By: Christina Gomez Echavarria

College Station, TX, United States

Many subjects can be taught via E-Learning through readings, video assignments, and voice recordings that students will remember and practice on their own time. However veterinary medicine requires very precise skills that require practical application, so E-Learning is not used as frequently as it is in other subjects.

The Center for Educational Technologies (CET) at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences works with faculty to develop means of integrating E-Learning into their curriculum. Tim Ponder is an instructional technologist and Dr. Jordan Tayce is an instructional designer at the Center, and together with their team, they design and create E-Learning courses that faculty members can use to enhance their teaching.

They started by determining which courses could benefit from a blend between E-learning and on-campus learning. Each course is designed following the backwards design method – by starting with the goals, and determining what the students need to know or be able to do by the end of the course. Then the team works to determine which technologies might adequately augment the learning. As Dr. Tayce explains, “it is really important to develop projects that use technology with a purpose in mind, not just for the sake of using technology.”

One of the more popular E-Learning courses they have created is a course teaching core surgical skills. When one thinks of surgery, one typically thinks about fine movements and tactile sensations, which are difficult to present through an E-Learning environment. The CET designed this course using a blended learning strategy. Students first learn basic information, such as how to hold a scalpel blade, on their own time. Then the students can come to class and apply what they learned in a hands-on laboratory environment. Tim and Jordan agree that this approach is successful due to the blended element, where a faculty member can advise the students on their technique and correct it as needed.

It is really important to develop projects that use technology with a purpose in mind, not just for the sake of using technology.

Interestingly, ten other veterinary schools around the United States are now using this course, which demonstrates its effectiveness. They are able to host over 20 courses and 75 instructional videos using Moodlerooms. Both agree that Moodlerooms provides flexibility that adapts to any curriculum along with many useful plugins to extend functionality, and that teachers can modify and customize it to fit their needs.

In fact, utilizing a Learning Management System has had a great impact on teaching and learning at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine. The CET designed a teaching approach that they call Collaborative Case Based teaching, which makes the classroom more student-centered. In this method, the professor divides the class into groups and begins walking the class through a case study (for example, a dog comes into the clinic presenting with a cough). Each group is provided questions as the case unfolds, and submit their answers via Moodle. The faculty member is able to see the class answers in real time, and can alter his/her lecture accordingly. If all of the groups get an answer correct, then the professor can move on to the next subject. However, if only a handful of the groups correctly answer a question, the professor spends more time discussing that topic. The team at the CET has worked with faculty to develop over 45 case studies to use in the curriculum.

Tim and Jordan hope to keep advancing the work of the Center for Educational Technologies, and help every faculty member dig deeper into what E-Learning is and how they can benefit from it. Tim emphasizes that the blend between E-Learning and face-to-face classes is vital because E-Learning is not a magic bullet. Their primary goal is to ensure that students are getting the best education in the best possible way.

*Timothy Ponder, instructional technologist and Dr. Jordan Tayce, instructional designer at the College of Veterinary Medicine (TAMU).

*Photos by: AFP Julia Robinson