an otitis media study case by e-mail that was enhanced with a referral to a web-based otitis study case, performed better on otitis OSCE stations than students who received the same case not enhanced with visuals or referrals to a web-based otitis case. Design/Methods: Students were randomized by community site to receive either the enhanced (E) or simple otitis study case (S). Students were e-mailed an otitis media study case during the 5th week of the rotation. Those randomized to the E-case received a case that started with a case scenario followed by a "Task" that instructed them to go to this web address: http://www.aap.org/otitismedia/www/vc/ear/index.cfm (American Academy of Pediatrics Otitis Web Site). They were then to select "Case 1" which was a continuation of the case scenario present on their e-mail. A list of learning objectives was also printed on the e-mail. Students receiving the S-case viewed the same case scenario and objectives, but were not instructed to go to the web page. All students rotated through two OSCE otitis stations. In the first station they interviewed a simulated patient(OSCE-SP) and counseled her on the management of her 12 month old with otitis. Within that station they viewed a video of a pneumoscopic exam of two ears, one ear with otitis and the other ear normal. At the 2nd otitis station the student presented the case to a faculty and was asked a series of questions about otitis media(OSCE-PR). Scores on the two stations were compared by group. Results: There were 198 students who took the OSCE. 178 (90%) responded to a survey that indicated they had opened and read the e-mailed case. There were 87 students in the E-group and 91 in the S-group. The mean ±s.d. OSCE-SP station score for the E-group was 72.6 ±12.0 vs 75.4 ±9.8 for the S-group, p=0.09. For the otitis presentation station the scores for the E-group and S-group were respectively, 82.9 ±9.6 and 83.7 ±9.4, p=0.55. Conclusions: These data suggest that enhanced visual distance education cases may offer no distinct advantage over simple paper-type case study guides.