A retrospective look at replacing face-to-face embryology instruction with online lectures in a human anatomy course

Authors

  • Elmus G. Beale,

    1. Department of Medical Education, Paul L. Foster School of Medicine, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, El Paso, Texas
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  • Patrick M. Tarwater,

    1. Department of Biomedical Sciences, Paul L. Foster School of Medicine, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, El Paso, Texas
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  • Vaughan H. Lee

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Cell Biology and Biochemistry, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine, Lubbock, Texas
    • Correspondence to: Dr. Vaughan H. Lee, Department of Cell Biology and Biochemistry, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine, 3601 4th Street, Lubbock, TX 79430, USA. E-mail: vaughan.lee@ttuhsc.edu

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  • The authors dedicate this paper to Harry M. Weitlauf, M.D., who served as our chairman and encouraged testing new educational strategies. He was a mentor, accomplished embryologist, researcher and educator. His passing was untimely and he will be missed.

Abstract

Embryology is integrated into the Clinically Oriented Anatomy course at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine. Before 2008, the same instructor presented embryology in 13 face-to-face lectures distributed by organ systems throughout the course. For the 2008 and 2009 offerings of the course, a hybrid embryology instruction model with four face-to-face classes that supplemented online recorded lectures was used. One instructor delivered the lectures face-to-face in 2007 and by online videos in 2008–2009, while a second instructor provided the supplemental face-to-face classes in 2008–2009. The same embryology learning objectives and selected examination questions were used for each of the three years. This allowed direct comparison of learning outcomes, as measured by examination performance, for students receiving only face-to-face embryology instruction versus the hybrid approach. Comparison of the face-to-face lectures to the hybrid approach showed no difference in overall class performance on embryology questions that were used all three years. Moreover, there was no differential effect of the delivery method on the examination scores for bottom quartile students. Students completed an end-of-course survey to assess their opinions. They rated the two forms of delivery similarly on a six-point Likert scale and reported that face-to-face lectures have the advantage of allowing them to interact with the instructor, whereas online lectures could be paused, replayed, and viewed at any time. These experiences suggest the need for well-designed prospective studies to determine whether online lectures can be used to enhance the efficacy of embryology instruction. Anat Sci Educ 7: 234–241. © 2013 American Association of Anatomists.

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