“The student experience is broadening, but now I think we need to understand how that impacts learning. That’s really the trend that I’m focusing most of my attention on — trying to understand how we could take things that are in the book on the pages and convert that into something else that for some group of students could accentuate or accelerate their education.” – Mark Torchia, MSc, PhD
One of the fundamental things that we’re seeing change is the whole idea around e-learning, and although we tend to focus a lot on the technology part of it, we focus less on the students learning and their experience in e-learning. So whether that’s something as simple as integrating something in the classroom like a YouTube video, or having a course completely online, I’m not yet convinced we know quite what’s better for the student experience. That’s certainly something that’s beginning to come up now so with things like simulation and animations. The student experience is broadening, but now I think we need to understand how that impacts their learning. So that’s really the trend that I’m focusing most of my attention on — trying to understand how we could take things that are in the book on the pages and convert that into something else that for some group of students could accentuate or accelerate their education. Can we create a video that assists students in understanding how something works three-dimensionally? Can we point them to other resources that they could use? Can we provide an RSS feed that pushes information out to them during the year so that it’s not just a one way form of communication? Those are just some of the things that we’re looking at doing.
We’ve carefully written the book to have a very student-oriented perspective, so even the language in the book is simple and direct. It’s not written as an encyclopedia of embryology, it’s written more as a sort of student experience through embryology. In doing this, we’ve tried to incorporate some of the really important learning components. For example, we have a section at the start of every chapter that basically tells you what you’re going to be learning, the content in the middle, and then a summary at the end that students can use to review. If you think about the learning continuum, about setting objectives, having the material, and then going to assessment, we try to follow that pedagogical approach right through the book. It makes the book pretty powerful. The fact that we have online animations makes it additionally powerful. Embryology is a very 3-dimensional thing, and many students struggle with looking at a 2D image on a page and wondering, for example, what the back of the heart looks like when it’s developing. I think having the 3D animations is probably one of the books most powerful tools.
The Developing Human is in its ninth edition now, and Before We Were Born, is in its eighth edition. The Developing Human is designed for more graduate level study — it’s a much larger textbook with much more detailed information; Before We Were Born is designed more as an undergraduate level embryology textbook. Both are filled with images, which I think is one of their most powerful messages and learning components. They have lots of clinical relevancy. If you are an undergraduate student, you often want to place what you’re learning within the context of real life. It’s one thing to talk about knowing how a particular factor affects some process in embryology, but when you look at a clinical case and see what the outcome is and then back up from that and understand how it arrived, you’ve actually remembered a lot more. So we’ve focused a lot of our effort on trying to correlate the clinical component with the basic science component and I think that’s one of the strengths of the two books.
Mark Torchia, MSc, PhD is the Director of University Teaching Services at the University of Manitoba as well as being an Associate Professor of Surgery in the Faculty of Medicine. Dr. Torchia has been an active participant in health profession education for over 30 years. Most recently he directed the pre-clerkship undergraduate medical education program. His research interests include the use of object repositories in curriculum integration, the ethical considerations of the use of animals in teaching in science, and the definition and development of expertise in learners and teachers. Dr. Torchia is also the Chief Editorial Officer for the Canadian Association of Medical Education and a co-author of two medical textbooks: Before We Were Born and The Developing Human.
Related Author: Keith L. Moore, MSc, PhD, FIAC