Integrating new technology into an online course to enhance student engagement and learning

Author Information
Sherry Stewart
Lori Kogan
Christianne Magee
Institution(s) or Organization(s) Where EP Occurred: 
Colorado State University
Effective Practice Abstract/Summary
Abstract/Summary of Effective Practice: 

The quality of student engagement and learning in an online course environment can be dramatically enhanced by incorporating a variety of easily available technologies. These include integration of animated images to demonstrate form and function relationships, embedded interactive quizzes, problem-based learning modules, audio voice-overs (using ECHO 360) and 3D imaging. Other examples include Interactive Quizlet flashcards and online crossword puzzles, both of which can help students learn terminology and factual info ration, while solving problems and applying new knowledge. A combination of these cutting-edge technologies creates an interactive, interesting and realistic learning environment and can help students achieve higher levels of learning. These techniques were incorporated into an online undergraduate domestic animal anatomy course and met with overwhelming positive student feedback. Students reported enjoying the interactivity, the immediate feedback on learning, and the opportunity to apply new information to real-life situations.

Description of the Effective Practice
Description of the Effective Practice: 

Having been offered for 8 years without significant technological modifications, an online anatomy course needed significant updating, technology upgrades, and improvements in opportunities for student engagement. The revised online undergraduate domestic animal anatomy course now utilizes several relatively easy to incorporate technological features that, collectively, provide an innovative way for students to learn course material. Animations are used to help students see form and function relationships "in action" (for instance flexion and extension of a joint) while embedded quizzes give students immediate feedback about their learning. Echo 360 lecture captures allow the instructor to focus on more difficult content areas while providing clear pronunciation of terminology, and Quizlet flashcards and crossword puzzles help students to review and utilize new terminology in a fun and engaging manner.
The virtual anatomy laboratories include 2-demensional images for students to work through the basic anatomical form/function relationships and terminology via an interactive "point-and-click" technology (students click on an anatomical "part," and the name and description are presented). Three-dimensional images are available for students to turn in all directions to simulate holding the specimen in one's hands -- much the same as in a face-to-face laboratory. Problem-based "cases" show an animal with an anatomically-based problem (for instance, a lame dog). Finally, students work through the cases and form hypotheses about the anatomical source and location of the problem. Collectively, these technologies combine to encourage students to learn anatomy in an interactive, stimulating, and student-centered environment while stimulating integration, synthesis and application of material.

Supporting Information for this Effective Practice
Evidence of Effectiveness: 

While the undergraduate domestic animal anatomy course has been offered online for several years, the online environment did not extend much beyond an "online textbook.” The new technology briefly listed above was implemented in summer 2013, and the first offering with the new technology was fall 2013. Feedback from student emails and the course survey included: "What a fun unit and an interesting case study." "I really enjoyed the content of the course after I improved! Kind of surprising because I was struggling so much in the beginning, but it turned out to be one of my favorite classes." "I really enjoyed the class, and I know everything I learned will be very useful when I begin my accelerated Tech program next semester." While the class average in past years was approximately 78%, the class average fall 2013 was 82% (identical testing methods and the same questions).

How does this practice relate to pillars?: 

The pillars most represented are "Learning Effectiveness" and "Student Satisfaction." The interactive visual and audio media help students to understand and apply the content delivered by narrative. The problem cases and embedded quizzes allow for student learning across all levels of Bloom's Taxonomy. High course test scores suggest these tools are effective in teaching domestic animal anatomy. In terms of student satisfaction, the word "enjoy" comes up repeatedly in student comments. This is a relatively rare adjective used by students to describe a rigorous upper division biomedical sciences course.

Equipment necessary to implement Effective Practice: 

The course is offered through Blackboard and is a course/degree elective at Colorado State University. Quizlet and crossword puzzles are free programs available on the Internet. CSU has invested in a group license for ECHO 360, and it is available at no charge to all faculty and can be supplemented with shorter free YouTube videos. Embedded quizzes and case-based problems can all be achieved using Acrobat Pro XI. The 3D programing is a separate effort developed internally within the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. While the program is too image intensive to run on handheld devices, the 3D program is currently being modified to run on an iPad. If bandwidth is a problem for an individual student, the instructor has provided ECHO 360 versions of the lectures that provide non-video options (audio and lecture “scroll-throughs” without instructor video).

Estimate the probable costs associated with this practice: 

Costs to the instructor are minimal (mostly time). Students are asked for a voluntary donation up to $40 for the purchase of the 3D program.

References, supporting documents: 

Mandernach, B. 2009. Effect of Instructor-Personalized Multimedia in the Online Classroom. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. Vol 10, No. 3 (2009)

Yousif, B., Basson, M., & Hobhm, C. 2012. Implementing multimedia resources in online learning and its effect on student understanding., AAEE 2012 Conference, Melbourne, Australia (2012)

AUSTIN, K. A. 2009. Multimedia learning: Cognitive individual differences and display design
techniques predict transfer learning with multimedia learning modules. Computers
& Education, 53, 1339-1354.

Other Comments: 

I believe I may have submitted this proposal twice (also on Dec. 23). They should now be identical. Thanks for your consideration.

Contact(s) for this Effective Practice
Effective Practice Contact: 
Sherry Stewart
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Effective Practice Contact 2: 
Lori Kogan
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Effective Practice Contact 3: 
Christianne Magee
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