The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) uses technology to support faculty teaching and enhance student learning in all four schools. Technology plays a vital role on campus and is fully integrated into every aspect of teaching and learning. Although most of the student body is very skilled in the use of technology, institutional resources are in place to address individual access and training needs. UTMB provides state-of-the art educational technology that exposes both on-campus and distance learning students to innovative, effective learning methods and activities that will prepare them for the workforce post graduation.
Support and Training
Academic Computing provides information and support to students on the Microsoft Exchange email system, Web Course Tools (WebCT/Blackboard), Breeze, Adobe Presenter, Adobe Connect, Wimba, Tegrity lecture capture and other information technologies and resources (1). WebCT/Blackboard is regularly upgraded and is designated as a mission-critical institutional system. This designation provides a higher level than normal of security, monitoring, and redundancy. The system substantially enhances student learning by expanding and augmenting traditional courses, as well as providing the infrastructure for hybrid courses and fully electronic, web-based courses used in distance education (2). Other Academic Computing services include maintenance of the campus course management system, instruction and technical assistance in developing online courses, course evaluation systems, online testing software, administration of listservs, assisting students with remote access and web databases, and computer support via the web.
New student orientation programs provide incoming students with training and information about technologies and services used at UTMB. All UTMB students, faculty and staff must complete online compliance training. Compliance training provides instruction on information protection, computer virus protection, password protection, email etiquette, and computer ethics and acceptable use (3).
All lecture halls are equipped with state-of-the-art computers, video, document cameras, and projection systems (4). Several lecture halls are equipped with an audience response system, which provides the opportunity for a large-group team-learning exercise. This response system is used to review quizzes and practice examinations, giving the faculty immediate feedback on specific topic areas that might be problematic for the students.
All schools collaborate to provide enhanced student clinical training and experiences by coordinating the use of the geographically distributed clinical simulation resources. Faculty collaborative efforts are leading to more sophisticated learning experiences using simulations and technology to help students apply their clinical skills and clinical reasoning.
Clinical technologies introduced to students during their clinical training include the multiple features of the Electronic Medical Record (EMR). Students receive orientation and training in these important systems to enhance their clinical training and to prepare them for future clinical practice. Selected telehealth experiences are also available to medical, nursing, and allied health students, again preparing them for future clinical practice.
The Moody Medical Library at UTMB is equipped with 88 personal computer workstations. The library also has 12 a computer workstation classroom and an Online Testing Center (OTC) with 60 computers available for hosting computerized tests. On-line testing uses Perception Secure Browser software, Respondus, LXR and PAR software. Students are able to test on campus or on-line at a distance (with distance proctors) using these resources. Access to computer based and on-line testing prepares students for their national certification and licensure examinations building their comfort with the technology and familiarity with the method of testing (responding to a computer screen instead of being able to narrow answer choices on paper).
The Jamail Student Center (JSC) provides additional public workstations. The JSC has 20 workstations in its second floor computer room and additional computers on each floor for students to access their email, providing students with access to technology for independent and group learning and socialization.
Moody Library reference librarians are available to provide information about how to access library resources from off-campus and provide demonstrations of electronic library resources. Reference services are also accessible via “Ask a Librarian,” which uses a Docutek’s VRLplus system to provide interactive chat, e-mail, and telephone services (5). The chat system is enhanced with “co-browsing” capabilities so librarians and students can share the same access to an electronic resource for training at the point of need. Online Suggestion Forms are available for suggesting book, journal, and on-line journal purchases and a library blog (Library Link) allows UTMB students, faculty, and staff to keep updated on library services and trends in scholarly publication (6). These services facilitate and enhance students’ use and experience with evidence-based practice.
The Academic Technology Center (ATC) is a division of the UTMB Library and supports the development of multimedia instructional materials for a web-based educational environment. The ATC provides web-based development tools, consulting, and collaboration and review of material produced elsewhere (7). All ATC services and products enhance and support effective student learning.
Technology Use in Education
School of Medicine
Courses in the School of Medicine utilize the audience response system, which provides the opportunity for a large-group team-learning exercise. This response system is used to review quizzes and practice examinations, giving the faculty immediate feedback on specific topic areas that might be problematic for the students. Courses also use technology to provide opportunities for students to check their learning. Courses use online quizzes, delivered on the course web site, to provide immediate feedback for students to check their learning, identify gaps in their knowledge, as well as reinforce course material. These opportunities for feedback on learning assist students with their acquisition and mastery of knowledge.
Students also have access to a variety of mechanical and computer-based simulators to learn and develop clinical skills (8). There is an EKG laboratory for students to measure their EKG at rest and after exercise with a computer program analyzing the data following student input. In addition to the EKG resources, the laboratory contains computers with programs that allow students to step through the contraction cycle for cardiac muscle, observe pressure volume loops in real time, or go through the steps of the cardiac cycle. This program allows the students to change values of certain variables and observe the result on other variables, i.e., how does increasing the heart rate affect mean arterial pressure or venous return? Another program models the cardiac action potential and is also subject to data manipulation by the students. Students are also tested on their clinical decision-making skills with the use of use the Laerdal SimMan simulator and data monitor system. Simulation allows students to practice clinical skills and be assessed on them, utilizing sophisticated simulators without risk to live patients to develop and build their skill base, clinical reasoning abilities, and confidence.
Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences
Most courses in the Graduate School have course web sites that post resources for students. In addition, some programs have rooms with computers for student use, and laboratories are also equipped with computers and other relevant technologies. Laboratory rotations are a significant source of instructing students in computation and analytical instrumentation. UTMB has site licenses for software including, SigmaPlot, Spotfire, and other software and training pertinent to the Bioinformatics Program (9). That Program is a charter member of the Gulf Coast Consortium for Bioinformatics, which includes Rice University, MD Anderson Cancer Center, University of Houston, the UT Houston Health Science Center, and Baylor College of Medicine (10), giving UTMB access to state of the art collaborations across health, mathematics, and computer sciences departments of these institutions. Exposure to these technologies enhance learning and development of the next generation of scientists who will step into roles in genomics, proteomics, bioinformatics and other cutting-edge areas of scientific discovery.
The Medical Humanities and Nursing PhD students in the GSBS benefit from access to the statistical software and information-access technologies as well as the modeling of evidence-based practice in research, ethics, health policy, and philosophical issues made possible by the technologies used in instruction in their programs and the internet.
School of Nursing
Students in the School of Nursing (SON) are oriented to online communications, course syllabi, testing, PowerPoint projects, the use of personal digitals assistants (PDAs) in clinical settings, and has developed a simulated EMR Physician Order Entry and Retrieval System to orient students to the EMR prior to use in the hospital. The Nursing Simulation Center has high-fidelity manikins, utilizing state of the art multimedia (11). The Cath-sim and Virtual IV are equipped with simulated intravenous systems and wall mounted, networked laptop computers at each bedside, video cameras, TVs with VCR and CD players, and projection screens for instruction and post-instruction debriefing (12). The SON provides a Student Computing Guide (13) and hosts a Technology eCamp designed to familiarize students with current technological trends, internet security, and other skills that will assist them in their pursuit of education (14). The SON Office of Educational Technology, which includes a Multimedia Lab, serves as a resource for the development, integration, and evaluation of instructional technology into nursing education (15). Simulation and other educational technologies support student learning and allow them to develop and build their clinical skills, clinical reasoning abilities, and confidence.
School of Allied Health Sciences
The faculty of the School of Allied Health Sciences uses technology (e.g., computer, videoconferencing, telemedicine) to provide instruction, learning opportunities, and continuing education. The Worldwide Health Information System Simulation Linkage (WHISSL) project, for example, focuses on teaching health sciences students an interdisciplinary, community-based approach to patient care planning (16). WHISSL provides simulations where the student is in a telemedicine setting and can access a complete web-based electronic patient record. An international team is designing simulated patient cases and the software to create this life-like environment on the web. The WHISSL project and other educational technologies in the SAHS allow students to develop essential clinical skills, practice clinical reasoning processes, and develop professional poise.