I will attempt to expand upon first post concerning this module. In my current FTF classes the emphasis is on knowledge. All of our lectures reiterate or explain the important details and criteria needed to diagnose disease. Students spend 2 to 6 hours each week listening to the criteria that they need to know and apply for making an accurate diagnosis. All of these introductory lectures contain images of the different types of disease in addition to text that explains the criteria seen in the images. During our lectures we point out the different criteria in each image that we project to them. These lectures are intermixed with case presentations that help the students learn how to see and apply the different criteria to a projected image. In a way, this is part of the assessment centered environment that we utilize in the curriculum. Another type of assessment takes place when students learn to apply the criteria to the microscope slide in their weekly lab sessions. The final form of assessment takes place in both weekly written exams and microscope slide exams, which provide a culminating feedback mechanism that shows the students what they have learned. Throughout all of these assessments, students receive feedback in multiple ways. For the culminating weekly exams, the feedback is in the form of review of their answers vs. the correct answers. Microscope slides are reviewed with students as a group where they learn about their mistakes and from each of others mistakes on the slides. During the lab sessions, small groups of students sit with the instructors and review each of their own microscope slides in addition to their classmates, providing them opportunities to hear feedback about their own cases and others. All of these lab sessions and assessments also form the community centered environment.
Turning the focus to some of the questions asked for this blogging assignment, one of the things I have tried to take into consideration is the questions students might ask within the module. In Pickett’s article, A Series of Unfortunate Online Events, she points out some of the false assumptions about teaching online. One of the first pieces of advice that she offers in this article is “Assume Nothing” (Pickett, p1). I have taken this to heart in the design of my course and have tried to be as specific as possible when creating assignments and discussions. For instance, I have taken care to make sure students know how I want their file submissions named. A concern arises from this specificity in the sense that Pickett points out that we cannot assume that students will read everything we place in our course (Pickett, p1) so this is sort of a catch 22.
I have tried to facilitate discourse in each of my modules, trying to engage the students in discussions through the use of leading questions. I anticipate that I will also facilitate discourse through encouraging response to student’s posts. In each of the discussion modules I have tried create a climate for learning by telling the students what they should focus on as part of their learning in the module’s discussions. In some of my modules, I have created groups for students to work in allowing them to choose a group leader and leaving it to the group on how to best go about completing the assignment. I am concerned on how to grade or evaluate the group but I have tried to anticipate this problem by having each student in the group document their contributions, which should help me judge the efforts of each student within the group.
My biggest challenge in this course was keeping up with all of the different required responses to discussions and the external blog posts. I am not sure if this was due to external pressures or the demands of the course development process. The problems may deal with time management on my part. Creating a second course design for ETAP 687 did not help with my time management issues. This was partly my fault as my original course didn’t take full advantage of the objectives of ETAP 687 but I focused on my needs to create an online review tutorial, which does not translate the same as a semester long course would. This is a good seg way into my problems in choosing a course to place online. Kassop points to 10 reasons why an online course is better than a FTF course. I feel like I am a broken record by mentioning this again. I think that is why I have a hard time with my blog reflections since some of the things I need to state in these posts are also apart of the discussion posts within the course and sort of seem like restatements. Here is a restatement of a post made to several discussion areas concerning Kassop’s article:
Based on Kassop’s commentary I am not sure that an asynchronous online class is a good fit for most of the topics in my curriculum. The cytotechnology curriculum has several of the top 10 reasons Kassop states online education is as good if not better than FTF learning. Our curriculum follows a similar format for each body system that we teach. We provide a lecture that gives students basic criteria for diagnosing diseases. This lecture is followed by a lab session where an instructor uses a 10 head microscope to show students examples of the criteria and diagnostic entities on microscope slides. Each week, students receive boxes of slides that they must screen, diagnose and bring back to the 10 head microscope during their assigned lab session. The students’ screening room is oriented in a way that allows for students to interact with each other and their weekly assigned cases before their lab sessions thus helping to facilitate student centered learning (p1). During the lab sessions, students interact with the instructors, asking questions about their cases. The 10 head microscope allows all students to see the same image and ask questions or volunteer information about the case/slide.
Our class size is small with a maximum of 14 students, which results in a 7:1 student to faculty ratio. Our main focus as faculty is to support student learning and we are available for one on one instruction with dual head microscopes and very open, liberal office hours not to mention email and IM that keeps us connected and addressing On-demand interaction and immediate feedback as defined by Kassop (p.6).
As mentioned earlier our class size is small and our curriculum spans 8 months of didactic training followed by 12 weeks of experiential education. During the 8 months of didactic training, students are in class Monday through Friday from 8 A.M. to 4 P.M. and we develop a strong sense of community with our students in addition to the student to student relationships. The student groups are generally very supportive of each other and help each other reach the goals of the courses and personal goals. This helps address the intimate community of learners (Kassop, p.5).
Our course materials are enriched by short rotations to clinical affiliates where students see firsthand many of the procedures discussed during our lectures. Students also complete a clinical practicum where they immerse themselves into the daily workings of a cytology laboratory,, providing them the real world experience and practical application of their didactic training. Lectures are also enhanced by guest lecturers on specific topics that provide a clinician’s perspective on the results that student’s are responsible for providing to them (Kassop, p.3-4)
Building the skills for lifelong learning (Kassop, p.3) occurs from day one in the curriculum but is highlighted by one of our courses, which focuses on new technologies and research studies that highlight the need for students to keep up with current trends in pathology. We emphasize that what students learn inside of the classroom is just the beginning and that we are always updating our lectures with current information. The field is always evolving and the use of our journal club helps the student realize this fact and helps teach them how to critically examine research design and results.
Highly interactive discussions (Kassop, p.2) take place on days when we provide an alternative to our instructor led presentation of material. As part of culminating exercises for new material, we provide case studies in two methods. The first is where an instructor presents images of a case and calls on individual students within the class to describe what they see, using learned criteria and make a diagnosis on the case. The entire class sees the same image, listens to the student’s descriptions and can agree or disagree with the description and diagnosis. The instructor then turns to other students in the class that see something not originally described that may have an impact on the diagnosis. In this sense, the students have now established a teaching presence based on their interactions with each other and the presented case. The instructor reveals the answer to the case and then initiates a discussion if the diagnosis was incorrect. A second method used is similar to what I just described but in the second activity, the class is paired and half of the pair turns their back to the projected image and it is the job of the one student who can see the image to describe it in such a way to make his/her partner come up with the correct diagnosis. I think the second method really establishes a student teaching presence.
At the end of each year I am “rejuvenated” but not like Kassop describes (p.6) with his experiences of faculty developing online courses. My rejuvenation comes through reflection on each student’s progress through the curriculum. It amazes me each year to see the transformation that occurs in students over the course of the training program.
However, I do see possible room for improvement with the current curriculum offerings but perhaps not in an asynchronous setting. Kassop describes enhanced course materials as reason number five in his commentary (p. 4-5). Using our current CMS we could create interactive tutorials that are case or scenario based that would enhance a student’s understanding of not only the basic criteria but their application and how diagnostic decisions affect patients and the rest of the medical team.
Perhaps the best use of an online component in our curriculum would be the development of writing skills and desire for lifelong learning. As part of our curriculum we have a journal club course which requires a student to search for applicable articles to specific topics. They are required to present the journal article in a 10 minute oral presentation utilizing PowerPoint. This portion of the curriculum could very easily be structured to take advantage of the writing intensive nature of an online course as described by Kassop (p.2).
While enthusiastic about creating online courses for our curriculum, Kassop’s commentary has made me rethink a completely asynchronous offering.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of recreating my course design was knowing where I needed to go. Recreating the course from the beginning with the knowledge from discussions, reading and viewing the different presentations in the latter modules made the written assignments from the early modules easier to create and more detailed. I was able to take into account ways to facilitate discourse within the modules. I was also able to provide more detail that a student might need in order to complete various tasks within each module. (3)