A&P Cyber Style Part 3: The Sounds of Synchronicity…in the Lab

This is part 3 in a multi-part series of posts from HAPSter Jordan Clark. Check out his introduction post and his thoughts on synchronous lectures while you’re here!

Admittedly I was surprised with my own positive reflections for synchronous online lectures. An audience, a community, and the freedom to text at will. But…..there is that one thing. The other component of the course. The labs!!

Compared to the online lectures, planning for synchronous online labs is like planning a hack into ENCOM’s mainframe, without being detected by the MCP, to find code fragments of games you developed like Space Paranoids…(you guessed it..Tron reference). But labs come with the bundle, so I planned and schemed and guess what??

I think it kinda, sorta, weirdly, worked. Now I cannot recommend any A&P programs and will not disclose programs I used. I can, however, lay down some snappy tips that should apply to many online lab strategies. Remember, this is for synchronous online formats. Ready?? I used a little-known pedagogical strategy called 80s-kid-in-the-mall approach.

Figure 1: Young Dr. Clark Exploring the Mall

Basically, as a kid, my parents would take me to the mall, provide me with a set of instructions, set a timer and set me free to explore. Once my time expired, I’d rejoin my parents for a debriefing (and receipt audit for those Hair Band cassette purchases). That’s essentially what I did in the labs.

  • Family Arrival at the Mall: We all showed up on the webcam for lab. Welcomed everyone. Reviewed any assignments from last week’s lab. Gave an introduction to the current week’s online lab activity. Did some pre-lab activities. Doing a virtual cardiophys lab? How about a pre-lab debate? Set the tone and have them argue the effects of energy drinks on heart function. Got them interested and got them talking.
  • Parent-free Mall Exploration: Let them loose to complete the online exercises, whether it’s a simulated experiment or virtual cadaver dissection. They could work in groups, they could even log off and go solo, but I, you, lab TA, stayed logged in just in case there are questions. Gave them a timeline…let’s say 45 minutes (to include food breaks).
  • Rendezvous with the Parents: Once time has expired, I brought them back. This part was critical. Everyone rejoined into the live virtual sphere. Reviewed the activities.
    • Did some anatomy post lab stuff such as…
      • Anatomy ID gameshow with student teams (they can circle stuff on your slides)
      • Demonstrate movements and application of said anatomy, like exercises that work certain muscles
      • Clinical studies on injuries…use x-rays, MRI’s, etc. Applied the anatomy!
    • Did some physiology post lab stuff such as…
      • Discussed the experimental design. Controls, variables, hypothesis, etc.Reviewed the data. Answered questions just using graphs
      • Did some mini case studies

In other words, wrapped it all up!

As a champion of traditional classrooms, I really find this online style effective. However, I know we brought this up in the last blog entry (you did read that one…right?). These synchronous online courses may be a rare offering. If I come across as a bit defensive, well…there is a lot of scrutiny (to be polite) in the current academic climate of online courses. But, it can and does work. When does it not work? We’ll discuss that in the next blog. Until then, I’ll be at the food court enjoying some Sbarro before heading off to Camelot Music to spend my allowance.

“Say, would someone mind checking the ratings? I seem to have any audience of two,” Max Headroom


clark-headshot-1Jordan Clark is the course coordinator and head instructor for anatomy and physiology and applied microbiology at Sam Houston State University. He earned a BS in psychology at Florida State University and a Ph.D in neurobiology at University of Kentucky, where he conducted research in spinal cord and brain injury. He served four years in the US Army. Currently, his primary research interest is developing engaging and active teaching strategies for large capacity courses. Free time? Consuming synth wave pop culture, daydreaming of being a master woodworker, and always seeking great geeky adventures with his awesome wife and and two kids.

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