Creating an online framework to facilitate student learning in multiple disciplines
An interdisciplinary online learning module was developed in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Ottawa, working with the Centre for e-Learning, so that students could actively learn about the importance of professional health care workers collaborating as a team for better assessment of, and communication, with patients.
The interdisciplinary online learning module that was created, entitled Total Pain, features numerous video clips of a person with a terminal illness who talks about his illness, suffering, and aspects of his life, supplemented by text and photos. At the end of each clip, a student chooses from headings which link to other clips dealing with that particular strand of the story – medical, personal struggles, relationship, etc. Each student spends 30 minutes online with the patient, makes progress notes, and consults the patient’s medical chart.
The students then meet as a group through the online Interprofessional Discussion Forum to compare the different perspectives and information they gathered, and to create a collaborative patient assessment and treatment plan.
The following is a sample of text and options (accompanied by video) from Total Pain.
The potential of the Total Pain module to serve as the basis of an online learning template to support interdisciplinary learning by students beyond the Faculty of Medicine was recognized. However, the technology for the original bilingual module was complex, and required a programmer to make even simple changes. The goal of the next phase of the project was to create a user-friendly online-learning framework that could be used by professors and students without extensive programming experience to create learning modules.
An open source package that allows the creation of non-linear narratives, PIPPA, has been developed based on the Total Pain project. Each student has a specific period of time to navigate through the patient’s non-linear story. This approach to collecting only part of the patient’s narrative and the time restriction means that student each builds his/her own interpretation of the patient’s story. The critical nature of group consultation, planning, and treatment is then underlined as the students work together to develop a collaborative understanding of the patient.
Outcomes and Benefits
The original module was successful in achieving its educational goals of encouraging interdisciplinary student learning and sharing of information. As a result of working through Total Pain, the student is more aware of the complexity of the illness and the need for interprofessional collaboration.
PIPPA supports student learning that is collaborative and case-based. Each student can follow his/her particular interests, but the issue can only be addressed through consultation and communication. Students experience the limits of the understanding offered by only one perspective and the strength of combining skills and knowledge.
The need for interdisciplinary learning is not limited to medicine. Using PIPPA, professors can create scenarios and incorporate media to guide their students through the consideration of complex situations that are beyond the capacity and training of one individual to resolve.
Challenges and Enhancements
Faculty members require ongoing support as they work at writing scenarios and adding media to the subject-specific modules. The PIPPA site provides guidelines on creating a narrative in the system, as well as a wiki for professors and others to discuss the challenges and approaches to creating non-linear narratives.
The resources will be made available in Drupal, the open source content management system, to faculty members at the University of Ottawa, in early 2014. The longer term plan is to share PIPPA with faculty members at other post-secondary institutions in Ontario, who can then work with teams at their own institutions to adapt it for interdisciplinary student learning.
Richard Pinet, the Director of the Centre for e-Learning, has affirmed that the University of Ottawa is willing to discuss its experience in developing the original module and PIPPA, as well as to learn from the experience of others working on similar initiatives.
Director, Centre for e-Learning
University of Ottawa