In this example Smart Sparrow was used to create learning modules to support a practical class.
Smart Sparrow was used to generate three learning modules to support a practical class investigating the function of the thyroid gland via a small-group activity. Previously, the activity has involved the viewing of glass slides for the histology sections and in class paper based tasks. By transforming some of the activities to interactive, online adaptive tutorials, more time can be focused on facilitating the interpretation of the scientific data and formulating a well-reasoned hypothesis supported by the data. Smart Sparrow was chosen to develop the learning modules as this was a project funded by a BEST Network Partner Project grant specifically to use the Smart Sparrow platform. It was a chance to explore the possibilities of this tool.
The three modules developed are: 1) a pre-class review of the thyroid physiology to prepare students for the class, 2) a histology module to be accessed during the class to assist students in identifying and interpreting the histology and cell morphology data, and 3) a post-class module to allow students to self-assess their understanding of the concepts and reasoning from the practical class.
The advantage of having learning modules to support a practical class is that it provides greater clarity to the students as to what is expected of them. This is in terms of what they are expected to know prior to the class, what they are expected to do during the class and providing guidance of the level of understanding and scientific reasoning that is expected from them in interpreting the results from the class.
For future projects, the choice as to what tool to use will be entirely dependent on what the educational goals are for the task. Initially, the limitations of the Smart Sparrow platform in terms of navigation, question types and inclusion of some media were disappointing. However, the developers at Smart Sparrow have been busy generating a number of different widgets that have begun to address these limitations, so it is becoming a much more broadly applicable tool. The analytics available from the questions in the modules is a distinct advantage that is not easily obtained from some other common tools.
Here are direct links to the training versions (for demonstrators) of the online learning modules:
In this example Smart Sparrow adaptive tutorials was used for formative and summative assessment and feedback in a blended course design.
Resources built using the tool: Examining cadaveric resources is a fundamental part of learning anatomy. Student access to the anatomy laboratory and cadaveric resources is limited resulting in students not having easy access to the best discipline-specific learning resources outside of the short practical sessions. In response to this, I developed a suite of Virtual Anatomy Adaptive Tutorials (V-AnATs) using the Smart Sparrow adaptive e-learning platform that are based on high quality images of cadaveric specimens, also incorporate clinically and functionally applied anatomy scenarios/cases to allow students to apply their basic knowledge and engage in critical thinking. The V-AnATs provide immediate, relevant and individualised teacher feedback as the student progresses through the questions in the tutorial. The current suite of V-AnATs: have been designed to support a blended learning approach in two anatomy courses that I convene; are fully aligned with course learning outcomes; and support each of the course learning activities. Initially, the V-AnATs were available online to students to use voluntarily as part of their formative assessment in the course. As the e-learning platform has become more robust in functionality, these tutorials are now fully embedded in the course as part of the tutorial learning activities and also as part of the course summative assessment. As part of a BEST Network partner grant, I created a repository of 40 adaptive tutorials that are used at UNSW, and elsewhere.
Use in course: In my Functional Anatomy course, I use these tutorials as a way of engaging student learning outside of the face-to-face sessions. Each week, students are given an adaptive tutorial that focuses on the content learnt in the current week. This adaptive tutorial is designed to consolidate practical work, integrate practical and theory concepts, and then apply this knowledge to clinical scenarios. The tutorials are individualized and have a number of adaptive loops incorporated into them so that students are able to revise and learn concepts that they have not mastered yet. The feedback is provided in different forms i.e. text, image, video (either made by myself or using those available on YouTube).
Use in assessment: Selected tutorials is used for formative and summative assessment. The tutorials set up in such a way that they are administered through Moodle which records the mark the student obtains at the first attempt. These marks contribute to the summative mark for the course.
Impact: Survey results showed that students agreed that the tutorials were well aligned with the course learning objectives (93%) and was a valuable learning tool (87%), as indicated by the high mean scores for these statements. Student tutorial marks also strongly correlated with spot and written exam marks. Student comments indicated that the tutorials provided: valued ‘access’ to cadaveric material and useful feedback, a fair assessment and was formative for learning, and linguistically diverse students the opportunity to learn and revise at their own pace.
Examples of these tutorials can be found on BEST HERE.