Using Online Materials to Enhance Physiology Teaching

Adam Myers (Medicine) · Round 1

Physiology is an essential curricular element in health professions programs and many biomedical graduate programs. At Georgetown University Medical Center, there are four similar physiology graduate courses as well as significant physiology content in the systems-based modules of the first year medical curriculum. Physiology content has traditionally been delivered in these curricula mainly in lecture format, with some additional problem solving exercises and clinical presentations. This project's aim was to enhance student learning outcomes by developing technologically-based learning materials to be deployed in the graduate courses and medical school modules to foster self-directed learning and to allow more "flipped learning" classroom exercises, reducing the amount of passive learning. Serial development of materials for the main sub-disciplines of physiology has allowed deployment across the various courses and medical school modules, which is ongoing over the three-year project period.

The biggest gain is a renewed focus on methods and quality of teaching in our Medical Center courses, by us, other instructors, and the administration. The grant has encouraged, even forced, us to critically examine our pedagogy and given us the opportunity to devote significant time to improving our teaching.

Adam Myers

Over the first eighteen months of the project, major progress has been made in Cardiovascular Physiology and Gastrointestinal Physiology. In these areas, in multiple courses, the ITEL project team—led by Principal Investigator Adam Myers and including many faculty members—has developed an online environment based on common templates. These include electronic versions of syllabi, readings, objectives, handouts, practice quizzes, self-directed learning exercises, lecture captures, PowerPoints on a new template, and short videos on selected concepts. In the classroom, faculty are implementing flipped learning sessions interwoven into the lecture sequence, and clicker exercises are used throughout lectures. As these efforts continue in these two subject areas, other subdisciplines of physiology have had other technological innovations integrated into the curricula more recently. Online quizzes are now being used in multiple subdisciplines and innovations designed for specific courses are being adapted in other courses.

The team is collecting data on student use of electronic resources and surveying students on their attitudes about the usefulness of these resources. The data to date suggest widespread student acceptance of and satisfaction with new teaching tools and modalities. Student performance has generally been comparable or higher compared to pre-implementation. Ultimately, the materials are also leading to greater efficiency in teaching and are forming a basis for an online course and a resource for medical students reviewing for exams or preparing for clinics. Although this is a multi-year project, preliminary findings show positive feedback from students.

The project team is also doing research to capture, trace, and visualize the spread of technology-enhanced instructional tools (TEIS) and strategies across medical education. Their mapping of the spread of TEIS in networks showed the benefits that can arise from a single input node, namely, this ITEL project. Once inside the network, TEIS moves around without the direct need of intervention from the PIs. A surprising finding from this network analysis was that students were the driving force behind the spread of TEIS in the Georgetown School of Medicine community. This research suggests that as more individuals and departments adopt the given TEIS standards, the cost of implementing the technology and strategies decrease in the future.


Myers, Adam. "Technology Enhanced Learning and Flipped Classroom Exercises in Physiology." Presented at the 2014 Colloquium for Educators in the Health Professions at the Center for Innovation and Leadership in Education, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, June 2, 2014.

Whitney, Jennifer. "Using Self-Directed Learning (SDL) Workshops for Flipped Classrooms." Accepted to be presented at the 2015 Colloquium for Educators in the Health Professions at the Center for Innovation and Leadership in Education, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, June 2, 2015.

Mulroney, Susan, Jennifer Whitney, and Adam Myers. "Use of a Learning Management System and Related Technology to Improve Physiology Classroom Teaching." Presented at Experimental Biology 2015, Boston, MA, March 30, 2015.