LORS Revisited

22 Oct

I listened to a webinar today, hosted by Instructure Canvas. My college uses Canvas as our LMS (learning management system), so whenever they have a new initiative, I pay attention. This time, they were publicizing “Canvas Commons,” which will give Canvas users the ability to share not only individual learning objects (LOs), but entire course modules, including lessons, animations, quizzes, and any other component you can put in a module.  Currently in beta testing, Canvas Commons will be available to educators to create entire courses, which they can choose to share within their departments, or with whomever is interested. Students can be given a link to the Commons course, and will have access to its resources. Course components can be shared; whole modules or individual LOs can be exported from the Commons and imported into another course.  The key for Instructure, of course, is that this will be available to users of the Canvas LMS.

The ‘marketing hook’ Canvas used in touting their product, “A Learning Object Repository That Actually Gets Used,” implies there are others out there that are not used, or perhaps not useful.  In the early part of the webinar, Merlot and others were referenced as ‘ancient’ resources, dating all the way back to the early 2000’s.  (I had mentioned Merlot in an earlier blog post.)  The first half of the webinar was mostly a review of OERs (open educational resources, such as Merlot) and the educational history of LOs. Apparently (at least, based on looking up the number of ‘hits’ in web searches), the term ‘learning object’ has been falling out of favor in the U.S., although it is still quite popular in Australia.  The suggestion was made that LOs are either hard to find, or perhaps just not very useful.

Of course, this webinar was general in nature, not specific to Anatomy & Physiology, so the excellence of the LifeSciTRC repository hosted by APS would not have been known to the Canvas developers. (And, the structure of the LifeSciTRC repository is very different from that of Canvas Commons.)  During the Q&A period, questions of costs, access, and storage space were answered in pretty general terms, so it’s hard to envision how widely adopted this resource will be, in spite of the clear intent of the webinar title.  Still, it’s interesting to imagine having a library of A&P LOs available to all HAPS members in an accessible format, organized into modules arranged by HAPS learning outcomes.  I know Canvas question banks can be linked to specific course learning outcomes, so there is an analytical application there.  At this point, I am formulating a goal of having my own courses in Canvas set up that way. Maybe, someday, I’ll be able to share, and perhaps others in HAPS will similarly have LOs in compatible formats, whether in Canvas, or in whatever form comes next, when Canvas is considered ‘ancient,’ maybe 10 years from now.

…On a separate note, I became aware of the “badges” available to the users of the LifeSciTRC repository. You can check them out at http://www.lifescitrc.org/help-my.cfm#badges.  I’m not sure if badges are useful in a professional sense, so I thought I’d ask…

- Betsy Ott

HAPS Web 7- Position Statements

19 Oct
If your institution wants you to dissect lego frogs instead of real ones, HAPS can help you formulate a departmental position on the issue.

If your institution wants you to dissect Lego frogs instead of real ones, HAPS can help you formulate a departmental position on the issue.

Tens of thousands of students take Anatomy and Physiology courses every year, usually as preparation for a career in health. A&P instructors touch the lives of all of these students, and HAPS gives those instructors guidance on dealing with some of the ethical and procedural issues that can arise in the process of this instruction. Having these guidelines and position statements allows HAPS members to rely on these statements as starting points for conversations when these issues come up.

One of the more contentious issues that arises is the use of animal specimens. Historically, an important tool of investigation in human anatomy has been dissection of animals. Often this is because human material is hard to come by and has its own logistical issues (see below). Dissection, both of humans and animals, instills a recognition and appreciation for the three-dimensional structure of the animal body, the interconnections between organs and organ systems, and the uniqueness of biological material while conveying the inherent variability of living organisms not otherwise observable in simulations and models. In physiology, experiments involving live animals provide an excellent opportunity to learn the basic elements specific to scientific investigation and experimentation. At the same time, HAPS also encourages educators to be responsive to student concerns regarding use of animals and to provide students who object to animal use with alternative learning materials. HAPS contends that science educators should retain responsibility for making decisions regarding the educational uses of animals and opposes any legislation or administrative policy that would erode the educator’s role in decision making or restrict dissection and animal experimentation in biology.

While animal dissection may approach the ideal, human cadavers provide opportunities that cannot be duplicated by animal dissection. HAPS believes that the opportunity to observe and wonder at the complexity of the human body, the impact of disease on human structure, the effects of age and life style on anatomy, and structural variations related to development are unique attributes of a cadaver experience. While anatomical models, interactive computer programs, and multimedia materials may enhance the laboratory experience, they should not be considered as equivalent alternatives or substitutes for a hands-on cadaver experience where it is available. HAPS supports the use of cadavers for anatomical study provided their use is in strict compliance with federal legislation, the guidelines of the National Institutes of Health, and the body donor program from which the cadavers were acquired, and that such use fulfills clearly defined educational objectives.

HAPS also provides position statements on the quality of education that institutions should be providing to our A&P students. A growing trend in education is the use of ‘distributed learning’ – partially or wholly online courses and the use of web-based resources. These educational distribution methods provide a number of advantages: providing access to education that might not otherwise be available to particular students, flexibility in scheduling and learning styles for students, and the wealth of resources available on the internet. Nevertheless, these instructional technologies must support and complement the needs of best principles of teaching and learning, including training of instructors, pedagogical best-practices and assessment security and integrity. Online courses should provide an equivalent experience and similar material to face-to-face courses, and not be watered-down versions of an on-campus course.

On the topic of instructor accreditation, HAPS understands that A&P instructors come from a wide variety of post-baccalaureate programs including traditional life sciences programs (e.g. biology or physiology) as well as programs like biological anthropology and kinesiology. In addition, many A&P instructors come from clinical backgrounds such as nursing or physical therapy. HAPS has a number of guidelines for suggested coursework that A&P instructors should have taken, and how clinical or practical experience can be considered substitutions for this coursework. These guidelines embrace the diversity in backgrounds while still requiring rigorous standards of instruction and evaluation of that instruction.

These guidelines and position statements, with far more detail and formality, can be found on the HAPS website.  These statements are tools that HAPS provides for dealing with the questions that A&P instructors may encounter when dealing with students, administrations, and the public.

More on Repositories, Musing on Games

15 Oct

As I continue my exploration of online repositories, I get recommendations from other HAPS members. For example, Hiranya Roychowdhury, co-chair of the Curriculum and Instruction committee, made me aware of the University of Wisconsin learning object repository at https://www.wisc-online.com/learn.  A quick search brought me to the life sciences learning objects, where I could see how many ‘hits’  a particular object has, what rating it has, when it was last updated, and even whether it is compatible with mobile devices.

The site has a number of cool-looking options, including a game builder, along with badges for different levels of participation.  I admit I haven’t had time to explore the learning objects posted there for quality, accuracy, and engagement, but the idea of it is intriguing.

I also came across a blog posted at Edutopia (eduotopia.org) this week that discussed aspects of game design, and how that increases student engagement.  I remember playing competitive games in high school courses, and how those activities increased buy-in from me and my classmates.  I’ve played a version of Jeopardy (TM) with my own A&P classes, and I was surprised when some of my non-participatory students could pop up with correct answers when sufficiently motivated and engaged.

I’ve started using an app called Duolingo, which teaches languages through quiz-like assessments – including recognizing pictures, speaking, listening, and interpreting. (It’s completely free, by the way.)  Maybe, with this quick and easy, short-lesson-format, I’ll finally learn some useful Spanish after living in Texas for 30 years…I’ll confess, I get really drawn in to video games. Once hooked, I tend to return to get higher scores and achieve higher levels.   All it takes for me is early rewards and a clear path to the next victory.  Turning course work into games might help hook some students that otherwise would not take the time for the drudgery of memorization and review.

One of the points made in the Edutopia article was the need to have early failures (low stakes) built in, so students are working to improve performance and getting early rewards for doing so.  I have also read that making decisions – even if incorrect – can help reinforce memory.  I’ve built some auto-graded assessments into my online lessons, but I think the gaming environment would make them more attractive to some of my students.  I speculate that if we could make a sufficiently addictive video game for A&P, we could just sit back and watch students learn.  Until that day, though, I continue to search for anything that simultaneously engages and teaches my students.

I’d love to hear from you, particularly if you know of other repositories, apps, games, or references on how to incorporate more engaging content in an online or classroom environment.

-Betsy Ott,

HAPS Web 6- A Message From Your HAPS-Ed Team!

12 Oct
The HAPS-EDucator is a great way to share ideas!

The HAPS-EDucator is a great way to share ideas!

This week, the Communications Committee brings you a message from the co-editors of the HAPS EDucator, Jennelle Malcos and Sarah Cooper.

You may have read the post a couple weeks ago focusing on the HAPS EDucator and all the exciting resources it has to offer.  We would like to now share with you some information about how you can share your ideas and contribute to this resource.  Submitting an article is easy to do with out new “Author Submission Packet” posted on the HAPS EDucator website.

The goal of the EDucator is to foster the advancement of A&P education by promoting communication and collaboration between HAPS members – also known as sharing your ideas!  You may be wondering what types of articles are considered for publications.  There are many types and vary from innovative teaching techniques or lesson plans, reviews of trending topics in A&P or summaries of noteworthy events or experiences.  We also feature our popular Edu-Snippets:  quick and easy ideas to use in the classroom or lab.  We encourage you to think outside the box and publish in areas that interest and excite you because they will likely excite others.

Starting in 2014, regular article submissions are now undergoing a peer-review process based on the standards of “Educational Scholarship”.  If you submit an article, 2-4 members of the HAPS EDucator Editorial Board will review your article based on the following criteria:

  1.  Is the article appropriate and relevant for HAPS members and the society’s goal of promoting excellence in human anatomy and physiology teaching?
  2.  Is the article scientifically accurate and reflects the author’s preparation and knowledge in the field?
  3.  Is the presented information organized and free form spelling and grammatical errors?

You will receive targeted feedback and the opportunity to make corrections if necessary.  Through this process, published articles are considered peer-reviewed and can be used for the purposes of promotion and tenure at your institute.

After the annual conference we also look for members to share their experiences in the “HAPS EDucator Annual Conference Edition”.  We encourage workshop and poster presenters to share a summary of their work or attendees to share there favorite part of the conference.  This becomes a valuable resource for those that cannot make the journey to the annual conference.

Submitting an article is a great way to contribute to HAPS and help promote your career.  If you ever have any questions about the submission process, please feel free to contact us at haps-ed@hapsconnect.org.  Now take a break from reading this blog and start sharing your ideas!

Your Co-Editors,

Jennelle Malcos and Sarah Cooper

Competency in A&P

8 Oct

I wrote last week about attending the SoftChalk User Conference in Baltimore.  At the end of 2 days of workshops, I attended a presentation about competency-based education. This is something of a buzz word, as nontraditional certification programs develop ways to certify individuals to be capable for employment. It’s also a natural consequence, I think, of acknowledging that a grade in a course doesn’t guarantee the ability to apply, or even remember, what was learned in a course.

So, I’m interested in finding ways to teach, and document, competency to and for our students.  The topic of this workshop was competency in a speech course, but I think the basic idea can be translated to other academic areas.  The presenter had a very narrow designation for competencies: every specific, individual skill at the most basic level that could be explained and tested was a competency.  The way she used these in her course involved allowing students to demonstrate competency and accumulate them for credit.

This got me thinking – can we take the HAPS learning outcomes, at the finest level, and develop short lessons that focus on those individual skills/ideas, then construct an organizational framework that builds into a conceptual structure that students can apply to higher levels?  These could be parked in a HAPS-approved repository, such as LifeSciTRC. They could stress different learning styles and incorporate various resources (such as video files) that would help students with different learning styles.  HAPS members could contribute to a pool of resources that could be tagged by learning style, HAPS objective, and maybe Bloom’s levels.

I can’t say I have a fully-formed idea of this in my head, but I think I’ll try to pull something together, and post it in SoftChalk (which has a new initiative called SoftChalk Share) for feedback.

I realize there could be issues of copyright, competition, and other complications, and I’m interested in both the pros and the cons. So, please share – what do you think? I know there are some wonderful resources developed by HAPS members and others…does this idea fill a niche?  Is it something you could use? Would you be willing to contribute?

Thanks, as always, for your thoughtful input.

Betsy Ott
HAPS President-Elect

HAPS Web 5- The Central Regional Meeting

5 Oct
Eastview High School

Join your fellow HAPSters at the Central Regional Meeting on October 17-18.

It isn’t too late to register for the HAPS Central Regional Meeting on October 17-18 in Minneapolis, MN.  The conference is being held at Eastview High School in Apple Valley, Minnesota and is geared for both college and high school anatomy and physiology educators.  Eastview High School is a large suburban school that has ample space for such a meeting.  The school is close to several hotels, is a 10 minute drive from the Mall of America, and is about a 20 minute drive from the Minneapolis/St. Paul International airport.  Murray Jensen, the HAPS Central Regional Director, is the conference coordinator.

Regional conferences provide an excellent opportunity to re-connect with the HAPS community between the annual conferences, which happen in May.

Featured speakers at the event include:

Dr. Kevin Petti
Anatomia italiana: Art and Anatomy in the Italian Renaissance”

Sponsored by the American Association of Anatomists

Wendy Riggs – Chair of HAPS Communications Committee
“Its Flipping Fun!  Notes on how to flip an A&P class”

Dr. Paul Iaizzo – Director, The Visible Heart Laboratory, University of Minnesota
“Cardiovascular Advances at the University of Minnesota: Past, Present, and Future”

Dr. Arthur G. Erdman
“Development of Medical Devices Using Virtual Prototyping”

Cynthia Clague, Ph.D. – Director, Research & Advanced Technology Medtronic
“Anatomical Foundation of Structural Heart Device Design”

Dr. Jon Jackson
“Anatomy by the Slice: Radiology to bring real human anatomy to any classroom, anywhere.”


For questions, please contact the HAPS Main Office at info@hapsconnect.org or 1-800-448-4277.


The First Ever SoftChalk User Conference

1 Oct IMG_0208.JPG

Hello from Baltimore. I managed to convince both my dean and my distance ed director to stake my trip to the SoftChalk User Conference. So far, I’ve managed to learn a few useful items, had some nice beer, and scored a free dinner, a coffee mug, and a T-shirt.
In the first session, by Richard Smith and Greg Priebe of Harford Community College, I learned a thing or two about making accessible content in web pages. Here are the most important:
1. Don’t use bullets when you can use numbers. Screen readers, used by visually impaired individuals, can’t make sense of bullets, but numbers are helpful for reference and review.
2. Make simple tables (of course, SoftChalk makes tables that can be read by screen-reading software) rather than elaborately formatted tables.
3. There is a code referred to as a ‘skip link’ that allows screen readers to skip over headers that repeat from page to page. I never thought about that, but if the screen reader has to read the entire page, and the top of each page is a lengthy table of contents (or other header), then that probably gets old in a hurry to your visually impaired students. If you can’t embed a skip link, then just skip the fancy headers.
4. If you can find out where, on your campus, the screen reader is located (it’s probably Jaws) then try out your web pages using the screen reader. With a blindfold on, so you can really experience how well you’ve made your pages accessible.
5. If you include embedded or linked videos, precede the link with the video title, along with the approximate length of the video. (This came as a handy tip from the audience.)
And, of course, I already knew to use closed-captioned videos – although it’s probably a good idea to preview those captions to make sure they are useful, rather than just assuming they are!

I’m not going to go into the useful attributes of SoftChalk here, but if you are interested, you can find them at http://www.softchalk.com, where you can check out the repository of lessons at SoftChalk Share. I will add this to my list, started last week, of repositories useful to the teaching of A&P.

The meeting continues tomorrow, all day, and I promise to pass on any useful information next Wednesday. Until then…

Betsy Ott

HAPSweb 4: The HAPS EDucator

28 Sep
Members of HAPS have access to a peer-reviewed quarterly publication called the HAPS EDucator.

Members of HAPS have access to a peer-reviewed quarterly publication called the HAPS EDucator.

Last week we posted about how HAPS members have access to the journal from the American Association of Anatomists. But did you also know that as a HAPS member you have free access to our very own quarterly publication, which gives you great resources such as new teaching techniques, original lesson plans, and labs activities?  The HAPS EDucator gives you access to this and more.  This peer-reviewed publication comes out three times a year and accepts articles on new teaching techniques, trending topics in Anatomy and Physiology, and summaries of conferences you may have missed. There is even a special issue published after the Annual Conference to highlight the excellent speakers that always participate. The conference edition of the HAPS EDucator also features abstracts for the many interesting and insightful posters and workshops that are presented at the conference. This publication can help you keep up with what is going on in the HAPS world even if you cannot make it to any of the conferences during the year.

The current issue of the HAPS EDucator is the one dedicated to the Annual Conference that was held in May 2014 in Jacksonville, Florida.  It features interesting overviews of the speakers’ talks including a great talk by Dr. Timothy Wilson about using images in lectures, and the ability of our brains to learn information.  It also has a link to an article written by Dr. Wilson as well as links to his references if you want to learn more about the topic.

Also in this issue are summaries and graphs from the posters that were presented at the conference, including an interesting poster about Accidents and Injuries in the Human A&P Laboratory from a survey conducted by the HAPS Safety Committee.

Non-conference issues of the HAPS EDucator feature articles such as The Emerging Interface of Entomotoxicology, Forensic Entomology and Decomposition in Modern Crime Scene Investigation by Allison Gaines and Sarah Cooper (Spring 2014 edition), or Yoga, Anatomy and the Fitness Explosion on Campus by Sarah Cooper, Spencer Lalk, Susan White Phillips, and Jennifer Wood, PhD (Winter 2014).  Then again perhaps an article like Pedagogical Diversity in Introductory Human Anatomy and Physiology Class in a Small College Setting by Tarig B. Higaz (Winter 2014) would be something you might find interesting and helpful in the classroom.

The HAPS EDucator has a variety of articles available so everyone should be able to find something they are interested in and/or something helpful in the classroom in this publication.  It is a reference that you do not want to miss out on utilizing so check it out today.   Issues of the HAPS EDucator are published and archived online dating back to October of 1987.  So join HAPS and take advantage of this amazing resource today.

Repositories, Reviewed

24 Sep Lens refraction

Over the last two weeks, I’ve describe my online resources, and voiced a concern that my assets may not have a permanent home. This concern led me to explore online repositories specific to biology. What, I wondered, is already out there?  The answer is, quite a lot!  In only a few minutes of searching, I hit on a couple of sites with more resources than I had time to explore.

If you subscribe to HAPS-L, the list serve for HAPS, then you’re already aware of the LifeSciTRC (previously the Archive of Teaching Resources, http://www.lifescitrc.org/),  a wonderful service hosted by APS, the American Physiological Society (http://www.the-aps.org/).  In fact, APS is currently offering a program for undergraduate educators (the deadline has been extended!). You can check it out, and apply to be a LifeSciTRCScholar, at http://www.the-aps.org/LifeSciTRCScholars.  The repository at LifeSciTRC maintains a moderated list of links to online resources that are hosted by various other organizations.  The resources are organized into collections, a feature that will facilitate searching for just the right animation or case study for your  course.  There is also a wealth of metadata, including user comments, associated with these collections.  And, this is the home of the HAPS Institute course projects, which includes my product of the cadaver course a few years back. You can find a link to my project, along with a few comments, at http://www.lifescitrc.org/resource.cfm?submissionID=2938.

While the TRC repository jump-started this blog entry, I didn’t want to stop there. I found a wonderful resource at  www.hippocampus.org.  This site is hosted as part of the NROC project (http://theNROCproject.org).  This project is non-profit, funded in part by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and supported by members. You can get on their email list through a link on the website.  While a lot of the assets there currently are not for A&P, perhaps HAPS members can contribute resources to change that!

Finally, I found a lovely list of links at the Learning Objects Repository at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi (https://iol.tamucc.edu/repositories.html ).  The first link on the page is Merlot, which is one I was vaguely familiar with, but hadn’t visited much in the past.  I could get lost exploring animations of how mosquitoes sense their meals!  You can check out the biology resources of Merlot at http://biology.merlot.org/materials.html.  Membership is free, and once a member, you can create your own resources.  I hope to find more time to explore this soon!

Other links at the TAMU-CC site include the National Science Digital Library and MIT’s Open Courseware. This list is not specific to biology, but it wasn’t difficult to find sites I wanted to visit.

So, this week, I leave you with this: what online repositories do you use? Whether you are uploading or downloading, please share!

(Featured image courtesy Pam Gregory; image of Dr. Lynn Gray and Dr. Betsy Ott, as seen inverted through fresh lenses dissected from cow eyes)

-Dr. Betsy Ott

HAPSweb 3: Anatomical Sciences Education (ASE)

21 Sep

AAA_journalDid you know that HAPS members have free access to the bimonthly publication from the American Association of Anatomists?

Anatomical Sciences Education is published in cooperation with the American Association of Clinical Anatomists and the Human Anatomy & Physiology Society. Their website describes the journal as providing “…an international forum for the exchange of ideas, opinions, innovations and research on topics related to education in the anatomical sciences of gross anatomy, embryology, histology, and neurosciences at all levels of anatomical sciences education including, undergraduate, graduate, post-graduate, allied health, medical (both allopathic and osteopathic), and dental.”

There are some directions HAPS members must follow to access this journal online.  These steps are described on the HAPS website.  First, click on the “Resources” menu on hapsweb.org and select “Teaching Resources.”  Here you’ll see a giant list of things available to members and non-members and if you scroll down to the very bottom, you’ll see a  handful of outside HAPS-related resources.  One of these is a link to the Life Science Teaching Resource Community, which was discussed on this blog during spring 2014.  But the next item on the list is a link to ASE.

Now, you have to be a member and enter your login information before you can access the next page, but if you are a member, you will be taken to a website with clear instructions for how to take advantage of your free online access to ASE.

So have you accessed ASE through HAPS?  Take the poll and let us know!


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