E-learning: IT emerges as a teaching tool

November 7, 2005

IT presents medical educators with unique opportunities to devise innovative methods of teaching. Resources like imaging databases already serve as biomedical references, but interfaces could be improved to support interactive medical education, according to a Stanford University paper.

IT presents medical educators with unique opportunities to devise innovative methods of teaching. Resources like imaging databases already serve as biomedical references, but interfaces could be improved to support interactive medical education, according to a Stanford University paper.

Improving imaging interfaces is just one facet of a move toward interactive learning that is beginning to get high marks in medical curricula.

The Stanford paper discusses the strengths of interactive education and provides a practical step-by-step approach on how to create these kinds of materials (Comput Med Imaging Graph 2005;29(2-3):223-233).

Web-based learning in the form of PowerPoint lectures, online quizzes, and online information resources is becoming commonplace in medical schools. But most online content is still merely a passive transfer of knowledge. Some consider this insufficient in science and medical settings, since it does not support active learning, teach students problem-solving abilities, or provide an immersive hands-on learning experience that simulates life situations.

"Modern research has broadened scientific knowledge and revealed the interdisciplinary nature of the sciences," said Camillan Huang, Ph.D., director of the Virtual Labs Project at Stanford.

For today's students, this advance translates into learning a more diverse range of concepts, usually in less time and without supporting resources, she said.

Huang said students can benefit from technology-enhanced learning supplements that unify concepts and are delivered on-demand over the Internet.

With information from digital data sets, multimedia learning tools can be designed to transform learning into an active process in which students can visualize relationships over time, interact with dynamic content, and immediately test their knowledge, Huang said.

Stanford's Virtual Labs interactive multimedia modules blend traditional pedagogical teaching methods with modern interactive media methods.

"These modules offer flexible and individualized education with content 24/7, just-in-time learning, self-paced study and assessment, and layered organization to adapt to the needs of different students. Both novice and advanced students can access the knowledge," she said.

Interactive multimedia is designed to help students grasp complex concepts and transfer this knowledge to solve practical problems related to these concepts found in any discipline, particularly medicine and science.

"Students can learn how to learn and be engaged with the content using multimedia techniques like animations, simulations, games, and virtual experimentation," Huang said.