New approaches to education, supported by UBC’s Flexible Learning Initiative, use techniques that have been shown to dramatically improve learning
This fall, Claudia Krebs is enlisting the help of some old art and new technology to help medical students take a deeper look into the human brain while stimulating their thinking at the same time.
Krebs, a senior instructor in charge of neuroanatomy and gross anatomy, is “flipping” her Brain and Behaviour Lab by having students attend the lecture at home and then do their “homework” in the classroom.
Flipping the script
“The traditional model goes like this: I give a lecture and demonstrate brain dissection in front of a theatre of 250 students, which is teleconferenced to another 100 students at three other campuses in Prince George, Kelowna and Victoria,” says Krebs. “This is followed immediately by students working on their own brain dissections in the lab.”
The new model, to be rolled out in January 2014, will give students access to videos of Krebs’s lecture and demonstration in advance. When students come together, class time is used for discussions and clinical case studies. “Then they work with real brains – that’s not going to change – but the pre-class and in-class case work allows students to absorb the material at their own pace, then apply the knowledge through problem-solving and hands-on lab work.
While many schools — including UBC — have long experimented with digital technology and applied evidence-based teaching and learning methods in individual courses, Krebs’ class is part of UBC’s new focus on bringing enriched learning to as many of its students as possible.
The Flexible Learning Initiative is supporting transformations of 98 courses across 11 faculties, affecting more than 30,000 students over the coming year. It is UBC’s response to growing evidence of the improved learning and engagement students experience when challenged to apply knowledge they learn with the guidance of experts — instead of sitting passively listening to lectures. One of the most persuasive pieces of research was conducted here at UBC through the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative. Published in Science in 2011, the study showed that students in an interactive class that required students to review materials before class and used class time for interactive activities were nearly twice as engaged than their counterparts in a traditional class. They scored nearly twice as well in tests and attendance increased by 20 per cent.
The new model to be rolled out in January 2014, is one of 18 courses across seven faculties supported by UBC’s Flexible Learning Initiative. It will give students access to videos of Krebs’s lecture and demonstration in advance. When students come together, class time is used for discussions and clinical case studies.
“Then they work with real brains – that’s not going to change – but the pre-class and in-class case work allows students to absorb the material at their own pace, then apply the knowledge through problem-solving and hands-on lab work.”
The newest digital technology
To make this engaging learning experience a reality, Krebs is getting ready for a starring turn this October in front of a RED 4K digital camera. Boasting four times the resolution of HD cameras, RED cameras are responsible for the vivid images of some of this summer’s biggest blockbuster movies – the Great Gatsby, Star Trek: Into Darkness and Elysium, just to name a few – but has never been used for an instructional video.
“The students will be in control of their own lecture experience and see each step of the dissection demo in vivid detail,” says Krebs, who is also injecting a bit of art and history into her class by way of a unique collection of hand-painted pencil and watercolour medical illustrations created between 1951 and 1962 by the late Nan Cheney.
Bringing the past to life
A portrait painter and confidante of iconic B.C. artist Emily Carr, Cheney was the first medical artist at UBC’s Department of Anatomy. Her vast collection of anatomical drawings is now part of Krebs’s lab manual, exhibited at Life Sciences Centre and made available online at www.clinicalanatomy.ca, along with 3D reconstructions of the human body based on MRI scans.
“This is a fascinating part of our department’s tradition and adds a rich, new dimension to learning,” says Krebs. “Cheney’s talent and watercolour illustrations were state-of-the-art in the 1950s – and they still resonate today as we adopt new technology to better reach medical professionals of tomorrow.”