Dr. Sue Dawson teaches first year gross anatomy at the Atlantic Veterinary College at University of Prince Edward Island. Her class usually has between 60-70 students. Gross anatomy is a visual, hands-on subject requiring examination of real specimens and accurate models of body parts, in order to understand three-dimensional positional relationships. The course also involves dissection and is team-taught.
With such a large class, Dr. Dawson faced the challenge of providing enough real specimens and high cost models so each student has sufficient time to examine and study each specimen. In effect, she wanted to develop a way to give each student a personal guided tour of specimens and models.
As a result, approximately five years ago, Dr. Dawson experimented with making videos of specimens and models using her iPhone, and later added QR codes to enable students easily to identify and download the videos, which students could access through the course Moodle site.
Students originally access the models in the lab and can access the video at the same time as they are handling the specimen. The models are also available for students to review in their own time. Each model for which there is a video has a QR code tagged to it. QR code (abbreviated from Quick Response Code) is the trademark for a type of matrix barcode, a machine-readable optical label that contains information about the item to which it is attached.
Students use their mobile phones to scan the QR tag and this directs them to UPEI’s YouTube site and downloads the video to their phone or tablet. Students can then watch the video whenever they wish. Students can also access the videos through a direct link from their Moodle course site. Teaching materials on UPEI’s YouTube site are password protected and not available for open access.
There are several freely available QR code generators, and there are also many free phone apps to scan QR codes. Through research on the web, Dr. Dawson acquired and learned how to use a QR generator to produce the tags.
To date, Dr. Dawson developed seven videos of bones and three of organs, using QR codes for access. She also developed other videos using a combination of still photos of specimens and models and PowerPoint slides, also using her mobile phone. The videos are used for reinforcement of the lab-based teaching.
Traditional assessment methods are used (tests and written answers) for the class.
Benefits and Outcomes
Dr. Dawson conducted a survey of student use of the videos. She found most students use the videos. She continues to receive very positive feedback from the students. The videos provide a permanent and ongoing resource for both initial understanding and revision. The students see the videos as a one-on-one tutorial, and are requesting more videos.
From an instructor’s perspective, making the videos is relatively quick and easy, and customizable for each specimen.
Dr. Dawson found the visual quality of the videos shot on an iPhone to be more than adequate, allowing for anatomical details to be as closely examined as necessary.
Challenges and Enhancements
The main challenge was learning to use the technology effectively. The video production was managed entirely by Dr. Dawson, working alone, without any previous experience of doing professional video.
It took Dr. Dawson a little while to work out the best way to shoot the videos using a mobile phone. It is important to hold the specimen yet not cover the structures being described. It is also important to get the lighting right so there are no reflections or shadows. An external microphone helps with sound quality.
Dr. Dawson became much quicker as she gained experience, but the videos still need considerable advance planning before shooting. It usually takes about one day to make one 3- to 5-minute video. The videos are edited using iMovie.
In the future, it is expected 3D printing will help bring down the cost of models but probably not to the point where every student could have an individual model.
There is an initial learning curve for an instructor in learning how to use the technology effectively, but this example demonstrates it is perfectly feasible for someone who is not an expert in the use of video technology to master this commonly available technology and produce effective teaching materials.
Similarly, the use of QR codes to enable students to locate online learning materials and examples is also easy replicable by other instructors without specialist technology or media training.
The online availability of recorded, clearly visible, and clearly explained artefacts or models provides extremely useful additional resources for students in any area where demonstration and analysis of physical phenomena is required, especially where such phenomena are scarce or expensive to reproduce.
Dr. Sue Dawson
Atlantic Veterinary School
University of Prince Edward Island