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Type: Conference item
Title: Blended learning approaches to practical teaching in pharmacology: the best of both worlds?
Author: Smid, S.
Salem, A.
Musgrave, I.
Citation: Transformations : 6th ERGA Conference, 28-30 September 2011, The University of Adelaide
Issue Date: 2011
Conference Name: ERGA Conference (6th : 2011 : Adelaide, Australia)
Department: Centre for Learning and Professional Development (CLPD)
Statement of
Scott Smid, Abdallah Salem, Ian Musgrave
Abstract: Third year Pharmacology courses are offered in various Sciences programs with a compulsory assessable practicum, which reinforces teaching and learning objectives of lecture material while also introducing students to a range of research skills in experimental design, methods, analysis and reporting. These so-called ‘wet labs’ use conventional discipline-specific methodologies to investigate the effects of drugs directly on biological systems. These are highly valued by students as reported by consistent course evaluations indicating not only their value in reinforcing lecture theory, but also fostering further engagement in research methods. Budgetary and class size constraints associated with conventional wet lab practicals and noted limitations in computer simulation-based practicals (Hughes, 2001) necessitate further innovation in wet lab practical delivery in pharmacology. While students are often enthusiastic about practical classes in pharmacology, they also express being overwhelmed by the range of new techniques and practical skills they have to acquire quickly in order to be successful. This includes a familiarity with new experimental equipment, data acquisition and management software and graphical and statistical software for data analysis and reporting. Much of the specialised hardware and software is only accessible in the laboratory setting and it is difficult to therefore prepare students in advance of the practical class. There exists a need to better integrate the data acquisition, analysis and interpretive software in a way that can be utilised (i) in an incremental and staged manner and (ii) in a formative setting during the laboratory class. In this University-funded project we sought to integrate proprietary instructional practical software applications (LabTutor, ADInstruments®) into custom-designed practical sessions (via LabAuthor). Students worked in small groups generating biological data from conventional in vitro isolated tissue apparatus that was transmitted from each group’s laptop computer via wireless signal to a central LabTutor client server. Practical implementation was performed as a series of sequential tasks managed via LabTutor software, with pop-up help boxes that describe how the equipment, computer hardware and software operate while enabling students to generate biological data via discrete prompts at each step. At the completion of the practical, students could access their data file in the 'central server' for later online submission and reporting. Students therefore had the capacity for data analysis and reporting in a more flexible environment. This also had the advantage of the capacity for the provision of online assessment and feedback of practical reports. Student feedback suggested this had the potential to be a more intuitive, step-wise approach to discipline-specific learning, enhancing student engagement in practical classes while utilising the pedagogic advantages of the interactive online material (Bonakdarian et al., 2010). This blended approach of traditional and innovative techniques is readily adaptable for use in other compatible disciplines utilising similar in vitro methodologies in practicum delivery.
Rights: Copyright status unknown
RMID: 0030000716
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Appears in Collections:Centre for Learning and Professional Development publications

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