Using active learning tools throughout online lectures

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

JM working from home running online assessments

Six professors at the School of Pharmacy recently received funding through the Dean’s Undergraduate Teaching Initiative (DUTI) to introduce educational innovations into their courses. Though the transition to online learning necessitated by COVID-19 disrupted some of these plans, instructors at the School have quickly adapted their activities to an online environment.

Prof. J.M. Gamble is one of these fund recipients. He teaches content on diabetes and critical appraisal of landmark clinical trial drugs. Critical appraisal is the process of assessing clinical trial results and studies on a drug’s efficacy and safety. By developing critical appraisal skills, pharmacy students learn how to collect, review and assess the quality of data on drug safety, a skill needed to determine which medications are best for specific patients and situations.

With support of the DUTI, Gamble generated a self-directed, interactive TopHat-based assignment to teach critical appraisal. TopHat is educational software where students log in with their phones or laptops and complete quizzes in real-time.

“I often use TopHat while lecturing and find it to be an effective tool during lectures to both engage students and obtain real-time feedback on their understanding of the content covered in the lecture,” Gamble says.

Gamble thus believed TopHat was ideal for a standalone interactive assignment where students could use their critical appraisal skills in real-time to assess several landmark clinical trials for diabetes medications.

“Traditional didactic lecturing on these trials would not give students as many opportunities to engage their own skills,” he says. “The TopHat content I developed integrates text, video and a variety of question styles, giving students more opportunities to practice and showcase their skills.”

Given the prevalent nature of diabetes, pharmacy students must have a solid grasp of the various treatment options available. Critical appraisal of landmark studies on diabetes medications help students build their own understanding of the quality and trustworthiness of existing research. The skills they build are transferable and can be applied when researching literature for any medication.

With the switch to online classes this spring as a result of COVID-19, Gamble was able to seamlessly integrate the new assessment into his online course this term since it was designed using an online tool.

The DUTI will also support Gamble’s process of evaluating the effectiveness of his assignment. Students responded positively to the new critical appraisal assessment approach, and he is currently collecting formal feedback so that he can review and modify the assessment as necessary. If the feedback supports it, Gamble intends to develop more TopHat-based assessed for other critical appraisal topics.

The Dean’s Undergraduate Teaching Initiative (DUTI) is a $500,000 investment to implement innovative and effective evidence-based teaching approaches within the Faculty of Science – with the goal of enhancing the undergraduate educational experience.

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