Published on 2014/08/29

Quality: The Real Benchmark of Value in Technology-Enhanced Learning (Part 2)

Quality: The Real Benchmark of Value in Technology-Enhanced Learning (Part 2)
Technological tools are being used to significantly improve the quality of educational experiences in areas where traditional approaches to teaching and learning have ruled.
This is the conclusion of a two-part series by Dr. Susan Aldridge, president of Drexel University Online, exploring quality in technology-enhanced education. In the first part, Dr. Aldridge shared three elements administrators should consider when it comes to assessing quality in online and hybrid learning. In this conclusion, she shares some case studies of successful approaches to technology-enhanced education.

Authentic learning has always been a critical component of professional studies in such fields as healthcare and education, law and engineering — where internships and practicums are routine academic requirements. And with interactive technologies such as virtual reality and videoconferencing, we’re now able to reinforce, and in some cases reproduce, these site-based learning experiences by creating high-quality, digital teaching tools that can be incorporated into any learning environment.

Here are just a few of the media-rich enhancements we’re using at my own university to help students in our nursing and medical schools master more than a few life-saving skills.

1. Tina the Avatar

Drexel University’s College of Nursing and Health Professions is well-acquainted with the value of patient proxies for teaching essential clinical skills. That’s why we’ve built a high-tech simulation laboratory on campus, complete with life-size mannequins and state-of-the-art medical equipment. Yet this arrangement is anything but convenient for Drexel’s many online nursing students. So to sharpen their clinical practice skills from a distance, the college has moved its lab onto the laptop, with the help of an avatar named Tina Jones.

This 29-year-old virtual patient is nothing short of amazing in her ability to respond like any real-life patient with a complicated medical history and a distinct personality. Consequently, she offers online RN-BSN students a unique chance to test drive their diagnostic and interpersonal skills by performing high-stakes clinical assessments — over and over, if necessary. By observing the interaction, instructors can also provide immediate feedback around targeted areas for improvement.

2. DocCom and WebPatientEncounter

In a similar vein, the Drexel University College of Medicine developed an online learning resource, DocCom, for medical students and residents to use in building and enhancing relationships with their patients through effective communication, proven critical for improving patient outcomes, promoting patient safety and increasing physician job satisfaction.

DocCom offers 42 media-rich online modules that incorporate a series of annotated video vignettes, along with skills assessment checklists, designed to teach positive physician/patient interaction in a variety of real-world situations. As a result, students learn a wealth of important skills, from gathering vital information and delivering bad news to reading non-verbal cues and communicating across cultures.

The college also created WebPatientEncounter, a compatible online videoconferencing application that enables students to apply what they’ve learned by engaging remotely in live encounters with standardized patients, who use structured assessments for rating and discussing student performance. At the end of each encounter, the physician-in-training then has a chance to work on specific competencies, by watching video vignettes that demonstrate how the interaction could or should be enhanced.

3. Forensic Science Simulations

Drexel’s online certificate program in forensic trends and issues in contemporary healthcare was developed to provide healthcare professionals with the expert knowledge and practical skills for conducting comprehensive, sensitive and legally sufficient clinical assessments in the aftermath of violent crime. As such, it incorporates authentic learning experiences through sophisticated simulations that produce different outcomes (i.e. success or failure), depending on the student’s course of action.

For example, a three-dimensional virtual crime scene — complete with multiple “clues” and continuous feedback — empowers students to complete a vulnerability risk assessment. There are also realistic simulations that reinforce effective strategies for interviewing victims and offenders to elicit details of the crime. Likewise, these learning enhancements incorporate a playback feature for reviewing and improving performance. 

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Readers Comments

Dan Krinkle 2014/08/29 at 12:29 pm

Great examples of some of the ways technology can be used to enhance learning. Technology can be particularly helpful in fields where repetition is key to developing a skill, but human ‘guinea pigs’ aren’t readily available. In addition to health programs, I’m thinking of trades such as hairdressing, etc.

Rosa Brisk 2014/09/02 at 9:45 am

Technology has the ability to create the kind of customized learning that many institutions aren’t able to scale because of a lack of resources. This is the kind of training that non-traditional students, in particular, need and that has direct applicability in their chosen career field. I hope more institutions start integrating these types of technologies into their curricula.

Brandon Emerson 2014/09/05 at 10:46 am

I don’t know if these solutions embody the future of higher education, or a very specific approach to education that will only work for some. I don’t see the Harvards and Yales and Stanfords of the world ever introducing technologies like these. The question is, is that for better or for worse?

Another thing that wasn’t covered: the cost issue. How expensive are these programs to run? How much does using these technologies increase tuition rates for students? On the flip side, how valuable are these technologies for bringing in more students?

There’s a lot of flash in the pan, but we could do with more meat.

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