Improving Learning Outcomes: Integration of Standardized Patients & Telemedicine Technology

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT Innovative use of standardized patients (SPs) in a telemedicine environment can improve learning outcomes and clinical competencies. This randomized, cross-over study examined the relationship of technology-based strategies and the improvement of knowledge outcomes and competencies. Results showed that the innovative use of SPs and telemedicine, compared to a traditional distance learning teaching methodology, significantly improved learning outcomes. In addition, there was a significant increase in performance motivation and an interesting decrease in student satisfaction that may be linked to the pressure of performance-based learning. This article addresses knowledge improvement only.

********** THE DEMAND FOR ALTERNATIVES TO TRADITIONAL EDUCATIONAL APPROACHES HAS EXPANDED MORE RAPIDLY THAN ANYONE COULD HAVE PREDICTED A GENERATION AGO. Many preschool-aged children regularly log onto the Internet, while their older siblings use a wide array of educational software and Internet interfaces to complete homework, explore research topics, and, in some cases, take courses for credit. Adults may use educational software or Internet interfaces to explore topics of interest to them, earn continuing education credits, or complete a formal education program. As our society becomes more computer literate and access to learning technologies more uniform, it is expected that educational offerings delivered largely, or exclusively, by some type of technological interface will expand.

The transition from "traditional" to "technology-supported" classrooms does not come quickly or easily for most learners or instructors. Educators quickly discover that while adding a technology component to an existing course may appear to be straightforward, decisions about what type of instructional strategies will be most effective in a particular course with a particular audience make course development a challenge. In addition, because this type of education is so new, little research has been done to examine the effectiveness of specific instructional strategies in a given distance learning environment.

What types of instructional strategies work best in an asynchronous online course? Will these same strategies work in a course taught via CD-ROM? How can telemedicine technology most effectively be integrated into a distance learning classroom? Connors points out that there are significant gaps in our understanding of the forces at work in distance education, noting that an important area for future research is improving our understanding of which technologies and teaching strategies support learning outcomes in a distance learning environment (1).

Irrespective of the technological interface, all forms of distance education present faculty with a unique and critical challenge--keeping students engaged and interested in the learning process (2). When designing a technology-mediated course, faculty must take into account both interaction and engagement. This article is focused on the evaluation of one specific instructional strategy, video teleconferencing (VTC), which uses telemedicine technology to deliver programs over a geographic distance and provide a visual connection with students. Foundational to the study was the understanding that student engagement is essential to learning, regardless of the type of learning environment.

The VTC Classroom At first glance, a video teleconferencing classroom setting may feel more like a traditional classroom than other distance education environments. Students can see their instructors and their remote classmates and experience patient care interactions. Faculty have the ability to observe students' facial expressions and body language for signs of understanding, enthusiasm, confusion, or frustration. However, participants and faculty quickly come to realize that VTC is still a remote learning environment, with technology shaping the interface between faculty and students. …