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HealthAugust 09, 2021

Digital-focused curriculum: How one medical school is embracing technology

What happens when you design a medical school based on digital learning?

That’s what the Noorda College of Osteopathic Medicine (Noorda-COM), a new medical school in Provo, Utah, has set out to find. Instead of live lectures, students at Noorda-COM will meet in small groups to review curated content from professors in small chunks.  

The “learning pods” will consist of three to eight students and they will have the flexibility to set the meeting schedule for their groups and work through the curriculum cycle at their own pace. The school is welcoming its first class of 90 students in August 2021. 

Vikram Savkar, Vice President and General Manager, Medicine Segment of Health Learning, Research & Practice at Wolters Kluwer, spoke with Jennifer Brown, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Noorda College of Osteopathic Medicine, about Noorda-COM’s innovative approach to medical school in an episode of the Wolters Kluwer Expert Insights Webinar Series. 

Here are some of the key insights from their discussion:

1. Today’s students have different learning preferences

Students are taking advantage of technology advancements in new ways, said Brown, and that has led to changes in their learning and behavior. With lectures being recorded, students have been more likely to skip in-person lectures and opting to listen to the lesson on their own when they can pause, rewind or fast forward to consume the material at their own pace. Noorda-COM wanted to bridge that gap between how the content was being prepared by professors for lecture and how it was actually being consumed by students, said Brown. This led Noorda-COM to deliver a majority of the curriculum digitally.

A benefit of having professors record and create content for online viewing is the ability to leverage various modalities and string them together in a way that cannot be done in live lectures, said Brown. The digital content could range from videos recorded by faculty, videos of faculty in front of a green screen with animations, slide presentations with voiceovers, or even curated content from outside sources that clearly conveys the subject matter. “We are bringing in cases, we are bringing in patients, we are melding those with videos over time and really thinking through the best way to engage a student with any given learning objective with any given topic,” Brown said.

2. Taking a data-driven approach to medical curriculum

With a whole new approach to medical school, Noorda-COM is taking a data-driven approach to feedback. At the end of every school day, students will take a daily quiz to give faculty insight into where students’ proficiencies lie and where they need more support or remediation, said Brown. Each student will have a dashboard that points out topics they are excelling and those where they need improvement. 

Noorda-COM will also use the data to help faculty see where their content is performing well and where it might need some improvement based on student understanding and performance. The faculty will then host live lectures every other week on topics that did not perform well or that students needed support on according to the data. Those sessions will be required for low performing students and optional for middle and high performing students. This feedback cycle will help Noorda-COM establish a continuous quality improvement process throughout the school year.

”We are trying to streamline medical education in a way that maybe is a little more focused on helping students to not be as overwhelmed. Medical student mental health has been a thing for many years that had some increasing attention on it, and we are hoping that, by helping students focus in a very data-driven way and helping us focus in a very data-driven way, that we can help students to use their time and their efforts in a very, very efficient way,” Brown said. 

Learn more in the full webinar recording “Building a Digital-Focused Curriculum: Insights from an Osteopathic Medical School.”

Access the Webinar Recording
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