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22st Annual OLC International Conference
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OLC Innovate 2016 - Innovations in Blended and Online Learning
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Pathways to Success: Assessing the Promotion of Blended Learning in Health Sciences

Paige McDonald (The George Washington University, USA)
Laurie Lyons (George Washington University, USA)
Linda Cotton (George Washington University, USA)
Session Information
July 9, 2014 - 10:10am
Faculty Development & Student Support
Areas of Special Interest: 
Institutional Initiatives
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Research and Evaluation
Institutional Level: 
Universities and Four Year Institutions
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Governor's Square 15
Session Duration: 
50 Minutes
Information Session 5
Virtual Session

This presentation reviews a multidimensional approach to assessing faculty development initiatives encouraging adoption of blended learning in Health Science programs at The George Washington University.

Extended Abstract


There is an urgent need to increase the number of health professionals to be trained and to redesign the delivery of health professions education to expand the curricula and incorporate increased active learning techniques. Given these demands, instructors face the challenge of designing course curricula that will reach beyond learner familiarization with information to application in real-world settings, while also negotiating increased class sizes and expanded curricula. Blended learning offers promise in negotiating these tensions. However, although blended learning is emerging as a model of choice in higher education, enticing health sciences faculty to adopt new models of learning can prove challenging, particularly because programs such as Physical Therapy (PT) and Physician Assistant (PA) studies require experiential, hands-on learning to ensure achievement of many healthcare competencies and because many students still expect to be told what the "right" answer is. We adopted two faculty development initiatives to encourage adoption of blended learning in these disciplines, particularly the innovative use of technology to increase student engagement in the process of learning. Our initiatives use an evidence-based, pedagogical approach to faculty development and course design.


Two faculty development initiatives encourage PT and PA faculty to consider how online activities and discussions could augment traditional face-to-face instruction. R3 (Review, Refresh, Revise) focuses on increasing faculty awareness of the pedagogical, technological, and instructional design issues related to incorporating an online component into a traditional course. The initiative is designed to encourage faculty to participate in a methodical course redesign to improve alignment, use of technology in support of learning, and learner engagement. Faculty who volunteer to participate in R3 take a Quality Matters course which introduces them to the concepts of alignment between course objectives, assessments, activities, and instructional materials, while encouraging them to consider how technology can be used to support achievement of course objectives. Quality Matters is a peer-review process designed to improve the quality of online and blended courses (http://www.qmprogram.org). However, we have also been using the QM rubric for higher education to review and help re-design and blend face-to-face courses. We use the QM rubric to conduct a team review of the course and collaboratively make changes to improve course alignment and use of technology. Participation in the team review allows faculty to consider how they can effectively "blend" traditional instruction with online activities and instruction to improve the course quality.

During the "refresh" phase the faculty member receives assistance from instructional design and technology experts to incorporate technology while ensuring that face-to-face and online learning activities are integrated to achieve desired learning outcomes. When facilitating the redesigned course, the faculty notes additional changes required in order to "revise" the course before future delivery. We collect data from student evaluations and faculty surveys on satisfaction with the revised course, particularly as related to learner engagement and the relationship between design changes and perceptions of levels of learning achieved.

A second initiative involved creating a lab to encourage all Health Sciences faculty to integrate media and technology in their courses in pedagogically sound ways. Facultyreceive assistance in a lab designed to teach them how to incorporate media, based upon the specific learning objectives of the course. The SMART (Supported Media for Administration, Research, and Teaching) Lab provides hardware, software, and technical assistance for faculty use of technology for the Health Sciences programs. The GW Health Sciences SMART Lab is in close proximity to faculty offices which encourages faculty to drop in for assistance at any time. The Lab is staffed by an Instructional Designer and a Media Specialist allowing us to provide intensive support. We are carefully tracking outcomes in terms of usage, satisfaction, and effect.

Research Methodology:

We developed a multidimensional assessment model from which to gauge faculty and student satisfaction with course redesign and faculty satisfaction with the course development process resulting from R3 We also assess faculty and student perceptions of how redesign influence student learning. Research on R3 includes surveys of both faculty and students and a faculty focus group. Student assessments and course grades can also be evaluated as required. Research on the SMART lab also includes both faculty and student surveys regarding satisfaction with assistance and effect of assistance on course delivery and on student learning. We also tracked usage of the lab by faculty and students, including types of assistance requested.


This presentation reviews results of our assessments thus far to indicate lessons learned and offer suggestions for best practices in course redesign and adoption of blended learning in disciplines heavily reliant upon traditional teaching models.

Data shows students to be polarized on blended course design in which a portion of the in-class time was replaced by online activities. In contrast, students have responded positively to a blended model using technology to enhance face-to-face courses. One of the lessons learned is the importance of considering blended courses in the context of the entire program and course sequencing

Faculty find the concept of alignment to be extremely helpful and have indicated that some of the most effective changes to their courses came from improving the alignment. The course redesign process also empowers faculty to incorporate additional technology to help meet course objectives in all of their courses even after completing our R3 program.

Faculty indicate that having the SMART Lab located close to their offices provides access to assistance helping them increase student engagement in their courses and increase their students' level of learning. One of our lessons learned is that a relatively modest investment can greatly benefit teaching and learning.

Audience Engagement:

We will engage with participants in a group discussion of what methods their programs are using to assess faculty development and blended learning initiatives, as well as what they are finding. The discussion will focus on disciplines and programs that have been reliant on face-to-face teaching, with populations that may be resistant to blended learning or other new techniques.

Lead Presenter

Paige McDonald is the Director of Health Sciences Core Curriculum and Visiting Assistant Professor of Clinical Research and Learning at The George Washington University. She is currently working to promote blended learning and develop blended courses in Health Science disciplines. Paige's research interests include blended learning, adult learning, reflective practice, and course design for higher levels of learning.