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Scholarship and Evidence-Based Practice in the Health Sciences: An Online Orientation to Research and Writing Skills

Catherine Golden (The George Washington University, USA)
Paige McDonald (The George Washington University, USA)
Additional Authors
Susan Okun (George Washington University, USA)
Session Information
October 14, 2015 - 1:45pm
Student Services and Learner Support
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Practical Application
Institutional Level: 
Multiple Levels
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Discovery Session
Atlantic Hall
Session Duration: 
45 Minutes
Discovery Session 1

The presentation explores an online orientation where research and writing videos prepare newly admitted students for the rigors of health sciences scholarship and evidence-based practice.

Extended Abstract


In the undergraduate and graduate distance education programs at The George Washington University, a new program targeted improving newly admitted students' writing and research skills during an online orientation. Attendees will review how to create an online module series aimed at improving student skills in research and writing prior to engaging in coursework. Orientation to these required skills early in a student's academic career helps to ensure their success in applying evidence-based research throughout their programs of study.


Completion of degree programs in the health sciences requires that students engage in scholarship in various forms including conducting research; analyzing and synthesizing current, credible literature related to health science issues; and writing papers and presentations reporting the results of their evaluation and synthesis in the appropriate professional format. Unfortunately, many admitted students are not adequately prepared with the basic skills needed for success in their courses, including: (1) familiarity with professional, academic writing in health science disciplines, (2) ability to identify and synthesize scholarly research, (3) a robust understanding of terminology in their fields, and (4) familiarity with standardized styles, including APA. Moreover, not all students enter higher education with an awareness of the relationship between scholarship and evidence-based practice. The problem is not unique to health sciences, and our approach may be applicable to other online degree programs seeking to prepare students for programs writing and research expectations.


In order to address the needs of a diverse student body, efforts to address these problems required a flexible delivery method that worked across programs. The project entailed the creation of series of videos in four areas: scholarly writing, informal sources, library resources, and APA.
Each video addresses areas where students are commonly deficient and can be completed as a series or deployed independently, based on program and student needs. The flexible format provided an opportunity for students to revisit the material as they progressed through their program. Programs in each department can deploy the modules in a variety of ways, including: requiring completion for conditionally admitted students, selecting a combination of videos for program orientation, inserting one or two into an introductory course, or stringing the full series together and running as an independent course.
To-date, the videos have been incorporated into an online orientation for undergraduate and graduate programs in one academic department, included in the resource section of all online classes, and available on a free-standing student resources webpage.


The pilot of the videos in the online orientation project started with graduate programs in Fall 2014, and was so successful, the project expanded to include undergraduate programs in Spring 2015. A survey conducted on students in the Fall 2014 and Spring 2015 with positive student feedback coming from both cohorts about the helpfulness of the orientation and videos on academic preparedness.

In addition to student surveys, we surveyed the writing faculty in Spring 2015, and the experience thus far with undergraduate students in their courses regarding accessing library resources, identifying credible sources, and APA format. The findings suggest the videos have had a positive impact on student performance in classes in these areas, specifically with consistency in citing sources and with identifying credible sources; however, problems do persist regarding citations for paraphrasing and the requirement for faculty to remind students to rely on credible sources.