Transforming Traditional Education

Author Information
George Lorenzo
Rochester Institute of Technology
Institution(s) or Organization(s) Where EP Occurred: 
University of Vermont College of Medicine
Effective Practice Abstract/Summary
Abstract/Summary of Effective Practice: 

The University of Vermont College of Medicine transformed its new integrated curriculum by adding a wide variety of educational technology tools and applications to its courses. This transformation is being driven by COMET (College of Medicine Education Tools), a team of educational technologists that has helped to create a hybrid learning environment that includes reusable learning objects, virtual reality models, streaming audio and video, and online exams.

Supporting Information for this Effective Practice
Evidence of Effectiveness: 

Overall the addition of such educational technology tools have helped to move the conversations COMET has with the College of Medicine faculty toward a hybrid model. Additionally, since students interact with the aforementioned self-directed, online educational tools at their own speed on their own time, prior to attending face-to-face lectures, faculty have been more efficiently focusing their face-to-face time with students in class. Plus, the conversion to online testing has become an effective test-taking-skill-enhancement practice and a validating experience for students who eventually will take their formal licensing exams on a computer. As one administrator put it, "students are now unflappable when it comes to taking online exams."

How does this practice relate to pillars?: 

learning effectiveness: Six months prior to the University of Vermont College of Medicine's (UVM) launch of a new integrated curriculum for its MD/PhD program in August 2003 (that was seven years in the making), the College of Medicine Education Tools Department (COMET) was created. COMET is the arm of UVM responsible for developing effective educational technologies "to foster the productivity and growth of world class medical students, graduates and faculty." Since its creation, COMET has transformed much of a traditional college of medicine curriculum steeped in history (established in 1822 as the nation's seventh medical school) into a multi-faceted modern, blended teaching and learning environment that is in a continuous mode of educational-technology-oriented improvements. This transformational process began at a basic level, whereby COMET began to assist faculty with publishing course syllabi, lecture notes and PowerPoint presentations online. Once this basic order of business became commonplace, COMET began to assist faculty with building online-learning modules, including the addition of a variety of educational technologies inside a 31-hour medical-imaging curriculum. These online-learning modules have what's referred to as "educational assets" that include: - Animated lessons and modules created with Macromedia Flash in which students are told specifically what they should learn, how long it will take to go through the interactive images and diagrams that have been built into the lesson/module, and then quizzed on what they should have learned. - 3D and virtual reality models that are put online, such as an online virtual explorer, created in Macromedia Shockwave, that allows viewers to click, drag and rotate around three-dimensional images of the main structures of the knee, for example. - Web-based applications, such as a "case builder" tool that allows faculty to author and deploy case studies in the popular Problem Based Learning Module format, and a "Nutrient Analyzer" that uses a database of food nutritional information provided by the USDA. Users enter foods consumed in a day and get detailed information on nutritional totals. In addition, high-stakes tests, which are common within colleges of medicine, have been moved to the online environment. Exams are delivered inside Blackboard and integrated with SecureExam Browser and Respondus. SecureExam Browser is a security application that creates a secure test environment by locking down the Windows operating system on the test-taker's laptop or desktop computer, allowing access only to the test application. Respondus is a test authoring and management tool.

Estimate the probable costs associated with this practice: 

COMET is a well-funded and well-supported arm of the College of Medicine with a manager, two and a half multimedia developers, one and a half system administrators, one database person, and one technical manager. COMET also has access to a medical photography department with a photographer and videographer, and the support of a College of Medicine Information Technology Department.

References, supporting documents: 

See examples of multimedia productions at

Contact(s) for this Effective Practice
Effective Practice Contact: 
Jill Jemison, COMET Manager
Email this contact: