Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

The Use of Virtual Laboratories and Other Web-Based Tools in a Drug Assay Course

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

The Use of Virtual Laboratories and Other Web-Based Tools in a Drug Assay Course

Article excerpt


Traditional teaching methods arguably provide a learning experience at the lowest cognitive level, focus on memorization of factual information that is likely to be of little relevance in the future, and fail to accommodate the diverse learning styles of today's students. (1,2) Studies using Dale's Cone of Experience (3) and other learning models show that passive lectures lead to the lowest rate of retention among students, especially compared to retention rates when active-learning methods are used. As a result, interest in the implementation of active-learning methods in pharmaceutical education has increased using a variety of techniques with varying levels of risk for the faculty, students, and the course structure. (4) Web-based teaching is one such active-learning technique. One appeal of using Web-based teaching is the potential to individualize instruction, allowing learners to choose their own path to knowledge and to obtain instant feedback on their performance. (5,6)

The concept of "pedagogies of engagement," in learning contends that there is a need for a shift in education from students learning about things to students engaging in the learning process and acquiring the abilities necessary to become resourceful professionals. (7,8) To fully engage students in the learning process, a number of methods can be used such as problem-based and collaborative learning (9); the constructivist model that centers on individual learners and their ability to discover or learn the information; and the collaborative and cooperative learning model where learners must have some prior knowledge of the topics at hand. (10)

Web-based and computer-assisted learning in pharmaceutical education has numerous benefits. In one study, pharmacy students viewed results to microbiology and biotechnology experiments in Web-based modules, which allowed them to come to class more prepared and with a more comprehensive understanding of important concepts relevant to the course. Advantages of this Web-based tool included more frequent student participation in class, improved ability for students to perform self-assessments, and provision of quick feedback to students, all of which assured the students and educators that the students were learning concepts as intended. (11)

Computer-based modules proved effective in teaching pharmacy students to identify and correct prescription errors. (12) Use of computer-assisted medicinal chemistry case study modules helped students better understand how to evaluate structure activity relationship findings in relation to desired therapeutic outcomes and addressing therapeutic problems in a clinical setting. (13) Another study found that using Web-based prescription simulations that depicted different scenarios relating to pharmacy practice in a hospital setting or community setting assisted the learning process for students in a practice skills laboratory course. Furthermore, the Web-based learning appealed to students and allowed them to self-pace their studies, and provided professors with the flexibility to create modules that were specific to students' learning needs. (14)

Instructors used Web-based tools to transform a large pharmacokinetics course into an interactive course, and found that having students acquire knowledge outside of class was as successful as having them acquire knowledge during class as long as students were held accountable for acquisition of the knowledge. (15) A comparative study of computer-mediated instruction (CMI) versus lecture-mediated instruction (LMI) in a pain management course found that CMI was at least as effective as LMI, but was more efficient and received higher scores in student satisfaction surveys. (16) In contrast, pharmacy students who used a biotechnology virtual laboratory to complete a patient case did not prefer it to completing the same patient case on paper, although they still rated the virtual laboratory experience as a valuable portion of the course. …

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