IDTU designs and hosts web-based instruction modules
IDTU was founded in 1996, when the revolution in computers and internet resulted in large-scale acceptance of personal computers in the academic world. The personal desktop computer, connected to institutionally provided internet emerged as a dominant force in medical education; embracing it in our medical school was an imminent next step. In response to this enduring trend, DGSOM proposed a desktop computer requirement for all incoming freshmen, providing exhaustive guidelines on types of computers, accessories, and software required for completing curricular assignments.
However, the approval and establishment of a computer requirement supported by financial aid for its purchase generated a new dilemma: what were medical students to do with this intriguing tool?
With well-designed, reliable medical education resources rarely available, and bandwidth imposing additional limits on access, we believed that medical students would benefit from interactive learning in a restricted environment using resources generated or approved locally in DGSOM. Expertise was needed to create technology-enhanced learning. The answer, a centralized Unit specializing in educational technology rooted in instructional design and cognitive psychology was proposed. A brainchild of the Vice Dean of the medical school- Dr. Alan Robinson, Dr LuAnn Wilkerson- Senior Associate Dean of Medical Education, and Dr Neil Parker - Senior Associate Dean of Student Affairs, The Instructional Design and Technology Unit (IDTU) was conceptualized.
IDTU was assigned the mission-critical responsibility for designing and developing pedagogically sound computer-based and online tools for curriculum delivery and assessment, which would be used by medical students as an essential component of the curriculum. The Director of the Unit was hired, followed swiftly by an Associate Director (Dr Robert Trelease), Project Manager (Dr Sebastian Uijtdehaage), a server administrator, and two developers (Ms Katherine Wigan and Zhen Gu). The Unit staffing was now complete.
Encouraging diffusion of educational software to support curriculum delivery was the next big objective. A generous fund of $200,000 per year was designated by the Vice Dean to accelerate the development of computer-based, mission-critical curricular tools. Multimedia funds were disseminated among faculty via a grant application process. Innovative ideas using technology to fulfill curricular objectives were proposed to the Multimedia Funds Evaluation Committee, a panel of expert and active users of technology, which reviewed faculty proposals and selected original ideas for development in IDTU. Several successful, interactive modules were developed in the initial fervor celebrating the launch of IDTU. Initially distributed as CD-ROMs and DVDs, the modules were limited in interactivity and restricted in distribution.
Late nineties saw large scale conversion of analog to digital images. IDTU resources were spent on purchasing equipment to digitize large collections of teaching slides using DVDs as storage media. Web-based distribution became more accessible with expanding internet bandwidth, and ubiquitous home and institutional access. “Interactive video” employing CDs and DVDs were mass- copied and distributed to medical students in visual topics: Anatomy and Pathology.
At the turn of the twenty-first century, a new academic trend gained mass acceptance: web-based instruction. IDTU designed and hosted instructional web sites for all courses in the curriculum, which were static, providing a common space for relevant instructional resources. Unique, interactive modules in visual specialties such as Histology, Anatomy and Pathology were developed, allowing team-based learning approach and self-directed learning. Clinical learning modules were developed in diagnosis of ECGs, in Pathophysiology of pulmonary Disease, which were implemented in a laboratory setting and were available from a home computer. “Learning Anywhere, Anytime” was now a reality.
Commercial systems arrived in the market, which were evaluated and purchased to increase diffusion of technologies, including the well-known multimedia software to teach heart sounds in a case-based interactive module delivered via intranet.
IDTU developed and implemented a brand new assessment system in Anatomy with the help of Anatomy faculty. This system exemplified many of the features found in modern assessment systems and was used in a classroom setting for summative assessments. As well, a self-assessment system with a different objective was developed to support grant requirement, which allowed a creative way of building one’s own self-assessments via user control of the question bank.
A new brand of systems emerged in the market, which would allow comprehensive delivery of curriculum, commonly called as Learning Management Systems (LMS). IDTU evaluated the earliest of these systems, WebCT, comparing its features and capabilities to delivery of curriculum via “home-grown” web-based technologies. In 2002, after careful evaluation and collaboration with medical school faculty, IDTU adopted ANGEL (A New Global Environment for Learning) Learning Management System, for curriculum delivery, formative/summative assessments, and asynchronous communication. This decision coincided with the culmination of curriculum restructuring at DGSOM, resulting in a hybrid curriculum, which was now delivered via ANGEL.
A companion system for curriculum documentation, Ilios, developed by University of California, San Francisco medical school was integrated with ANGEL to search and document the new curriculum.
ANGEL was supported and used for over a decade, for delivering course/Block resources, to enable problem-based learning with asynchronous discussion forums, allow tutor-student, student-student interactions, and deliver formative and summative assessments. It was consistently rated highly by medical students.
Mobile technologies began to appear on the horizon at the turn of the century, commonly known as Personal Digital Assistants, or PDAs. DGSOM embraced these to promote decision support at point of care during clinical education. A new requirement for a mobile device was implemented, supported with financial aid. A pharmacopoeia was proposed as a requirement, along with a DGSOM subscribed decision support database. Third year students were explicitly trained in the use of these tools.
A new system was developed by IDTU developers to allow students to log patients as determined by LCME, called simply the Patient Logging System. PDAs were employed to allow students to enter patient data, in addition to providing them with a web-based interface using the patient logging interface.
The mobile device requirement has been continuously updated every year to accommodate ever changing world of mobile devices, and given the ubiquitous presence of these devices, will be discontinued by 2017.
With incremental increase in demand for services, staff expanded further as requests for innovations multiplied, and systems became more complex. IDTU included two more developers (Sam Payne and Jason Rock), and presently employs five full time staff supporting various design, development and support functions (see Organization).