A&P Cyber Style Part 4: Asynchronously Out of Sync

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

Fast food. Sure, sure…I know. Your palate is too refined. But ooohhhh the convenience. Because you’re hungry. Because you’ve been ripping out kitchen drywall all day (long Christmas break…don’t ask). You don’t want to shower. You don’t want to wipe off the stove. You don’t want to pull out a classic southern supper dish passed down through generations. Nope. You just want to eat. Eat something that kinda resembles food. All you need is some wheels and a vague sense of direction.  Chances are it’s already made and sunbathing under heat lamps. Go get it and guess what? You don’t even have to eat it at that very moment!! Take your time, eat it when you are ready in your busy schedule.

And once you declare chow time, chow down. Inside the grease-blotted bag is something that….ehh…sorta resembles food. Something chemically bonded and partially digestible.

Doesn’t really look like the pictures. At all. Whoever slopped this together is not getting a Hollywood handshake. But you eat it because it’s there. And, come midnight, you’ll probably regret it.

Compilation of images by author. Figure 1 is from AZ_RN and Figure 2 taken by SteFou!, both via flickr

Where am I going with this? I’m hitting an all-time high score on the snark-o-meter, but this is how I view asynchronous online courses. Self-paced online course. The drive-thru fast food of academia. Lectures and assignments prepackaged and sitting under a heat lamp. Pick it up when you want. Finish it when you want. It kinda resembles learning. Looks nothing like the pictures. And, come midnight, you’ll probably regret it.

And like fast food, it’s an easy sell. Heck, I hit the drive thru and picked up a delicious, fried bag-o-knowledge.  Recently it was from a menu of online workshops. It was a great experience. But not for the upgrade in my tree of pedagogical skills. But because I experienced, what many students experience, when enrolled in self-paced online courses (and I’m comfortable speaking for many students). After about 2 weeks of the workshop, I was no longer focused on learning. I was only focused on completion. And like the buzz I hear from so many students, I settled in with this regretful thought bubble:

No matter how flashy the video production or interactive the activities, I’m tuning it out. Putting everything off until the due date. Just complete the dumb thing.

In a couple of weeks, I’m teaching some asynchronous online courses with enrollment of over 260. How am I going to keep my students from disconnecting? What happens between posting and collecting materials? How do I shift the objective of completion back to learning?

Well, I picked up a few tricks. Nothing earth shattering, but easily overlooked as convenience is too tempting with this format.  As with all these ramblings, I cannot recommend or discuss any programs I’m using (Just check your inbox. It’s full of solicitations).

These info nuggets stem from the Spring 20 Emergency Transition. I did them to save my sanity. I used them sparingly during that time, but I will supersize them for this semester.

  • Dress Rehearsal: There are no mandatory scheduled meetings for these courses. Thus, when I recorded my lecture, I sent out an invite to attend. Doesn’t matter what time or day. I could be recording a lecture at 9pm on Saturday. I’d invite all students to attend. It’s like watching a live dress rehearsal. They got to hear me screw up, swear, restart the recordings, swear some more
  • Study Sessions. I held live study sessions periodically. And not just for exams, but after a couple of heavy lectures (good ole neurophysiology). Kept it short and focused.
  • Posts: I used a discussion board. Posted some trivia about A&P. Made sure I commented on any responses. I made goofy 10 min videos from my nerdcave discussing fun facts about physiology and human health (and showing off my Atari memorabilia).

What did this accomplish? I didn’t leave them out in the cold. I held open the lines of communication. Will this work in the Spring? I think so. That’s a massive line of cars pulling up to the drive-thru window (Remember….over 260 kids). I don’t expect all to participate, but at least they’ll know I’m alive. The worst thing I (or anyone teaching this format) can do is dump everything on a Sunday and check back in at the end of the week. Come semester end, maybe I won’t get that Hollywood handshake, but I will win the technical!

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.

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.

A&P Cyber Style Part 2: The Sounds of Synchronicity

This is part 2 in a multi-part series of posts from HAPSter Jordan Clark. You can find the introduction post here

By the time you’ll read this, the Fall 2020 semester reviews are limping in. And it is ugly. My first bit of advice: Maybe don’t read them. Consider giving yourself a mental and spiritual cleanse over the winter break. 

We all knew it was coming. The low-pitch student (and faculty) grumblings from September that devolved into whimpers and cries of surrender. For many first-time online teachers, sucked into the master control program (Tron reference. Nerd alert), there may be great temptation to swear off this cyber format forever. See Fig.1. Is that your laptop?

Figure 1: Me 1/ Laptop 0 from steviep187 on flickr

Wait!  Check this out. There I was. Venturing into this strange webcam world. I knew just enough from the Spring 20 EMERGENCY TRANSITION that “certain” online formats are greasy fast food, dumpster blazes (more on that in upcoming installments). But this…this synchronous stuff. Rarely advertised. Some say it’s urban myth stuff, but it does exist. And…it actually, kinda, weirdly works. 

Synchronous online learning: Teaching an online course with scheduled live meeting times. There’s more to it, but that’s enough for this blog.

My synchronous A&P class (25ish students) met mornings from 8am till 930am. I had no idea what to expect, but within a few class meetings I found a rhythm and quickly established a quirky community: My floating webcam-head (ball cap, unkempt quarantine beard) teaching to geometrically organized panels of cartoon avatars, filtered selfies, and anonymous blank nothings.

Figure 2: Author’s own work with contributions from Tarak Zadark ..Just a Pop.. (Vampyre Warrior) and Ape Lad (Hell Kitty Twitter Avatar) on flickr

But there we were…

And for all the online software and interactive programs peddled through (borderline harassing) emails, the best tool was talking. Yes, talking. Here’s how I think I pulled it off…presented as a few tips for the reader:

 ●     I quickly recognized the students’ preferred method of communication. They loved the text-chat option. So, I engaged each and every text. Called them by their names. Laughed. Let them know I appreciated the absurdity of the situation. Let them know I was alive. If I went longer than 10 minutes without a student text, I knew I lost them. I often got the “slow the #$%@ down” text. So, yeah, I had to slow things down. Surprisingly, no one really wanted to use the microphone to actually speak. Kids these days!

 ●     Most webinar (arrrggghhh that term) software allows for small break-out sessions. I used it. I let the students talk to each other and not just me. I’d poke my head into some of their break-out sessions. Chatted with the small groups. Did it early in the semester. Started connecting everyone immediately and creating that wonderfully weird community.

 ●     I had to keep them busy. Chat messages only goes so far. The trick: I used the virtual whiteboard and let them draw on my PowerPoints. Yeah this slowed down the lecture and I had to jettison some material…but so what. They, not surprisingly, really liked drawing on things. ALERT:  Some of those drawings started dangerously morphing into…err… some inappropriate anatomical structures…kids these days.

Notice some common themes here? One being the pace. I had to slow down. That 200-page chapter on the cardiovascular system (slightly exaggerating)? I couldn’t cannon-blast it in a single breath. I broke it down. I used student sharing options and reviewed their notes during the lecture. I held Q&A sessions during lecture.

Of course, there is much more detail that is better suited for an elaborate keynote speaker presentation. But this is a blog so I’m laying down the basics. And though these tips may be a no-brainer, you’d be surprised how easy it is to forget the students on the other side of your laptop. Plunging deep into your web lecture, totally oblivious of time and space. You must adjust your style. Strategies used in a lecture hall may not work when teaching from your dining room table (I really need better lighting in my house). Remember, life is a little wonkier on the webcam. Glitches, drops, crashes, Window updates (let’s not go there).

Unfortunately, as I have discovered, the synchronous format may not be an option at your institution. I’ll address that in upcoming installments. If it is….go for it! I actually loved my surreal virtual family. It’s almost 2021. This is the here-and-now of commo. Dare I say we bonded? I’d like to think we formed some kind of bizarro kinship. They opened up in ways not experienced in a lecture hall. Did I have to remind them to keep the text comments clean? Often…but, you know…kids these days. 

*I’ll talk synchronous labs in the next installment.  

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.

A&P Cyber Style Part 1: My Experiences in the New Virtual Norm of Remote Teaching

Growing up in the 1980’s, I was constantly reminded that one day “it’s all gonna be computers and robots.”  What did they mean by “it?” Did “it” mean entertainment, jobs, transportation, teaching? Surely not teaching. 

Original photo by Jordan Clark

As a child, I embraced all things computers and robots. I dreamed of being derezzed and transported into a virtual world, racing light cycles on the grid. Oh yeah, there was even this thing called videoconferencing. Every deep space vessel came fully equipped with such communication instruments.

Remember “Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan?” When Khan pops up after 15 years and surprises Kirk…..with a videoconference call? Classic!

Turns out, Khan and Kirk were forecasting the evolution of classrooms. So those around the early-80’s me were right, it has become all computers and robots and the “it” is teaching. Online. Virtual environments. Videoconferencing (Ok…maybe not the robots, yet).

I actually entertained the idea of creating a virtual A&P course about 5 years ago. I could see it kinda, maybe being successful for the ultra-dedicated. The eager and ambitious. This “plan” was largely relegated to thought bubbles floating above my head. Nothing ever came to fruition as the general consensus was “meh”. To be honest, I never really took a consensus. I think I asked a colleague his opinion in the parking lot. Case closed.

And then last spring…well, you know. Over the span of a few days in March, I was ambushed by emails and phone calls from veteran publishers, software wizards, and scrappy overnight start-ups. All were dazzling me with sales pitches on how to online this and virtual that. I actually listened to a couple of them.

Remember those fluffy thought bubbles from 5 years ago? They violently burst into fragments on my office floor. Half-baked ideas that needed serving ASAP because: Emergency Spring Semester Transition.

And there I was. Transported from my cozy, flesh-and-blood classroom into a virtual vacuum. Yep. I was derezzed. But, hey! Just like Kirk, I was videoconferencing…with my dog barking, daughter stair-stomping, wi-fi dropping, neighbor’s roof replacing.

And just like that the spring semester abruptly ended in a complete haze.

What the #@$! just happened?

Redemption came in the name of the summer semester. A full-on dress rehearsal for the inevitable Fall Overhaul. I went whole-hog online right from my dining room (the only room in my house with actual lighting).

Starting in June and into the foreseeable future, my syllabus would embrace first ballot hall-of-fame cringe terms such as:

  • F2F
  • Webinar (ugh, this one especially)
  • Hybrid
  • Zooming
  • Asynchronous (never even heard this term before)

At the time of writing this, I’ve earned my stripes teaching synchronous and asynchronous online A&P and am slated to teach 240 online students for the Spring 21.  Over the next few installments, I’m going to share my experiences and offer some unfiltered advice. From quirky virtual gatherings with students, their pets, and questionable wall art to smoldering dumpster fires of abandoned learning systems, this is my adventure in the A&P cyber zone.


Jordan 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. 

Community College Anatomy Physiology Education Research (CAPER) 2.0: Looking for Participants

This post is from the CAPER Team, including Chasity O’Malley, Murray Jensen, Kerry Hull, Ron Gerrits, Kyla Ross, Suzanne Hood, and Betsy Ott. 

A Few Questions and Answers

Community College educators are busy people, especially in the new normal that we are currently living in and making the best of with COVID-19.  One aspect that rings true just as much now as in the recent past is that there rarely is time or opportunity for meaningful professional development.  That’s where the Community College Anatomy Physiology Education Research (CAPER 2.0) project comes into play. The goal of the CAPER 2.0 project is to help educators become involved in a small community of dedicated educators who wish to explore different ways to run a classroom in more engaging ways.  If funded, and that’s a big “if,” participants will have the opportunity to explore evidence based instructional practices including clickers, small group learning, guided inquiry, and more.  We had a good response to our first blog announcing and describing this project, and below we are answering a few frequently asked questions that have arisen from those interested folks.  If you are interested in signing-up, fill out this form or contact Chasity O’Malley or Murray Jensen.  

  1. When does CAPER begin?
    • Tentative start is for Fall of 2021 if the grant is funded.  The project proposal is due in December, 2020, and we hope to receive word (funded or not funded) from NSF by June or July of 2021. 
    • We aim to have 12 participants in the first cohort (one cohort per year), depending on availability, schedules, and workloads of the interested faculty. Opportunities for those who are unavailable for this first round will have opportunities to join in the 2nd -4th rounds (years) of the projects.  There are a lot of opportunities to work with us, so hopefully one of the cohorts will fit into your schedule. 
  2. What would the time commitment be for the CAPER program?
    • When educators are involved in this program, they can still be teaching full time and do the work for this project.  They will be busy, but everyone in the first CAPER project has found the workload to be manageable.  
    • We are proposing that instructors are involved for two years in this project.
      1. The first year will involve the HAPS-I courses and research design for the project. 
      2. Year two will be implementation of the research project to collect data and to publish the results.
  3. What’s involved with the HAPS-I courses?
    • Typically, we meet online and then we hope to meet in person for a day or two at a HAPS Regional conference in the Fall.   The grant would cover tuition and expenses for the conference. 
    • Class is anticipated to meet 1 time per week, in the evening, for about 2 hours for 2-3 months. Participants will be expected to attend the lectures, do the pre-readings and assignments, and participate in discussions during class. 
    • Participants from CAPER 1.0 found the workload manageable for the course, but does indeed require time and effort to complete.
    • There will be two 1-credit classes that will both be completed in one semester.  The first class is titled Teaching Practices for Anatomy and Physiology and will cover basic learning theories, such as constructivism, and examine how those theories fit into different teaching strategies, such as cooperative group work, guided inquiry learning, and other Evidenced Based Instructional Methods (EBIPs).  The second class is titled Introduction to Educational Research Methods and will examine how education researchers collect and interpret data, and also learn how to design a classroom research project. The final project of the second class will be a research proposal, to examine the effectiveness of an EBIP of your choosing, that you will then implement the following semesters.
  4. How are research topics chosen? Are the projects individual or group projects?
    • Participants get to pick their own topic for their classroom research project.  Some instructors might do “clickers” and others might do “guided inquiry.”  A wide range of options exist.  We will provide help in the decision-making process, and with the research design, but we want instructors to pick their own topics.  What instructional practice do you wish to explore?
    • There will be two products completed by each participant. First, a poster that will be presented at an annual HAPS Conference.  Posters will be completed on an individual basis, but you will have help from mentors and education research experts.  Second will be a research paper documenting your results that will be submitted to The HAPS Educator, or other peer reviewed journal.  The papers might be individual, or might involve a small group of participants who have similar research projects.  Keep in mind that mentors will help with writing, research design, statistics, and other parts of the publication process.
  5. What does the grant provide for participants? 
    In addition to extensive support from the CAPER grant personnel, the grant will provide the following:
    • Tuition and supplies for the two, 1-credit, HAPS-I courses.
    • Stipends to cover food, registration, accommodation, and travel to attend three conferences over the 2 year period: a Fall HAPS regional conference in year 1, the SABER West conference in January of Year 1, and the HAPS National Conference in Year 2. Participants will have to pay these expenses up front and will receive the stipend after the conference.
    • An additional small stipend for completing the program.
  6. What is needed from me at this time?
    • Your interest is all we need at this time. As we get closer to submission, we will ask for a letter of support from you and a school administrator.  (Administrative support is vital for success in this project).
    • Finding out the name of the IRB contact at your institution would be very helpful at this time as well. We will have quite a bit of work to do with your school’s IRB administrative committee, but we will be providing considerable help with that process.
  7. Is this opportunity open to K-12 instructors? 
    At this time, we are focusing only on two-year community, or technical, college Anatomy and Physiology instructors.
  8. Is this opportunity open to adjuncts?
    Yes, adjunct instructors are welcome to become involved. This could be a wonderful opportunity for adjuncts looking to attain full time employment to be able to demonstrate their commitment to improving their teaching craft and the experience for the students. This would look GREAT on a CV for employment.  However, adjuncts must have administrative support from a college. 
  9. I still have questions that weren’t covered here. Who do I contact?
    • Please don’t hesitate to reach out to Chasity or Murray. Contact information: Chasity O’Malley (chasityomalley@gmail.com) or Murray Jensen (msjensen@umn.edu )
    • If you haven’t filled out the form to share your interest with us, please fill it out and put your questions in the box that asks for questions. 

As questions emerge about the project and new information become available, a live Q&A document can be found here.


CAPER 2.0 Interest form (Sign up here)

CAPER 2.0 Initial Blog Posting

CAPER 1.0 Description

Anatomy and Physiology Education Research Project – Call for Participants!

This post is from the CAPER Team, including Chasity O’Malley, Murray Jensen, Kerry Hull, Ron Gerrits, Kyla Ross, Suzanne Hood, and Betsy Ott. 

Have you thought about making changes in your classroom, but lacked the time and resources to do it?  If so, keep reading, because we have an opportunity for you. 

 What’s this about?

We are in the final year of the NSF-funded Community College Anatomy and Physiology Education Research (CAPER) program, in which we worked with twelve community college instructors to expand their knowledge base about teaching and learning and conduct a simple education research project.  We are now planning for CAPER 2.0, and hope to give the opportunity to at least 30 new participants. 

 Who can participate?

A&P instructors who want to improve their classroom teaching skills, especially those teaching at community and technical colleges with large numbers of underserved student populations.  We are also recruiting instructors at four-year colleges, especially those with links to nearby community colleges. Experience in education research is not required. 

What would I do?

Over a 2-year period, participants will engage in the following activities: 

  • Complete two 1-credit HAPS Institute hybrid courses covering best practices in Anatomy and Physiology education and the fundamentals of education research.
  • Conduct a small research project in their own classrooms and present their results at a HAPS annual conference and in a peer-reviewed journal.
  • Participate in a multi-institutional research project investigating the impact of different teaching practices in different student populations

 What are the benefits?

  • Involvement in a supportive community of engaged instructors 
  • Mentorship from experienced researchers, as needed, to complete all stages of the research project (experimental design and implementation, statistics and qualitative analysis, poster construction, and article writing)
  • Funding to attend at least three conferences:
    • Year 1 (September-November):  the in-person portion of the teaching and learning course will be combined with a HAPS Regional meeting
    • Year 1 (January): the in-person portion of the education research course will be combined with a SABER West meeting in Sunny California
    • Year 2 (May): participants will present their poster at a HAPS Annual Meeting
  • Funding for the two HAPS-I courses
  • A modest financial reward for completing all the components of the CAPER 2.0 project. 
  • Potentially, the provision of funds for teaching buy-outs (i.e., course load reductions)
  • Opportunities to support the teaching and research goals of future participants by acting as a mentor (which would involve additional funded travel)


How do I join in on this amazing experience?

A survey for interested individuals can be completed here

If you are interested in learning more, contact Chasity O’Malley (chasityomalley@gmail.com) or Murray Jensen (msjensen@umn.edu).   

For more information on the first CAPER research project, see these references:


HAPS 2020 Virtual Conference Days 2-3

We have now heard from our third and fourth update speakers, Barbara Vanderhyden and Nadia Abu-Zahra.

On Wendesday Dr. Vanderhyden, a Professor of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University of Ottawa and a Senior Scientist in the Cancer Therapeutics Program at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, presented “Going Back in Time: Can We Reverse the Effects of Age and Other Risk Factors on Ovarian Cancer Incidence?”. Dr. Vanderhyden showed us how ovarian cancer may arise from the fimbriae of uterine tubes and how risk decreases with parity, hormonal birth control methods, and breastfeeding. She explained this phenomenon is likely due to reduced ovulation. She also discussed how use of Metformin, a drug used to treat type II diabetes, is associated with a lower risk of ovarian cancer due to its anti-fibrotic properties.


On Thursday Dr. Abu-Zahra, an Associate Professor in the School of International Development and Global Studies at the University of Ottawa, presented “Inclusive Education.  Ways in Which We Learn and the Development of Strategies to Promote Engagement and Inclusion”. Dr. Abu-Zahra discussed how online teaching is changing the way we think about education. She told us education is about more than transferring information. It also encompasses community building. She provided examples of internal motivation and discussed “ungrading” and accountability. The following #HAPS2020Chat focused on methods for building community in classes.

day 3

In the evening, the exam program chairs hosted a town hall event in which they discussed the HAPS exam in a new normal going forward.

Catch up with us this evening at the Welcome Reception hosted by McGraw-Hill! This will be a chance to check in with friends old and new as we toast one another and learn a little more about just how HAPSy we can be in this remote social. Check your email for event links. BYOB!



HAPS 2020 Virtual Conference Day 1

Day one of the 2020 Virtual Conference is complete! Today we heard from two of our update speakers: Anne Burrows and Peter Ward.

Dr. Burrows, a biological anthropologist at Duquesne University, presented a fascinating seminar called “Making Our Face – The Evolutionary Story of the Human Face”. She discussed facial recognition in the brain, thereby explaining how we see faces in potato chips. During the social media discussions in the evening, HAPSters decided this talk was very relevant to online teaching and video conferencing lectures.

day 1

Dr. Ward, from the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, presented a captivating talk called “Pushing the Boundaries of Clinical Anatomy”. Dr. Ward challenged the concept of “normal anatomy” and suggested teaching variation as the norm. Later HAPSters questioned whether click-bait headlines about “new” organs could be used to teach science literacy.

fabella Fabella – A sesamoid bone Dr. Ward informed us forms in the tendon of the lateral head of the gastrocnemius that is sometimes mistaken for a fracture.

Anthony Edwards has begun the online discussion this morning by asking, “What’s your favorite part about teaching A&P?” #HAPS2020  Follow the hashtag to respond on LinkedIn.

Anatomy & Physiology students share their knowledge with the world through Wikipedia


We all know that students use Wikipedia. But many don’t have the skills to evaluate the accuracy of the information they read there (Wineburg et al., 2016). Instead of issuing a blanket ban on the website, many professors are now having their students write Wikipedia articles as an assignment. As one put it, “Students can’t cite Wikipedia if they’re writing it.”

In a Wikipedia writing assignment, students play the role of “expert” as they summarize course content into relevant Wikipedia articles. The exercise essentially mirrors a lit-review assignment, except that millions of people have access to that student work.

It’s part of a growing movement of educators embracing Wikipedia as a learning tool, with instructors from more than 500 universities involved in the US and Canada. Most aren’t familiar with the inner-workings of Wikipedia, but still successfully guide their students in editing articles thanks to free support and student trainings offered by Wiki Education

Practicing science communication on a world stage

By bringing their work to Wikipedia, students make a difference for public knowledge while also diving deeply into course content. Last term, a student at Drew University contributed well-referenced content to Wikipedia’s article about Sheehan’s syndrome, adding sections about its causes and history. Now the almost 200 daily visitors to the page can access better information summarized from academic sources.

Another student, from Fordham University, expanded the Wikipedia article about intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells in 2017, adding new sections about structure and function. They were even inspired to create and add a new diagram (Fig.1). Since then, the page has been viewed almost 50,000 times by Wikipedia’s readers.


Fig 1: Diagram of inputs and outputs of ipRGCs and their corresponding location in the brain, created by a Fordham University student as part of their Wikipedia writing assignment [image link]

Sometimes instructors have students create new Wikipedia biographies for women scientists instead of having them expand articles about course topics. Only 18% of Wikipedia biographies are about women, so when students participate in this endeavor, they are helping correct that gender gap in public knowledge. Having students write Wikipedia biographies for women in STEM not only demonstrates to them that diversity and inclusion belongs in STEM, it asserts that to the world. 

Student learning outcomes

Instructors have found a Wikipedia writing assignment to be an opportunity to solidify students’ research skills, critical media literacy, and ability to write for a public audience (Vetter et al, 2019). By participating in the production of knowledge on a site they use all the time, students understand where that information comes from and how to assess the accuracy of online information they encounter in the future.

Want to get involved?

If you’re interested in improving science content on Wikipedia, there are a few ways to get involved:

  • Use Wiki Education’s free assignment templates to have your students write Wikipedia articles related to your course topic: teach.wikiedu.org.
  • Learn how to edit Wikipedia yourself and expand your educational reach to the public: learn.wikiedu.org



As Wiki Education’s Outreach and Communications Associate, Cassidy Villeneuve helps share the impact of Wikipedia editing on students, professionals, and public knowledge.

Community College Anatomy and Physiology Education Research Program

Community College Anatomy and Physiology Education Research (CAPER) Program: Promoting Change in Classroom Pedagogy to Benefit Students

Active learning is not a new concept within HAPS. Annual conference poster and workshop sessions are chock-full of ideas on how to incorporate more student-centered techniques and personal storiesof faculty experiences with various methods. Nearly all of us likely have active learning terms in our lexicon and the majority of HAPS members would agree we should use such techniques (if not, please see the meta-study by Freeman et al. [1]). Yet an awareness of active learning and its benefit by itself does not necessarily drive change in our classroom practice.  The more change is required, especially when that change is associated with significant effort, possibly even a seismic shift from our past teaching routines, the less likely we are to rush out and try it. And if an instructor is really motivated to find out what most benefits their specific population of students, the thought of developing an actual pedagogical study can seem utterly overwhelming. This is where peer-mentoring and a set timeline can really help. The Community College Anatomy and Physiology Education Research (CAPER) Program is designed to provide the needed support for participating community college instructors.


CAPER is an NSF-funded project, with Murray Jensen (University of MN) as Principal Investigator. CAPER is aimed at supporting community college faculty who are interested in identifying how evidence-based instructional practices (EBIPs) impact the community college student population, a population that has been under-studied in the active learning literature. The current cohort of six participants kicked off the project by participating in the HAPS-I Educational Research course in fall 2018. Their culminating project for the course was an educational research proposal they are implementing this spring. A group of additional active HAPSters also participated as mentors in the HAPS-I course, providing feedback on project proposals and helping as needed.  Kerry Hull, for example, is heading up an interdisciplinary group at Bishop’s University in Ontario, Canada that provides expertise in experimental design, data analysis, and manuscript preparation.

In addition to the studies being conducted by each instructor, all instructors are working with the research team to investigate the impact of EBIPs on reducing student stress and increasing their feelings of academic self-efficacy. If you are attending the meeting in Portland, be sure to check out the CAPER posters, or attend our workshop, to learn more specific details about the project.

Principal Investigators: Murray Jenson, Kerry Hull (BU sub-contract)
Mentors: Ron Gerrits, Betsy Ott, Kyla Ross
Research Support: Heather Lawford, Suzanne Hood
Graduate Students: Laura Seithers, Rob Palmer

[1]   S. Freeman et al., “Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics,” Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., vol. 111, no. 23, pp. 8410–8415, Jun. 2014.

image (1)

Submitted by Ron Gerrits on behalf of the CAPER group. Ron Gerrits is a Professor at the Milwaukee School of Engineering where he teaches health-science courses, mainly physiology. His professional interests are science and engineering education. Currently he is one of the mentors on the CAPER project, which includes several HAPSters interested in improving physiology education (which seems to be a group trait of HAPS!).