For all you Marcus Buckingham fans out there, I’m a maximizer. Therefore, I like to experiment in the classroom each year, in an effort to make the class experience better over time. Now that we’re in finals, I thought I’d throw down some of the experiments I tried this year, and share them with you, my amazing 13 fans.
I could, of course, write these ideas up in a journal or two, and it would take 6-18 months for them to get published. Or, I could just throw them out here, and see if anyone else in the universe tried them too – and could share what worked, what didn’t, and what could work better with just a little tweaking. Here goes:
1. Hybrid learning in Pharmacy Law – OK, I’m going to keep it real here, since I was just a student myself until last spring. Most adults have a 20 minute attention span before they check out of a lecture–and 20 minutes is a generous timespan. It’s shorter relative to the age of the audience as well (the younger the audience, the shorter the attention span). Most students check out at 10 minutes. I’ll admit it – I checked out every once in awhile in class – if the topic was boring or I frankly didn’t care about it. (Yes, shocking. I had to take law classes that I didn’t care about. Sorry, again, just being honest.)
So…on the other side of the lectern, I teach pharmacy law (not the sexiest topic on the planet – and frankly dry because a lot of it is stuff you just have to memorize). I decided to “flip” the lectures and post them online this year, using this product called Panopto, where we can record our voices over PPT slides or video (I chose the slides as my visual). I pre-recorded lectures, and posted them so students could watch them anytime, anywhere, “on demand” (provided that anywhere had internet connectivity).
More than half the class liked this hybrid model. Over 10% of the class, in fact, wanted it ALL online instead of the combo with live class too. However, most of the live class time I reserved for guest speakers, for several reasons: 1. the students want to hear from other professionals than me, 2. I like bringing in subject matter experts in law (I mean really – there’s no way I can know everything in Fraud & Abuse, Reimbursement, HIPAA/HITECH, PPACA, FDCA, CSA, Stark, Antitrust and state pharmacy practice acts of Indiana and 49 other states. So, why not bring in some of the experts to help out and mix it up?)
The “money” question on my post-hybrid-class survey was whether or not students agreed that they had to be self-accountable for their classroom learning in this model – and most either strongly agreed or agreed with personal responsibility for learning being kicked up a notch. Good! Considering I’m not always going to be around to point them in the right direction of looking up their answers, this question alone tells me that hybrid learning is on the right track for this class.
2. ePortfolio – Pharmacy students have to drag around this 5 inch binder called a “portfolio” during their last year of pharmacy school while they are out on rotations in pharmacies. It’s full of all their licenses, records, history, rotation information and documentation of their last year of experiences. Good portfolios by the end of the rotation year can double as weapons, because they are heavy and back-breaking to lug around, with hundreds of pages of information.
So, a team of us put together a electronic portfolio template on WordPress for our students as an experiment this year. Each student has a WordPress blog of their own on a secure server, where they post all their stuff, instead of dragging it around with them all year. NO MORE 5″ binders, no more plastic cover page protectors, and no more lugging. We can see the back end of every user’s portfolio and double check when and what they’ve uploaded, instead of requiring the students to drag the portfolios in to campus a couple of times a year for a manual check. Preceptors of the students can check out their sites online for information.
This one is working thus far. Dig! (Although, somewhere, a plastic binder factory is weeping a little…)
3. Children’s book project – If you follow my shenanigans, you already know that I’ve mentored 4 different groups of students either solo or with other faculty to produce a published book project now. Three books went to publication, one did not. This year was the asthma book with 3 other colleges. What I tried new this year was adding the 4th college, the College of Business students to the project, which was BRILL, because they really owned the project and took more off of my and the other faculty mentors’ plates.
What else the students added this year was the closed Facebook group to collaborate and communicate while they were all running around off campus at different internships or practice sites, they used Dropbox (as the students did last year), Google+ hangout (instead of webex from last year) to meet up live real time, and Kickstarter for fundraising to publish. And, of course when we had to get everyone together in the same room, thank the universe for Doodle.
They worked–the book is published! And while we’re going in a different direction next year (for a myriad of reasons), self-directed, interdisciplinary, project-based learning is always the highest form of learning out there, bar none. It’s one thing to teach and test, but an entirely better way to learn by providing projects with fuzzy outcomes and admitting the teachers DO NOT have all the answers. It honestly doesn’t get any better than that in education, at least in my mind.
There you have it! No waiting for publishing approval, or feedback, or peer review. It’s just 3 ideas I tried this year while teaching. Some worked better than others, but the important part was that I tried. I experimented. And in my book, good teachers are never afraid to try new things, because good teaching and learning is all about experimentation – ESPECIALLY in the life sciences!