Learning in the Electronic Age

Chapter 11
Learning in the Electronic Age

Jodi A. Korich1 and Lisa M. Keefe2

1 College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, USA

2 College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M, USA


Despite the integration of technology into many aspects of our modern lives, the use of technologies to augment veterinary teaching remains surprisingly minimal. Why do so many veterinary teaching faculty avoid using technology? There are no doubt many reasons. However, after a decade of working in veterinary academia, we have noticed that many faculty who eschew technology do so out of fear and misconceptions about the role of educational technologies in teaching. The goal of educational technologies is not to replace faculty, but rather to augment their capacity to teach. Like any successful teaching effort, teaching with technology requires an understanding of and adherence to pedagogical principles. Nevertheless, all too often educational technologies are applied to courses indiscriminately. Such approaches typically lead to disappointing results, causing many faculty to give up on technology altogether.

Can Technology Enhance Teaching?

Dr. Turner is a veterinary oncologist who teaches small animal oncology to third-year veterinary students. Originally he was allotted seven hours for his oncology lectures in a team-taught small animal medicine course. Over the past decade, the knowledge base for oncology has expanded significantly and, after numerous requests to the curriculum committee, Dr. Turner was eventually granted an additional six hours to teach oncology. At first he was delighted, since he thought he would finally have time to cover everything that students needed to know about oncology. However, he quickly realized that despite the expanded contact time, the students continued to struggle to recall the material on clinical rotation.

After reviewing the third-year student evaluations, Dr. Turner noticed that many students complained that he went through his lectures too quickly. He had to admit that he did talk fast; after all, there was so much important material to cover. Determined to help his students be successful, he decided to turn to technology to fix the problem. He had recently heard about a new lecture-capture system installed at the college. He decided that he would videotape his lectures and post them online for students to watch after class. This solution seemed ideal, because he would not have to eliminate any material from his lectures. Meanwhile, the students could watch his lectures as many times as necessary to master the concepts.

The lecture-capture solution was implemented; however, much to Dr. Turner’s surprise, students continued to struggle in applying the oncology lecture material to patients on clinical rotation. Based on this experience, he concluded that using technology in his class did not enhance student learning. What was really needed, he decided, was simply more lecture time to prepare the students adequately for clinical rotation. He resolved to go back to the curriculum committee yet again and argue for an increase to 20 hours of lecture time. He knew that it would not be easy to convince the committee to allot him more time. These days, it seemed that everyone wanted more time to teach their subject matter.

Do you identify with any aspects of Dr. Turner’s story? Most veterinary faculty have grappled with the problem of how to present a growing body of material in the same amount of time. After all, new medical discoveries add more knowledge, but unfortunately not more hours in the day. Likewise, the struggle to help students bridge the gap between theory and practice is a universal challenge across many professional schools, including veterinary medicine. Maybe you serve on a curriculum committee and bear witness to the never-ending pleas from faculty for more time to cover their material. Perhaps, like Dr. Turner, you have attempted to use technology to solve an educational problem in your class, only to be disappointed with the results. In this chapter, we will show you how to design, build, and deliver technology-enhanced learning activities successfully to enhance your courses.

Common Reasons Why Technology-Enhanced Teaching Fails

As you begin your journey learning how to utilize technology to teach more effectively, let us examine some common mistakes. In our experience working with many groups to develop technology-enhanced educational programs, we have observed eight common stumbling blocks resulting in suboptimal student learning outcomes (see Box 11.2). As you review this list, recall the story of Dr. Turner and see how many mistakes you can recognize.

Now that we have introduced some common mistakes to avoid when using technology in teaching, let us analyze Dr. Turner’s story more closely. You will recall Dr. Turner’s observation that students on his clinical rotation had difficulty remembering the lecture material that he had taught them the previous year. In our experience, short-term retention of material from one class to the next is a problem that engenders more frustration among teaching faculty than any other. Often, we hear instructors make comments such as: “If only students would believe me when I tell them that this material is important and they need to remember it after the test.” Unfortunately, many instructors, like Dr. Turner, fail to recognize the underlying cause of students’ apparent forgetfulness. Thus, any course improvements that are implemented to correct the problem are unlikely to achieve the desired outcomes.

To acquire deep learning and achieve long-term retention, students must engage in the materials and undertake the mental effort of learning. Teacher-centric strategies, such as didactic lectures, rely on passive listening on the part of students. Material presented in this manner is prepackaged and organized according to the instructor’s own expert understanding, which diminishes the students’ learning experience. During the learning process, students must develop their own model (context) to understand the circumstances under which they will use the information. This includes an opportunity to practice applying the new knowledge in the appropriate context. If the goal is for students on clinical rotations to be able to utilize clinical reasoning skills to work up patients, hopefully you can appreciate that Dr. Turner would not be helping his students to reach this goal through an increase in lecture hours. If not lectures, how could Dr. Turner teach students instead to help prepare them better? Learner-centered teaching (LCT) is a well-documented strategy that pushes students beyond short-term memorization of facts to a deeper level of mastery. LCT techniques yield significantly improved learning outcomes (see Table 11.1).

Table 11.1 Learner-centered teaching

Reference Publication type Synopsis
Armbruster et al. (2009) Journal article Comparison study (c011-math-001, introductory undergraduate biology course) showed that learner-centered methods increased academic performance with higher Bloom’s taxonomy levels, and significant improvement of student self-reported engagement and satisfaction when compared to traditional lecture taught by same teacher.
Hake (1998) Journal article Comparison meta-analysis (c011-math-002 high school and undergraduate courses) of Force Concept Inventory (FCI) exam results. The score comparisons by class teaching methods strongly indicate that use of interactive engagement methods in the classroom increased student learning outcomes (higher FCI scores) well beyond traditional classroom practices.
Knight and Wood (2005) Journal article Comparison study (c011-math-003, upper-division lecture course in developmental biology) showed that learner-centered pedagogy resulted in significantly higher learning gains and better conceptual understanding compared to traditional lecture taught by same pair of teachers.
Prince (2004) Research review Active learning pedagogies play an important role in learner-centered teaching. This review finds broad support for improved learning outcomes with common active learning pedagogies.
Reh et al. (2014) Journal article Prospective longitudinal study (c011-math-004, residents over 11 years) implemented a learner-centered curriculum with otolaryngology head and neck surgery residents. The four years following implementation of an LCT curriculum showed significant improvement of otolaryngology training examination (OTE) scores.
Weimer (2013) Book A concise review of literature supporting LCT, combined with case studies and practical tips for developing LCT classroom experiences.

Educational technologies offer many opportunities to introduce learner-centered teaching techniques to veterinary courses. However, all too often, as in Dr. Turner’s case, technologies are merely used to “digitize” the same unsuccessful, passive, teacher-centered instructional approaches. The migration of slide carousels to PowerPoint™ lectures and the introduction of lecture-capture software brought lectures into the digital age. However, these technologies on their own do little to prepare students to reason like a clinician. Too often technology is wielded with little or no regard for the underlying pedagogy of how students learn, and when technology is treated like a teaching method instead of a teaching tool, the results are typically disappointing. Sound instructional design is the underpinning of any successful application of technology to teaching. It is for this reason that we have chosen to discuss educational technologies within the context of pedagogy throughout the remainder of this chapter.

The TPACK Framework

Teaching is a complex activity, and successful teachers do more than simply impart information to students. Mishra and Koehler (2006, p. 1021) describe teaching as a process whereby “the teacher interprets the subject matter and finds different ways to represent it and make it accessible to learners.” Constructing meaningful student learning experiences requires teachers to blend their content expertise with the art of teaching, known as pedagogy. The idea of integrating content knowledge with pedagogy was first proposed by Lee Schulman (1986). Building on this idea, Mishra and Koehler (2006) proposed the Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) framework. Figure 11.1 depicts the TPACK framework, showing the intersection of content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and technological knowledge. In this model, each of these three elements is critical to consider when designing and developing technology-enhanced learning activities. Unfortunately, as Kinchin (2012, p. E44) points out, all too often “content is the driving force and takes up most of the development energy. Technology is then added to the mix (typically by those without an academic background in the content), whilst pedagogy is often tacitly presumed to somehow ‘be there.’” The lesson to be learned here is that when designing technology-enhanced learning activities, a balanced approach, one that marries content, pedagogy, and technology, offers the best possibility of optimizing student learning outcomes.

A Venn diagram labeled with arrows for TPACK framework.

Figure 11.1 TPACK framework. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, © 2012 by tpack.org.

Case Studies in Technology-Enhanced Teaching

In this section we will explore a series of three case studies that demonstrate the successful integration of content, pedagogy, and technology in teaching. These cases range from simple techniques that are easily implemented in any classroom, to more complex learning activities that require extensive planning and production. In each case, you will see that all three TPACK elements were considered in equal measure from the project’s inception, ensuring good results.

Case Study 11.1


Small animal medicine course.


Virtual patients/web-based case studies:

  • HTML5 SCORM-compliant case-study development tool.
  • Learning management system.
  • Student wi-fi–enabled tablet devices or laptops.


  • Contextualized learning.
  • Formative assessment.

The Problem

The small animal medicine course is a 12-credit, team-taught course that spans the spring and fall semesters of the third-year curriculum. The large class size and rigid lecture-hall seating afforded limited flexibility to instructors. Faced with these constraints, faculty contributing to this course had a tendency to default to a lecture-style presentation as their primary mode of teaching. Students, who spent between four and eight hours per day in lectures, reported problems paying attention during class. Meanwhile, some clinical faculty who taught downstream noticed that students were struggling to apply concepts covered in this course to patients in the teaching hospital.

The Solution

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Oct 15, 2017 | Posted by in GENERAL | Comments Off on Learning in the Electronic Age

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