Monday, April 14, 2008

Most Popular Educational Technologies

In 2001, Harvard Medical School went live with the Mycourses educational portal (check it out by clicking on take a tour) , which includes content management, collaboration, and online evaluation for faculty and students.

Here's an overview of the most popular technologies in Mycourses and the reasons they've been popular.

Virtual Microscopy
Remember using a light microscope and the trying to get a clear, focused image while dripping oil on the 1200x lens? Using a microscope is a different skill than learning pathology/histology, so we teach them separately. Students have a few hours of hands on experience with lenses and oil followed by a 100 hours of learning the pathology/histology via Virtual microscopy - streaming, high definition, zoom-able, movable images onto the web using technologies from Aperio and MicroBrightField.

With Virtual Microscopy, faculty navigate tissue sections via the web and project them on an HDTV display or LCD projector, pointing out salient areas on a slide in real-time without the use of a 12 headed microscope or other expensive optical technology previously needed for group work. Faculty digitize rare slides and make them accessible to all students and faculty in a very convenient way for both education and research purposes. From the student’s point of view, slides can be reviewed 24x7 from their dorm room.

Visual Encyclopedias
The web is an ideal vehicle for delivering "new media" that beyond the text based content of traditional textbooks. We've created our own specialized visuals for radiology instruction and visual diagnosis, but we've also licensed two commercial products.

VisualDx, an online visual decision support tool, was developed to assist students and physicians in pattern recognition, diagnosis, and treatment. Unlike traditional atlases or textbooks, VisualDx allows one to enter the patient’s key signs and symptoms (eg, dyspnea, abdominal pain, widespread papules), and in seconds the system generates a patient-relevant differential diagnosis.

Primal Pictures is a 3-D Online Anatomical resource with extremely detailed models of the human body that we've used in the anatomy lab by placing flat screens on mobile mounts above cadavers. The students can navigate three dimensional images, remove virtual tissue layers, and explore the relationships of structures to one another in real time while doing dissection.

Online Procedures and Simulations
Does the bevel go up or down when doing a blood gas? What are the anatomical landmarks when doing a lumber puncture? By making flash and streaming video procedure instruction available via the web and mobile devices, we provide our students with just in time instruction before they do a procedure.

We also use Flash for highly interactive simulation/exploration of difficult to learn concepts. For example, to teach the relationship between heart sounds, PA catheter tracings, EKG, and Pressure-Volume loop, we've used flash. We have 200 of these simulations for all aspects of human physiology.

Collaboration tools
We've implemented centralized shared storage for individuals and ad hoc collaborations which enable any groups to exchange files and set file read/write/delete attributes for every participant.

For real time group collaboration, we've deployed Webex and Elluminate. Although we do have video teleconferencing facilities available, we've found that audio conference calls combined with real time presentation tools are the most effective way to deliver real time educational materials to collaborative groups.

Streaming videos and podcasting
Our most popular application is streaming video of recorded lectures with over 60,000 views each year. We also podcast all our lectures so that students can replay lectures on their ipods. We use Apreso for combining lecture slides and videos, Streamsage for full text indexing of spoken words, and Real Server/Player for routine video delivery. One of the most popular features is Enounce Time Scale Modification of Audio , which enables videos to be watched at twice normal speed with frequency correction so that voices sound normal. Students can watch 8 hours of lectures in 4 hours! It is true that attendance of lectures has diminished since we made streaming video available, but attendance at interactive sessions such as tutorials has stayed the same.

Our next generation of portal will include more social networking features, more opportunities for collaboration among the medical school and hospital affiliates, and support for classrooms of the future which incorporate more real time video collaboration and resource sharing.

It's very clear that the web is empowering entirely new ways to deliver educational material and the way we teach must evolve.


Aditya said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aditya said...

University of Maryland uses Blackboard which mostly does what MyCourse does.. but it also has some collaboration features built in where students can be put in teams and they can use online collaboration and discussion boards.

it also has some neat features for the instructors to conduct online test which are timed and the grades are track as well.

The Critical patient said...

How about adding a smaller portal for John Doe to have a look at his area of interest? I realize that HMS has spent money on the process and content, but at least give it a thought as a contribution to patient informatics.

And one more thing, please allow bloggers to get back to the blog when they do take the tour!