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Teaching in the Pandemic

Inaugural Faculty Newsletter

Dear Faculty Members,

VetMedAcademy also wants to help you publish your best instructional efforts.  Indeed, to remain a free or low-cost educational resource for learners world-wide, we need to identify ways to broaden the number of content contributors.  Please see our 4+ minute summary of VetMedAcademy’s pitch to students and faculty:

https://youtu.be/lkCJ8iPD880

General Mission of VMA
We would like to focus on clinically relevant pre-clinical content, and on instructional approaches that encourage early-curriculum development of clinical reasoning skills. Perhaps this is your interest and passion too?  Please consider pitching an idea for a broader audience.  We do not seek to replicate purely clinical instruction that has long been available as continuing education. However, unlike a clinical faculty member, those of you who teach in the pre-clinical (basic science) phase of the curriculum probably have not had prior possibilities for expanding your teaching to a broader audience.  VMA would like to change that whether it is engaging you as a curator/editor for an “open” module or conceptualizing a short course with a registration fee. See our Bootcamps as an example.  In this model, you might want to consider developing an online learning module for a cohort of learners with whom you periodically interact asynchronously or synchronously.  There are other instructional contributions, large or small, that you might want to consider.

VMA’s Business Model and Partnerships:
Most of the time, to allow wide availability to international faculty and students who might not be able to afford access, whenever possible, we encourage the Creative Commons Attribution publication model whenever feasible.  In addition, VMA has developed content partnerships with Merck Veterinary Manual and Clinician’s Brief and negotiated an institutional subscription with Vet-Library.com, providing access to features of these broad veterinary educational learning resources at no cost to its membership.   Help us help you develop unique learning experiences for your students where they avail themselves of these resources.

VMA Digital Platforms and Assets
VMA maintains an informational site (https://vetmedacademy.org) and a Moodle learning site (https://learn.vetmedacademy.org).  This summer, in response to user feedback, we simplified the registration and sign-in process moving it back to the learning site.  Both sites will highlight new resources, and the informational site will still provide additional preview detail about learning modules with direct links to the learning site, as well as the blog, and highlighted videos, instructors and news.  The learning site requires application for a free registration which provides access to all “open” learning modules (currently 18) that are immediately made available to registrants, including 2 in Spanish, and one supported by the International Veterinary Students Association (IVSA). Three additional sites are limited to one associated with a specialty organization for residency training purposes, another for those interested in German language offerings, and others for individual veterinary schools. Please inquire if interested in such dedicated areas.  In addition, there are 4 “premium” course offerings with modest registration fees: 3 physiology “bootcamps” for entering students, and 1 pharmacology “bootcamp.”  VetMedAcademy also supports a YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/c/vetmedacademy) with both public and unlisted videos, currently totaling 330, which garner about 15,000 views and around 525 hours of viewing per month. VMA has been invited by YouTube to monetize the channel with advertisements but has chosen not to do so, to minimize learner distractions.  As approximately 50% of the views of this channel are from international sources, we do see the site as an international outreach opportunity.

Additional Educational Technologies
Beyond the features and extensions of Moodle as a learning management system, VetMedAcademy has supported instruction by contributing faculty with the development of animated educational videos (some sponsored and some not), as well as application of interactive video content with overlaid formative questions, a feature of H5P.com’s technologies.  These features have been used extensively in the in-depth “Bootcamp” offerings, so far in physiology and pharmacology, but will be expanded to other topics soon.  We are hoping to support the right learning project you might publish on VetMedAcademy with these tools.

Educational Research Opportunities
Finally, as an educational research focus, VMA also has explored development of clinical case analysis potential of the Common Ground Scholar (https://cgscholar.com) platform. CGScholar is another educational non-profit that provides a next-generation social learning, writing, peer-review platform, supported by learning analytics, and soon, medical ontological terminology and search support (https://newlearningonline.com/cgscholar/projects/medlang).  The ultimate goal is the evolution of a platform that can be trained to provide meaningful coaching feedback to students as they undertake a case analysis.  We are seeking other academics interested in helping to refine the use of this platform for veterinary educational use.

Evidence-Based Education Blog
Recognizing that what VetMedAcademy is doing and proposing requires drawing attention to educational research, particularly as it relates to professional and medical education, the “Evidence-Based Education” blog (https://vetmedacademy.org/blogs-list) is periodically published and its feed is mailed to subscribers.  Guest contributors are welcome.

Celebrating Veterinary Faculty Innovation
We would hope that the pandemic and rush to online instruction might have further highlighted the need for a sharing platform like VetMedAcademy. And now, online learning, at least as it has been largely applied (Zoom+), has not recognized that the opportunity lies in not re-creating lectures, but in using technology to full advantage to create uniquely stimulating learning experiences. To counter this perception and to celebrate veterinary faculty efforts, this Spring, VetMedAcademy teamed up with Merck Veterinary Manual for the COVID Educational Creations Contest. We invited faculty to submit a description and educational artifacts of some innovation they used last Spring during the pandemic.  Thirteen received prize awards and we're highlighting their educational resources in a dedicated learning module found at: https://learn.vetmedacademy.org/course/view.php?id=48.

Furthermore, Merck Veterinary Manual has recently published social media posts based upon the educational impact of the contestants:  https://www.facebook.com/MerckVetManual and https://www.facebook.com/VetMedAcademy .

Current Challenges
VetMedAcademy is at a crossroad, and so are our profession’s educational traditions. While it has grown only carefully and organically, faculty curricular adoption will determine its sustainability, as this is what drives student use, and rightly so. For the same reason, before the pandemic, we focused on blended learning in an effort to highlight the optimal use of digital resources to be used by faculty seeking to spend more time interacting with students and less time delivering content to them.

While the profession highlights educational practices and research in the Journal of Veterinary Medical Education,  it doesn’t have well-accepted mechanisms to review and ultimately share (publish) the resources developed by faculty.  The pandemic has shown us the need to sort out these issues. No doubt that the idea of curation of some educational resources, now widely accepted within the broader sphere of education, is foreign to many veterinary academics, but we really have re-created too many wheels at our institutions.  Like a journal, we seek additional volunteer content experts, particularly focused on, but not limited to relevant pre-clinical content. VMA seeks additional editors/curators and above all, innovative educators, to grow and accomplish its mission.  We are open to a variety of contribution models and our platform has a variety of potential ways to connect with your academic platforms.

Creator/Curator/Editors Needed
VMA is open to any faculty member interested in a larger audience, whether via a single educational resource like a video to a video series to creating/curating/editing an entire topical learning module.  Editors/contributors with capability of emphasizing the clinical relevance of the pre-clinical topics of immunology, imaging/anatomy, microbiology/parasitology, histology/pathology and neurobiology are of particular interest.   Those interested in helping expand our repository of teaching cases, particularly those focused on the topics above, are also sought.  Finally, if you have an idea for a mini-module such as a topic for the Brief Pre-Clinical Bridges, please let us know.  It involves identification of key articles in Clinician’s Brief and then providing supporting pre-clinical content in explanation of the clinical issues. 

Don’t Have the Time? Please Contribute in Other Ways
If you don’t have the time or inclination to contribute your talent and expertise at this time, but might want to see the mission of VetMedAcademy continue, please consider supporting our digital platform.  VetMedAcademy is a non-profit with only volunteer staff, but we do have fixed platform costs that we would prefer not to pass along to the students.   Also, if you know of students with programming talent or social media skills, we might have a job for them!

Please consider donating via PayPal at: https://vetmedacademy.org/donations .

Thanks!

Duncan Ferguson, VMD, PhD, DACVIM, DACVCP
Chief Medical Officer
Email: duncanf@vetmedacademy.org