Pharmacy has embraced technology for decades. This tradition enables practitioners within our profession to increase productivity and improve safe medication practices in diverse and enumerable ways. Technology in pharmacy education has been described as “almost ubiquitous.”1
This is unique in higher education, which is seemingly criticized for sluggish technology uptake amidst a widely digital native student population.2
Evidence suggests that the challenge in pharmacy education may no longer be whether we should integrate technology but rather which technologies should be integrated.
Advances in technology outpace our ability to comprehensively describe their applications. However, a nationwide survey of U.S. colleges and schools of pharmacy recently captured a snapshot of the expanse of technology in our programs, demonstrating that 100% of respondents use a course management system for content delivery. Other applications they found in pharmacy classrooms included presentation software in educational lectures (98.9%), audience (student) response systems (88.8%), electronic testing (79.8%), classroom capture software for later viewing (70%), document collaboration (66.3%), wiki tools (66%), and blogging (60%).1 Indeed, technology is embedded in pharmacy education.
Although few of my faculty colleagues claim “techno-geek” status, many at the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy use a range of technologies to design active teaching and learning strategies. Innovation is encouraged among University of Pittsburgh faculty, as evidenced by the annual Provost's Advisory Council on Instructional Excellence (ACIE) award. Faculty in our school have received support to develop innovative teaching technologies with local and university-wide applicability during the past 8 years.
Examples of technologies currently in action at our school include use of polling questions woven into PowerPoint presentations for anonymous student responses and immediate feedback. Both students and faculty glean real-time assessment of their level of comprehension. Faculty members handwrite calculations and equations on computer screens for simultaneous large-screen projection and subsequent classwide distribution. Students review prerecorded lectures before class, permitting in-class discussion and case-based activity time.3
Outside of class, students complete popular faculty-designed virtual patient cases that introduce a patient, present clinical dilemmas, pose decision-point questions, and evolve in response to the student's decisions. Students receive customized feedback.4
Sessions with high-fidelity mannequin simulators at the school of pharmacy and the Peter M. Winter Institute for Simulation, Education and Research are designed by university faculty to “answer” student questions, replicate physical exam findings, and demonstrate physiologic responses to “administered” drugs, allowing students to practice interviewing, data collection, assessment skills, and real-time evaluation of drug therapies in a safe environment., 56
A hybrid online/classroom interprofessional course facilitates student interactions across health sciences schools with video and virtual chat.7
Beyond the classroom, students use digital portfolios to document evidence of progress toward mastery of professional and general ability outcomes that can be transformed into resumes, CVs, and digital presentations.
Web 2.0 applications (interactive Web-based tools) including blogs, wikis, and discussion boards are bundled into the course management system at the University of Pittsburgh for seamless access within courses. In 2008, we implemented a pilot wiki for group-based “Capstone Case” assignments in the required Pharmacotherapy of Infectious Diseases courses. Second-professional-year students accessed group wikis to collaboratively develop SOAP notes and referenced justification statements. Collaborative case-based learning is a tenet of the curriculum, owing to evidence for promoting student achievement, retention, satisfaction, communication, social skills, and self-esteem.8
However, we observed adverse phenomena associated with group work (scarce meetings, just-before-the-deadline inquiries, and complaints of contribution inequity). Wikis promised to mitigate these by providing a “24-7” workspace (restricted to student group members and faculty) to give students a new way to collaborate and receive real-time feedback.
Surveyed students expressed satisfaction with the wiki, and we wanted to explore this technology uniquely capable of demonstrating the individual's effort in group work. We received an ACIE award to study student and faculty wiki use and develop a rubric (tool) to evaluate individual student contributions to group wikis. We found that our 108 students used the wiki frequently (1,617 “posts” for spring term case) with a mean of 15 contributions (range 2–66) per student. Surveyed students reported that use of the group wiki increased/enhanced discussion of ideas and brainstorming among group members (63%), cooperative/collaborative work among group members (69%), and interaction and feedback from faculty (74%). More than 88% agreed that using wiki technology in future classes would be favorable.9
We found that our rubric was moderately reliable, and our results suggested that the quantitative tools embedded within wikis to “count” student contributions may not sufficiently measure individual student performance.10
We continue to use group wikis in these courses, and future plans include using the rubric as a feedback tool for students.
While technology permeates pharmacy education, questions remain surrounding best use and feasibility. Administrative costs unique to each college and school must be carefully evaluated as technologies available to individual students become widely available.11
Future applications of technology in pharmacy education are as vast as the imagination, but best practice models can only evolve if research continues to illustrate the technologies that improve achievement of our desired educational outcomes.
Monaghan MS, Cain JJ, Malone PM, et al. Educational technology use among US colleges and schools of pharmacy. Am J Pharm Educ. 2011;75(5):87.[PubMed][CrossRef]
Hall DL, Drab SR, Campbell RK, et al. A Web-based interprofessional diabetes education course. Am J Pharm Educ. 2007;71(5):93.
Seybert AL, Barton CM. Simulation-based learning to teach blood pressure assessment to doctor of pharmacy students. Am J Pharm Educ. 2007;71(3):48.
Seybert AL, Laughlin KK, Benedict NJ, et al. Pharmacy student response to patient-simulation mannequins to teach performance-based pharmacotherapeutics. Am J Pharm Educ. 2006;70(3):48.
Johnson DW, Johnson RT, Smith KA. Active learning: cooperation in the college classroom. Edina, MN: Interaction Book Company; 1991.
Falcione BA, Howrie DL, Meyer SM. Evaluation of student and faculty use and satisfaction with WIKI technology for collaborative case-based learning [abstract]. Am J Pharm Educ. 2010;74(5):article 96.
Falcione BA, Howrie DL, Meyer SM. Development and evaluation of a rubric to assess value of student WIKI contributions [abstract]. Am J Pharm Educ. 2010;74(5):article 96.
Fox BI. Information technology and pharmacy education. Am J Pharm Educ. 2011;75(5):86.[PubMed]
The UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy adopted a new educational vision as part of its 2006 Strategic Plan. The philosophy and rationale for this vision was articulated in a 2008 report that spoke of the need for an “educational renaissance.”1
The goal of this renaissance is to transform the education and training of our students as a means to improve student learning and help them develop as critical thinkers and problem solvers. We want to fully engage students in the classroom, stimulate higher-order thinking through the use of creative technologies, and immerse students in patient care early in their education and training so that they are applying what they have learned in the classroom and are fully prepared to respond to the health care challenges facing society.
A major obstacle remains time—time in the classroom devoted to modeling the skills of an adept problem solver and time in the experiential environment acquiring invaluable contextual insight into the application of sophisticated knowledge to the possible solutions of complex problems. The school is committed to off-loading foundational knowledge delivery to alternative asynchronous strategies. This must be done in a coordinated fashion with a complete appreciation of the affect on faculty and student load. Below, we have outlined two approaches that are evaluated within the current curriculum of our professional year (PY)1 and PY2 students as they relate to a required applied and basic science course.
Foundations in Pharmacokinetics
Foundations in Pharmacokinetics is a required second-year course that had previously been delivered through a lecture-based format but underwent considerable modification. Students now use multimedia educational tools (integrated learning accelerator modules [iLAMs]) to acquire foundational content in preparation for class discussion. iLAMs have several features that address a variety of concerns with respect to contemporary higher education. They are self-paced, are interactive, provide immediate feedback, and accommodate a variety of learning styles, preferences, and strategies. By shifting content acquisition to outside the classroom, faculty are able to use class time to engage students at higher levels and reinforce problem-solving skills. The classroom itself becomes student centered, with an increased level of student–instructor and student–student interactions. This strategy requires the student to be an active participant in the learning process. Student assessment of the pharmacokinetic course has been positive. In a study by Persky and Pollack,2
students indicated that the revised course structure assisted them in acquiring problem-solving skills. They also reported a preference for the smaller group discussion compared with the large-lecture format.
The school also has been very interested in developing iLAMs for basic science courses. In a similar manner, the strategy has been to use an iLAM to provide critical but more slowly changing foundational content to students outside of class time so that the classroom is reserved for discussion of contemporary and complex clinical problems. The school has now developed a new iLAM for a required first-year course titled Basic Pharmaceutics. The course deals with the science of delivery of drugs to the body via complex, specialized, and novel dosage forms intended for any and all routes of administration. The course is designed to teach mathematics-rich concepts of drug diffusion and drug transport in conjunction with anatomical and physiological information pertinent to different delivery routes. This course also had previously been developed and delivered in a primarily lecture-only format. The new iLAM consists of abridged captured lectures that provide core foundational content. The total captured lectures are about 14 hours, condensed from the usual 30 hours of lectures. Foundational content also includes a pharmaceutics textbook and a small number of literature reviews. Before each class, students are required to view the captured content (∼20–30 minutes) and read the assigned reading. Class time now facilitates and requires 100% active learning and has been divided into four consecutive segments, including the following:
- Segment 1: Audience response questions and open questions that are designed to ascertain basic understanding of offline learning.
- Segment 2: Student group presentations of assigned reading that allow for student-led content delivery and learning.
- Segment 3: Pair-and-share exercises, that present to the class either an instructor- or student-developed open-ended question to probe complex clinical problems in drug delivery systems.
- Segment 4: In-class practice or graded quizzes that are intended to assess student progress on an ongoing basis.
This new Basic Pharmaceutics iLAM was codeveloped by a third-year student pharmacist completing a summer internship in educational renaissance.
New iLAMs are currently being developed for other basic science courses, including a two-course biochemistry sequence. As more basic science coursework at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy migrates to this alternative learning pathway, faculty and students will use this “found time” for even more creative and scholarship activities. In particular, after the issue of delivering foundational content is addressed, faculty will be able to devote more of their valuable time and talents to inspire our students toward discovering creative solutions to important societal problems.
Blouin RA, Joyner PU, Pollack GM. Preparing for a renaissance in pharmacy education: the need, opportunity, and capacity for change. Am J Pharm Educ. 2008;72(2):42.[PubMed][CrossRef]
Persky AM, Pollack GM. Transforming a large-class lecture course to a smaller-group interactive course. Am J Pharm Educ. 2010;74(9):170.[PubMed]
As part of the introductory pharmacy practice experience curriculum at the University of Georgia College of Pharmacy, each student in the second and third year completes hours dedicated to service learning. To achieve this requirement, partnerships were developed with local pediatric summer camps dedicated to various diseases, including diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and asthma. The students spend 1 week at camp as a counselor and assist in medication administration, patient education, disease monitoring, and other health care–related activities. The camp experience is very rewarding, and the majority of the students choose to obtain their service learning hours by attending camp. Many of the students return to camp each summer, even after they no longer need service learning credit, because they have built great relationships with the volunteers and campers.
Counseling children with diabetes at Camp Kudzu
For my service learning experience, I chose to participate in Camp Kudzu as a Cabin Counselor from May 31 to June 5, 2009. Camp Kudzu, located in Atlanta, GA, has been in existence for approximately a decade as a summer camp for children ages 8 to 16 years with type 1 diabetes. Kudzu is a nonprofit organization with only a handful of full-time staff; the rest of the counselors and clinicians consist entirely of volunteers. Generally, these volunteers also have diabetes. Others are health professionals (nurses and physicians) or health professionals in training (student pharmacists, student nurses, and student physicians). Orientation consists of multiple modules, including proper attitude, carbohydrate counting, effectively communicating and motivating children, and, most importantly, familiarizing volunteers with the treatment and management of type 1 diabetes. Putting the modules into practice also is an integrated part of the orientation.
Within my cabin, we had three campers and one counselor who were using insulin pumps. Before Kudzu, I had never seen an insulin pump. To try to understand a fraction of what children with diabetes face, I decided to get a pump site myself. The clinician who put in the site also used the insulin pump. She felt that future health professionals, regardless of whether they have diabetes, should have some idea of what children with diabetes experience. Putting in the pump site was relatively easy. However, when I laughed, which was quite a lot, I could feel it pinch. Several other counselors had pump sites put in as well. Seeing my peers and myself bond through our struggles and victories was almost as much fun as watching the social dynamics of 14-year-old boys interacting with each other for the first time.
Before the week was up, I had administered insulin shots, gotten a pump site, and counted thousands of carbohydrates. I knew at the beginning of the week that each of boy I counseled would gain confidence in managing and treating his diabetes. What I did not know, however, was how much I would grow as a student pharmacist and health professional. After attending Kudzu, I felt better prepared for the diabetes material that I would be studying during the next semester. I enjoyed the service learning experience considerably. I look forward to future students having the same fulfilling Kudzu experience that my peers and I had that summer.
The Association Report column in JAPhA reports on activities of APhA's three academies and topics of interest to members of those groups.
The APhA Academy of Pharmacy Practice and Management (APhA–APPM) is dedicated to assisting members in enhancing the profession of pharmacy, improving medication use, and advancing patient care. Through the six APhA–APPM sections (Administrative Practice, Community and Ambulatory Practice, Clinical/Pharmacotherapeutic Practice, Hospital and Institutional Practice, Nuclear Pharmacy Practice, and Specialized Pharmacy Practice), Academy members practice in every pharmacy setting. The mission of the APhA Academy of Pharmaceutical Research and Science (APhA–APRS) is to stimulate the discovery, dissemination, and application of research to improve patient health. Academy members are a source of authoritative information on key scientific issues and work to advance the pharmaceutical sciences and improve the quality of pharmacy practice. Through the three APhA–APRS sections (Clinical Sciences, Basic Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Economic, Social, and Administrative Sciences), the Academy provides a mechanism for experts in all areas of the pharmaceutical sciences to influence APhA's policymaking process.
The mission of the APhA Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA–ASP) is to be the collective voice of student pharmacists, to provide opportunities for professional growth, and to envision and actively promote the future of pharmacy. Since 1969, APhA–ASP and its predecessor organizations have played a key role in helping students navigate pharmacy school, explore careers in pharmacy, and connect with others in the profession.
The Association Report column is written by Academy and section officers and coordinated by JAPhA
Contributing Editor Joe Sheffer of the APhA staff. Suggestions for future content may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org