By Allison Campbell Jensen
The first day flipping from in-person instruction to fully online was a good learning experience for University of Minnesota medical students because of preparation, collaboration, and flexibility.
“It went well,” said Lily Wood, Medical School Class of 2020, noting she had engaged in online learning previously but it was the first time she took an entire class taught using the Zoom platform.
Successfully facilitating entrance into the Zoom realm were Erin Reardon and Dawn Hackman, Medical School Liaisons at the Bio-Medical Library, who worked with teaching physicians to move online an essential portion of the Family Medicine Clerkship.
Librarians key partners in medical education
Students divide their time during this four-week clerkship between clinical experiences and didactic ones, and librarians are key partners in guiding students to resources for their research assignment on evidence-based medicine.
“Students are aware that this is a learning experience for everyone,” noted Reardon. The library liaisons created a welcome screen with some helpful tips, such as muting their microphones and using chat to ask questions, for students to review before the class began.
Reardon had only taught this class once before, “driving” the computer while a physician lectured. So she offered to carry out the same role via Zoom. In the simultaneous chat portion of the meeting, students can post to faculty their questions, comments, and answers.
“Having Dawn was a lifesaver. She was able to answer questions that came up in conversation right in the chat box,” Reardon said, noting that the two faculty physicians also monitored the chat and prompted conversation among themselves and the students.
Learning experience was meaningful
“The learning experience was meaningful, especially considering the lack of options for gathering in groups right now,” fourth-year medical student Wood wrote in an email. Wood — who will do her Orthopaedic Surgery residency at the U of M Medical School — finds in-person class meetings help her focus, but also discovered an unexpected benefit with Zoom.
“[S]haring screens and walking through database search strategies, etc., I could follow along on my screen. Much better than having a process described.”
While Wood felt it was more difficult for her to “speak up” in class via Zoom because she could not see her fellow students and gauge their reactions, a classmate of hers felt differently. That student appreciated being able to be “heard” via the chat function.
As Wood notes, “It’s a new modality. I’m sure I’ll get used to it and feel more comfortable speaking up as time goes on.”
Zoom offers ‘rooms’ for small group discussion
Zoom is new and yet it offers some familiar components, like breaking into small groups. Reardon facilitated the breakout rooms, which the class of seven students used during the “searching help” part of the session. While this smaller cohort used two rooms — with one physician and one liaison assigned to each — a larger class could have been divided into four breakout rooms.
To prepare for this new experience, Reardon prior to the class accessed help articles in the Zoom knowledge base. She also conscripted “some of my coworkers to test out Zoom breakout sessions.”
The result? “It went pretty well, with a minimal amount of technical difficulties.”