Other Submissions

Other Submissions
Anatomy Teaching Team - School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition

Taking Anatomy Online

Submitted by Regius Professor Simon Parson on behalf of the Anatomy Teaching Team

Provide a detailed description of a teaching or assessment challenge posed/opportunity for innovation offered by the impact of the Covid 19 Pandemic

The study of human anatomy is an intensely practical experience. The handling and visualisation of donated cadaveric material is key to making sense of the complex, three-dimensional inner world of the body. When practical face-to-face anatomy teaching was suspended, a key issue was how to replace this experience for more than 800 undergraduate students in Anatomy each academic year, from science through medicine to physician associate and dentistry. Essential elements to consider were variety, engagement and opportunity. We planned to design a wholly online experience, and to later phase in any face to face elements as and when conditions allowed.  We wanted to ensure that we put an enduring system in place, which would both deliver in the short term, but also enhance learning in the future. To do this we re-imagined intensive face to face practical classes to provide content that would engage and educate our students.

Give a reasoned account of your solution/new initiative

We designed a strategy to provide a blended environment for our students across multiple programs. This was based upon providing key, augmented materials for home study, together with online, live opportunities. We have previously developed a successful, workbook-based system of learning, where students prepare for each
practical experience ahead of class, enabling them to gain the most from the practical time available. Importantly, this learning strategy is carefully explained to students, to explain the benefits of efficient study for learning and attainment. We re-imagined these practical workbooks by providing two purposely different resources to meet different styles of learning: digital 3D material and video dissections. We then designed team-taught Blackboard Collaborate sessions, where key learning points could be discussed and questions could be addressed. As these evolved, an image-based questioning format was developed, helping guide and facilitate discussion. Finally, ‘Live from the lab.’ video presentations of cadaveric material were introduced.

Provide details of how your solution/new venture has been/ will be communicated to colleagues and students

Of paramount importance here is communication with both staff and students. Our modified system of teaching was discussed and designed through consultation with the whole anatomy staff, to ensure input, agreement and a shared sense of ownership. This then eased introduction to all student groups. Adopting a similar approach across the board has also helped reduce workload, while still allowing flexibility for individual course co-ordinators to modify and personalise delivery. We also educate our students to understand and appreciate why we had developed the system of learning. It is not always clear to students why we do what we do, and how it can ease and enhance their learning. They are our key audience; however, we have already shared our preliminary findings at a recent meeting of the Anatomical Society with colleagues from around the World, and will follow this up with a focussed case study.

Key learning points from your experiences, including any lasting impact on teaching in the future

  1. Keep everyone engaged and on the same page, the teaching team and the students need to be involved in and kept aware of the system.
  2. The opportunity to very quickly solve a misconception, surfaced during online quizzing is exceptional. When half the class make a mistake, it can be clarified and explained immediately. This can prevent future confusion and failed learning. Frequently these are very minor wording/ description issues, but which are causing great confusion.
  3. Under-promise and over deliver on learning opportunities. This avoids disappointment and seems to increase appreciation and engagement when new opportunities arise.
  4. We have developed a successful system for online delivery, and one which will continue to be used when we return to the practical laboratory. The opportunities for prior self-study are now enhanced and will allow for more efficient future classes, as student numbers rise.

Explain how you plan to evaluate your teaching, learning or assessment solution/initiative

Student Course Evaluation Forms (SCEF) have already been altered to specifically ask about the modifications we have put in place, and we have already received some very positive and helpful comments. In addition, some of the concerns raised have helped us to modify and develop teaching as each new course has come online. Informal discussions with students also continue to hone our offering.

Assessment of attainment is a challenge, as both teaching and assessments have been, by necessity changed, but the distribution of marks we are seeing is very close to previous years and statistical analysis is showing high question performance and discrimination. Analysis will be continued at each assessment round.

Most importantly, for many students the opportunity to structure their own learning using our resources, has resulted in greater engagement and attainment. This is not the case for all, and we continue to develop additional approaches including extending our peer tutoring system to help them.

Dr Kim Miller - School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition

GP Teaching with MyAberdeen for clinical studentsKIm Miller photo



Provide a detailed description of a teaching or assessment challenge posed/opportunity for innovation offered by the impact of the Covid 19 Pandemic

Due to the initial cancellation of Year 4 Medicine General Practice (GP) placements we were presented with a challenge to create an innovative educational learning experience to replace the attachment.

Returning to practices for placements in August has given students an altered experience which we are able to supplement by further development of the previously created learning experience. This gave an opportunity for students not only to continue with their learning but to continue engagement with their peer group during periods of lockdown and isolation. This involved meeting a new set of tutors and exploring the world of Primary Care albeit in a virtual setting.

Tutors were able to distil the essence of General Practice and create innovations in how to share this using previously unfamiliar VLEs. This helped to create a shared experience of patient journeys via new methods to bring empathy and compassion via MyAberdeen. 

Give a reasoned account of your solution/new initiative

MyAberdeen is a multifunctional VLE which allows materials to be shared between tutors as well as students. The Collaborate room function can provide video contact with the teaching group as well as interactive student polls, creation of small group rooms and chat functions.

Whilst being familiar myself with MyAberdeen, none of the GP Teaching team and Tutors had used it previously.

Teaching materials were created using a team of tutors. Working to individual strengths we were able to rapidly generate our version of a GP surgery.  Other teaching which had been previously face-to-face was altered into tutorial pre-reading and follow up.

Potential teachers for the course were supported by both formal and informal training in using MyAberdeen. In order to demystify the complexity of the system for those less confident in its workings, informal BYOB (Bring Your Own Bun) sessions boosted confidence in a friendly relaxed way.

Provide details of how your solution/new venture has been/will be communicated to colleagues and students

Colleagues and potential tutors for the course were invited to participate in meetings to discuss both content and process of the new course.  People could work individually or in small virtual groups when developing materials.

Once the programme was agreed it was uploaded to MyAberdeen, which allowed all members of the teaching team to review and comment.  Students were given written information about the programme and had initial introductory sessions via Collaborate.

Tutors could meet up in group rooms to discuss aspects of the teaching and contribute to ongoing reviews.  Feedback from Tutors and students was reviewed regularly and alterations/developments made to the materials.

Key learning points from your experiences, including any lasting impact on teaching in the future

It is possible to create an engaging learning experience which is both virtual and ‘real”. True blended learning which contains both face-to-face and online learning can make this more challenging . Students can feel that the face-to-face encounters are of greater value than those on line. However, with skilled use of small groups and encouraging individual students to reflect on their experiences rather than simply imparting information, it is possible to create a supportive online learning environment.

Blackboard Collaborate is a perfect method for practising remote consultation skills Training for ‘patients” and students need only take a few minutes to establish the setting.

It is likely that a form of blended learning will remain part of the curriculum for several years. This course and its future developments will hopefully form the basic model upon which we can continue to evolve appropriate, flexible and engaging education.

Explain how you plan to evaluate your teaching, learning or assessment solution/initiative

The teaching is continually evaluated and reviewed. Feedback is taken formally and informally from students, tutors and Patient Partners. (Patient Partners are volunteers who take part in online learning scenarios)

Regular meetings with tutors provides the opportunity to evaluate the feedback collected and make changes to the learning as a result.

Feedback from the original course was generally positive and we will continue to ask specific questions and have open sessions with all interested parties.

Following review of the feedback from the initial course we were able to make changes suggested by our students, such as increased amount of remote consultation experiences and interactions. Tutor belief in the teaching is very important as mentioned in student feedback,

 “All of the Tutors were incredible- their enthusiasm made this a great experience” (Anonymous student feedback)