Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

A Blended Learning Approach to Teaching Basic Pharmacokinetics and the Significance of Face-to-Face Interaction

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

A Blended Learning Approach to Teaching Basic Pharmacokinetics and the Significance of Face-to-Face Interaction

Article excerpt


The integration of face-to-face and online instruction and interaction to design "blended" courses is a strategy that has found solid acceptance in higher education and corporate training programs over the last decade. (1) At the University of Waterloo a blended course is one where well-designed online activities are integrated with face-to-face interaction. Higher satisfaction levels among faculty members and students, better learning outcomes for students, and increased access and flexibility in the time, pace, and place of learning are all cited as strengths in blended-learning courses as compared to traditional lecture-based courses. (2-6)

Opportunities for collaborative learning and for student-faculty interactions are key to the success to blended courses and increase student satisfaction. (7,8) Garrison and Kanuka argue that blended learning has "transformative potential" and can support the formation of communities of inquiry. (9) Communities of inquiry in blended courses support students' need for cognitive and social presence and rely on a strong teaching presence by the instructor. The inclusion of thoughtfully designed course components that encourage active participation in the learning process are critical to the success of blended courses. (10-12)

Blended course design models are effective in teaching pharmacy students in the areas of microbiology, adult acute care medicine, pharmaceutical biotechnology, and cardiovascular pharmacotherapy. (13-16) In general, these courses were well received by students and instructors reported that the blended, or hybrid, approach was an effective way for students to achieve course objectives. However, our approach of quantitative and qualitative analysis of students' feedback about their concerns with this nontraditional approach to learning through pre- and post-course questionnaires has not been attempted in this discipline before. The specific topic of blended learning in pharmacokinetics was the focus of this study.

Pharmacokinetics aims to describe drug absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion mathematically as a means of predicting drug behavior in specific patient subpopulations. A pharmacokinetics fundamentals course is offered in most pharmacy curriculums; however, it is generally not well received by students due to its basis in mathematics and the difficulty experienced in linking basic concepts with clinical relevance. (17)

The objectives of this work were: to develop a basic pharmacokinetics course that relied on the integration of online modules for the delivery of concepts and practical computational skills with face-to-face problem-solving tutorials; and to assess the attitudes of students to this new method of learning both prior to and following course completion.


At the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, enrollment to the new bachelor's degree in pharmacy program requires at least 2 previous years of relevant undergraduate experience; although the majority of students entering the vanguard class had at least a relevant bachelor's degree. Integrated Patient Focused Care 1 (IPFC1) was offered for the first time to the vanguard class in their second year of the program in winter 2009. This course is an intensive 6-week (18 hours/week) segment of a core course and challenges students to understand fundamental principles of pharmacokinetics, immunology, clinical biochemistry, infectious disease, critical appraisal, and patient-focused care. The course is designed such that the largest section, pharmacokinetics (7 hours/week), is in a blended learning format where students engage independently in weekly online modules and activities in lieu of class time (6 hours/week) and meet once a week for face-to-face problem-solving tutorials with the instructor (1 hour/week). This section focuses on basic concepts of absorption, distribution, elimination, one- and multi-compartmental kinetics, constant-rate and multiple dose administrations and dosing regimen design. …

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