The School of Medical Sciences at the University of Sydney is a major player in Australian and international biomedical research and education. Incorporating the Disciplines of Pharmacology, Physiology, Pathology, and Anatomy & Histology, Medical Sciences is the largest school at the prestigious University, and the teaching team are renowned for their passion and innovative approach to science education.
But, in 2013, the Medical Sciences team were experiencing some major teaching challenges. In particular, students were unenthusiastic about the practical components of their courses. How could the team produce the world-class medical researchers and practitioners of tomorrow, if they couldn’t get them to willingly attend their labs today?
According to Associate Professor Tina Hinton, Senior Lecturer in Pharmacology, the team decided to address this problem by transforming its teaching approach. They implemented Lt, our high-quality cloud-based learning platform, to deliver and encourage active, immersive learning.
“We wanted to make sure that we had a state-of-the-art online learning platform for our students to use. The outstanding choice for us was Lt.”
– Associate Professor Tina Hinton, Senior Lecturer Pharmacology
Lt bridges the gap between theory and practice
Lt is a cloud-based learning platform that is pedagogically designed to stimulate active learning. The platform provides over 300 fully editable life science lessons, created by a specialized team of instructional designers. Additionally, educators can create, customize, and deliver their own content using Lt’s modern tools and features. Lt also provides the unique ability for students to record and analyze their own physiological signals using hardware teaching kits, engaging students with a hands-on learning experience.
For Tina Hinton, the implementation of Lt has been a huge success in terms of student engagement.
“What’s most important to me as a teacher is that my students are engaged. And we’ve found that by using Lt we’re able to engage students in so many ways. It’s interactive, but we are also able to engage with the students before they come to class, during class and after class.”
Lt lets students access course content anywhere, anytime
Because Lt is delivered online, the Medical Sciences team can set interactive activities, quizzes and pre-lab reading for their students to complete before coming to class. Third-year medical science student, Dylan, logs into Lt to prepare for his classes.
“It’s easy to log in to Lt from anywhere. I access Lt from my computer at home to get ready before my practical classes to make sure that I'm understanding the content properly before I go to the lab.”
– Dylan, 3rd year student, Medical Science
Lt increases student engagement in practical classes
Grace, a student in biomedical engineering and medical science, agrees. She finds that the cloud-based functionality of Lt makes it easy to familiarize herself with scientific concepts prior to her practical classes, maximizing the benefit she gets from being in the lab environment:
“I love Lt because it helps to make science really interesting and interactive.”
– Grace, 3rd year student, Biomedical Engineering and Medical Science
Grace has found that using Lt helps her to apply scientific theory to the activities she is performing in the lab. “Using Lt to prepare means that we can use the whole time in the lab to practically apply what we've learned. I love seeing the concept we’ve just read about in action! It helps me understand “Wow, okay - that's how it works!” rather than it just being a theoretical concept.”
Lt encourages deeper understanding through scientific discovery
The team at the University of Sydney combine Lt with PowerLab data acquisition hardware, so that students can record and analyze real biological signals. For Dylan, this has been invaluable.
“Lt allows us to be really be strongly involved in extracting data and analyzing the results. It helps me to get a grasp of exactly what we're trying to study in the experiment and lets us choose how to respond to the data. Using Lt means that I can focus on the science and really enjoy and interact and delve deeper into the science.”
Labs run smoother with Lt
For Grace, Lt provides clear instructions and help if, and when, she needs it. “Labs run smoother because the instructions are very clear in Lt! We don’t need to ask questions or figure out how to use it when we get to the lab. It means we can get started and everything is on Lt and it guides us through the class. It's pretty effortless compared to most other practical classes I’ve been in.”
Senior technical officer, Donald Davidson, uses Lt for practical classes in wet and dry laboratories. He has noticed a definite ease in the way labs run since Lt has been installed.
“Lt saves us a lot of time in class because we don’t need to demonstrate the equipment to each small group of students. We’ve included videos in Lt that show all the equipment and how it should be used, which students find really useful. They can stop it and start it wherever they need or replay a certain part.”
– Donald Davidson, Senior Technical Officer, Charles Perkins Centre
Lt helps to run large labs, without hassle
For Dr. Michael Morris, Sesqui Senior Lecturer in Embryonic Stem Cells in the Discipline of Physiology, a huge benefit of Lt has been its ability to accommodate the needs of large classes.
“In the modern world, we are expected to run very large classes, and give every student a fantastic experience. With Lt we can be assured that everyone in a huge class of 100 students is working from the same song sheet and getting the maximum amount of benefit, with minimum interruption.”
– Dr Michael Morris, Sesqui Senior Lecturer in Embryonic Stem Cells, Physiology
Lt saves time
For Michael, Lt saves valuable time, both on a daily basis and with his annual curriculum updates.
“Lt's been an amazing saving of time. Once a practical lesson is set up in Lt its simple to keep it running. I can update anything instantly. At the end of a year I simply make appropriate changes to the content as I need. It’s fantastic economies of scale because I can use the same practicals across different units of study and update them or edit them at once. It’s been a real godsend.”
Lt helps to develop an integrated learning experience
Dr. Sharon Hercus, Senior lecturer in Physiology and the Foundation Studies coordinator in the Sydney medical program, has developed dozens of practical and tutorial lessons using Lt.
“It’s not only about putting in a whole lot of content - we need to get the students to be actively engaging with the material. And Lt has been very helpful for developing blended learning, which is really important.”
Lt is easy to author
Lt has a range of handy templates of panels that allow teachers to author lessons easily, including data panels, text panels and a variety of quiz templates.
“Lt has some great authoring features. I can easily create some really interactive quizzing in terms of drag and drop quizzes, sequencing, filling the gap, annotating pictures. There's a whole lot you can do, you just have to be creative!”
– Dr. Sharon Hercus, Senior lecturer Physiology
Lt improves team communication and collaboration
For Physiology lecturer, Dr. Melissa Cameron, Lt has also proven its value with staff interactions. Lt has streamlined the team’s preparation and delivery of notes to each other, especially in larger classes where there can be multiple staff members involved. Melissa says, “In the past it was difficult to get everyone together to work through the lessons. Now it's really easy because we can log onto Lt when it suits us and see all of the information and comment or ask any questions.”
“Lt also makes it easy for us to work with other people, in other departments. Instead of one person doing all the work, we can all contribute and add to the lesson and really work as a team.”
– Dr. Melissa Cameron, Lecturer, Physiology
Lt encourages modern pedagogical practice
Associate Professor Tina Hinton has found that Lt has helped to shift the teaching team away from dated, didactic teaching methods, towards modern approaches which are much more student and learning focused.
“Lt has actually been an excellent experience for us working as a team. We have a large and ever-growing team of educators who are all working together and really thinking about what it means for our students to learn, how we would like them to learn and how they are most effectively learning. That way of thinking - being student and learning focused - has really changed our entire curriculum.”
“We’ve actually taken the pedagogical underpinnings of the Lt platform, and utilized them to help our colleagues understand how our students are learning better because of Lt.”
Lt increases student satisfaction
Resoundingly, student feedback to practical components of their courses since the implementation of Lt has been positive – a distinct turnaround. Associate Professor Tina Hinton has observed that students are now responding to practical classes with enthusiasm and deeper engagement.
“We have quantifiable evidence of a specific improvement in student experience and learning in laboratories, demonstrated in the students’ unit of study survey feedback. But, as teachers, we get proof of this from their verbal feedback, and proof from the sophisticated questions they ask in class, and in the enthusiasm and the interest that they have in science since we started using Lt.”
“I can walk into the teaching laboratory and have a real conversation about the data that a student is capturing and what it means. It’s a far more authentic practical experience for students now, because of their ability to use Lt.”
Lt proven to improve student engagement and success
The positive results are more than anecdotal. New research specifically examining the use of Lt in a 2nd year Pathophysiology Paper has shown that student success has increased significantly over the last three years with the intervention of Lt (Hogarth, 2017).
The study shows that the use of Lt has:
Lt has significantly increased student engagement
Using Lt has improved test results in theory and clinical practice
Using Lt has reduced exam failures by over 50%
Lt has increased the average class pass rate to 97% with one year having a 100% pass rate
Lt makes teaching rewarding
Lt has proven to be so useful that the School of Medical Science now uses Lt across all of their practical classes and tutorials.
But, for Associate Professor Tina Hinton, Lt’s greatest benefit has been the complete turnaround in student satisfaction and engagement, which in turn enriches her work as an educator. “I can connect with students in the lab on a far deeper level now, in terms of the science. They ask far more sophisticated questions and are much more capable at trouble shooting now. We can see that the use of Lt has definitely improved their ability to actually learn in real time.”
“Students love it. They love it. The feedback has gone from practicals being the worst thing about the unit of study, to the complete opposite. Thanks to Lt we’ve seen a huge improvement in our student’s learning. They love it.”
Hogarth, K., (2017, Sept). Immersive learning in nursing education. Paper presented at the ANEC Conference, Christchurch, New Zealand.
Lt is a cloud-based learning platform that bridges the gap between theory and practice by delivering an engaging immersive learning experience.
Designed to stimulate active learning based on the latest pedagogical research on engagement and retention, Lt has 300+ fully editable life science lessons created by a specialized team of instructional designers. Educators can also create, customize, and deliver their own content using Lt’s modern tools and features. Lt gives students the unique ability to record and analyze their own physiological signals, encouraging active learning and giving students an engaging, immersive learning experience.
About: The University of Sydney
The University of Sydney is ranked the #1 University in Australia for scientific impact and is consistently ranked within the top 50 universities globally. The University has been a world leader in research and education for over 160 years.
The University of Sydney has over 50,000 full and part time students. With more than 400 areas of study to choose from, it offers Australia’s broadest range of courses and disciplines. The University’s research focuses on finding solutions to society’s biggest challenges.
Currently ranked 4th in the world, and 1st in Australia, for graduate employability, the University boasts world-class facilities, inspirational academics, and internationally recognized and respected qualifications.