Professor Doan Hoa Do has over 10 years experience teaching cardiology. He teaches 200 second year pre-med students at the Université de Sherbrooke. At home, each pre-med student will over the years accumulate around 20 large binders, with some binders containing over 500 pages of notes that form much of the content of their courses. In addition, students have to buy expensive textbooks for other essential content in their courses. There are large photocopying or printing costs in making copies of these notes available to students. Professor Do found he often needed his notebooks that he kept at home when he was in the hospital. On his rounds when visiting patients, his resident students often knew more about a patient’s condition than he did through using their mobile phones to look up information on the spot.
As a result, in 2010 he started experimenting with transferring all the notes of his cardiology course to an iPad using iBooks Author. It was then a short step to making the material also available to students.
Professor Do obtained funds to do a first pilot on the use of iBooks Author for teaching in the cardiology department. The first stage of the pilot involved 20 volunteer students, but subsequently 400 students (all new pre-med students) are participating in a larger pilot study over four years.
The first students in the full pilot started in 2015 and the study continues through to 2018. Students were involved in decisions about the use of the iPad and iBooks Author since the beginning. Students are interviewed every six months to see how the use of the iPad affects their study. Data for the first two years were collected and currently being analysed.
The pilot was funded through a grant from Université de Sherbrooke’s Centre for Teaching and Learning, which also provides a short training program for faculty on how to use iBooks and also how to use the technology as part of their teaching.
Professor Do experimented with several different tablets, all of which worked satisfactorily, but ended up choosing the iPad, as there were more suitable medical apps available at the time, although most makes of tablets were user-friendly. The iPads are free for students and they can retain the iPad after the pilot. This is made possible with the financial contribution of the ‘’Société des Médecins de l’Université de Sherbrooke’’.
iBooks Author is free software available from Apple to create iBooks that can be downloaded on an iPhone, iPad or a Mac computer. Material is entered into the iBook by copying original notes from Word into iBooks Author. Increasingly, though, material is added directly into iBooks Author. More recently, video and audio files created in the cardiology department were also integrated into iBooks Author. E-mails and links to new research are also added. The material is easily edited, sections can be highlighted, and footnotes added. The result is dynamic textbooks that enable both faculty and students to stay up-to-date with recent developments in the field.
Figure 1: A screenshot from the Cardiology iBook. Note the embedded videos and the ability of readers to highlight text
The material is uploaded to the Cloud. Students and faculty can access the content on iPhones as well as iPads, at any time and any place.
Benefits and Outcomes
To date, 23 out of the 25 instructors in the cardiology department are using iBooks, as are 70% of the instructors in the whole of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.
In the second year of the first pilot (2014), professors saved $16,000 and students $650 each in photocopying and printing costs. Colour is particularly important in medicine but the costs of colour photocopying large amounts of material is prohibitive. Using tablets and iBooks Author overcomes this problem. Textbooks could cost each student between $2,000-$3,000 at the end of their pre-med curriculum, but students can now loan iPad versions of the books from the university library. On this project, then, the cost of the iPads is more than recovered from the savings on printing and photocopying.
The iPads also have the potential to increase the productivity of both faculty and students. Professors can access or adapt their notes between seeing patients, and the material is available whenever they need to access it.
Figure 2: Screen shot from a Cardiology Department video of an ultrasound image of a beating heart, embedded in the iBook
Challenges and Enhancements
The major technical challenge was WiFi capacity around the campus, with 200 students a year continually online and downloading material, including audio and video files.
The support of the Centre for Teaching and Learning was essential, particularly the contribution of their ‘conseillers pédagogiques’ (educational advisors).
It was necessary to set up a committee representing the key stakeholders (students, faculty, IT staff, librarian and the Centre for Teaching and Learning) to ensure good communication and decision-making.
Medicine is not the only field where the knowledge base is growing rapidly. Having inexpensive, convenient means to find, access, organize, and apply information, both old and new, is a critical need for 21st century learning. Using tools such as iBooks Author, Cloud services and mobile devices become more than just a convenient way of storing lots of information; it begins to change the way medicine is practiced and taught.
Professor Doan Hoa
Do Department of Cardiology
Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
Université de Sherbrooke