Through over 40 years of teaching experience, Professor Tony Macknight (Co-founder of ADInstruments) has developed a clear understanding of how students best learn, retain, and apply their knowledge. These key pieces of information have become the guiding principles for our new Understand Your Physiology Collection - a comprehensive online learning resource designed to help students understand fundamental physiology concepts.
Here Tony shares the story behind the creation of Understand Your Physiology, plus how the learning resource can be integrated into your existing physiology course to enhance student learning.
"We know how students best learn - by a process of applying what they are learning to answer questions, and actively accumulating their knowledge and understanding."
Creating Understand Your Physiology - How it all began...
Today is a big day for me. After almost 3 years of work, “Understand Your Physiology” is released. It’s interesting to look back now on the journey from the idea to its realization.
Our guiding principles for Understand Your Physiology were to produce an online, active-learning resource, designed to cover all of Physiology at a level appropriate for students in Health and Life Science courses. The Learning Resource embodies what we now know about how students learn. However, what you see now is not actually what I started to produce.
My first lessons were a mix of text, images, and questions. But after various discussions with other educators, we came to the realization that students were becoming reluctant readers, and as online versions of textbooks appeared, it was clear that there was nothing to be gained by creating anything similar.
Thinking outside the textbook
During my initial work, I came to realize that all of Physiology, and I am sure of any science, can be learnt through answering questions. The Lt platform in which Understand Your Physiology was created, was ideally suited to this because of the broad range of question types that are available, the ease of constructing them, and the capacity to provide immediate detailed student feedback.
And so the principles on which “Understand Your Physiology” are built became established. These are:
- Build on what the student already knows
- Before providing information, ask students to demonstrate their current knowledge.
- Then provide instant, quality feedback for all questions.
- Include repetition of important concepts with questions in different formats, so that students rehearse the information that they are learning.
- Provide contextual material so that students will be able to recall what they are learning when they need to use the knowledge.
- Allow students to learn at their own pace in their own time, wherever and whenever they can connect to the internet.
- Encourage students to study together in small groups rather than individually. Learning from each other is a powerful way to learn, understand, and retain knowledge.
Interactive questions and activities to help students understand physiology
Understand Your Physiology covers all of Physiology at a level suitable for students from first-year college through to first-year professional health science courses, including Medicine. It has over 1300 individual pages, over 3,900 questions in a variety of formats including over 2,200 figures and diagrams with which students actively interact.
The content is organized into 4 Parts:
Part A – Principles and Concepts – covers the fundamental concepts that recur throughout any study of physiology.
Part B – Regulation and Control – covers the Nervous and Endocrine systems, including Reproduction.
Part C – Systems – covers the other major systems of the body.
Part D – Multisystem Physiology – allows the students to apply the knowledge that they have acquired to understand topics including temperature regulation, exercise, life in extreme environments, pregnancy, childbirth and lactation, and Aging – changes in function from birth through adolescence to the later years of life.
Take a look inside some lessons below or you can preview the content for free by signing up for a 90-day free trial. See here for more information »
Professionally developed and peer-reviewed content
In developing this content, I was fortunate to have the assistance of an Advisory Panel of educational experts – Dee Silverthorn, Rob Carroll, and Ryan Downey – who reviewed and critiqued the content. In addition, as the content was being developed, a number of people offered to use beta versions in their teaching. The instructor and student feedback from these trials were of great assistance in establishing the validity of our approach and in improving the content. Of course, no work is ever free from error and we welcome comments and suggestions that will improve the Resource!
Keeping track of student progress
Analytics are an important part of keeping track of students' learning. We are in the process of finalizing some powerful analytic tools to be included in Understand Your Physiology, designed to:
- Enable instructors to see the time spent by individual students in watching any videos and answering each question. Analytics enable instructors to identify areas where the students are spending more time – an indication that these are the areas to focus on in the face-to-face sessions.
- Analytics also enables instructors to identify immediately students who are having difficulties in the course, and so provide additional support to them with their learning.
How to use Understand Your Physiology in your course
There are some fundamental principles that will determine your success in using this Learning Resource to promote student understanding of Physiology. It is essential that you teach your course, not ours.
Nothing will work unless:
- You believe in what you are doing
- The students believe that you believe in what you are doing
- The time and effort and commitment the students put into their study is seen to be rewarded.
This last point relates especially to the ways you decide on grades in the course. The ways you choose to examine the students determine the ways that they study. You have over 3,900 questions to choose from here, so use some of these, or variants of them, in your tests and exams.
- Make sure that, before they start your course, the students understand why Understand Your Physiology is designed as it is and how it will assist them to learn and to understand. Section 0.0 'What this Learning Resource is all about', covers this, and every student should read it before they proceed to use the Resource.
- It is our experience that, if students understand how the Resource has been designed and why it will assist them to learn and to understand, then they will be comfortable using what for many of them is a new way of learning.
Understand Your Physiology for Blended-learning
This Learning Resource was developed primarily with blended learning in mind. However, blending-learning is often far from ideal.
The basic reason is the disconnect between what the students are meant to study and what they actually do in their 'off–campus' study time. Putting material on your LMS and expecting students to come prepared having read the recommended book chapter, scientific papers or, indeed, any recommended work that involves only passive learning, is often not entirely successful. Students need clear guidance on what to learn and material that enables active learning.
How Understand Your Physiology will help:
- You select specific sections from the Resource that the students should study.
- You modify these as you wish to reflect the content that you intend to emphasize.
Editing lessons in Lt is very simple and we provide you with the same authoring tool that we use ourselves to create the lessons. We want you to change and modify the material we provide to suit the course you teach.
- In studying these selected sections, students answer a series of questions. They know that these questions and their answers cover the basic knowledge and understanding that you expect them to have prior to the class or small group session.
- Students can sign in together as a group. We know that students studying together learn from each other and that this is a powerful way to learn, understand, and retain knowledge.
- As discussed earlier, the analytics enable you to see the time individual students spend studying.
This is an exciting day for me and for ADInstruments. We believe that we are providing a novel, original, and effective Learning Resource that will assist Instructors who are enthusiastic about moving to Blended learning courses or required to produce fully online courses.
Understand Your Physiology will facilitate student learning and understanding. We know this to be true from studies of student learning using material in Lt. It has been found in Blended Learning courses using Lt for content delivery that student engagement increases, course satisfaction increases, pass rates increase significantly and average grades increase appreciably.
Please do contact us if we can assist you in any way in developing your courses and let us know how you and your students manage in the new learning environment that you will be creating.
By Professor Tony Macknight
Try Understand Your Physiology today!
Preview a selection of lessons or sign up for a 90-day free trial and get access to Understand Your Physiology plus any of Lt's additional content collections featured below!