Teaching basic medical sciences at a distance: strategies for effective teaching and learning in internet-based courses

J Vet Med Educ. Summer 2007;34(3):316-24. doi: 10.3138/jvme.34.3.316.

Abstract

In recent years, the Internet has become an effective and accessible delivery mechanism for distance education. In 2003, 81% of all institutions of higher education offered at least one fully online or hybrid course. By 2005, the proportion of institutions that listed online education as important to their long-term goals had increased by 8%. This growth in available online courses and their increased convenience and flexibility have stimulated dramatic increases in enrollment in online programs, including the Veterinary Technology Distance Learning Program (VT-DLP) at Purdue University. Regardless of the obvious benefits, distance learning (DL) can be frustrating for the learners if course developers are unable to merge their knowledge about the learners, the process of instructional design, and the appropriate uses of technology and interactivity options into effective course designs. This article describes strategies that we have used to increase students' learning of physiology content in an online environment. While some of these are similar, if not identical, to strategies that might be used in a face-to-face (f2f) environment (e.g., case studies, videos, concept maps), additional strategies (e.g., animations, virtual microscopy) are needed to replace or supplement what might normally occur in a f2f course. We describe how we have addressed students' need for instructional interaction, specifically in the context of two foundational physiology courses that occur early in the VT-DLP. Although the teaching and learning strategies we have used have led to increasingly high levels of interaction, there is an ongoing need to evaluate these strategies to determine their impact on students' learning of physiology content, their development of problem-solving skills, and their retention of information.

MeSH terms

  • Computer-Assisted Instruction / methods*
  • Curriculum*
  • Education, Distance / methods*
  • Education, Veterinary / methods*
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Learning
  • Physiology / education
  • Program Development
  • Students / psychology*