Online Learning for Clinical Laboratory Science Programs

What does “Reversing the Lecture Homework Paradigm,” “Transactional Distance Theory,” and constructivism have to do with teaching? Everything! These are all education theories that can provide a road map for creating a solid learning strategy in the online world of distance and blended education.

In 2008, when our first class of medical laboratory science students came to class, there was no lecture, nor furious note taking. Instead, when these 24 students met face-to-face, they came to our new teaching laboratory at Mayo with their first lesson already under their belts and finished assignments in hand. My intent for this blog post (and those to follow) is to talk about the strategies we implemented to bring up our 43-credit medical laboratory science curriculum as a blended learning model, incorporating both online and traditional methods, and I will also share our experiences.

We can all relate to the desire to have the latest and greatest online lessons that entertain like movie trailers and infomercials, but medical laboratory science faculty often work within the constraints of a budget that translates into a “DIY” model. Knowledge of related education theories is important because it helps us prioritize and understand what really makes for effective online learning experiences. It turns out that it’s not necessarily the “bells and whistles” within a lesson plan but the quality of the actual written content, how it’s formatted, and how readily the learner can navigate the online software platform.

If you are at all like me, you probably took on educational responsibilities because you have a passion for teaching and learning and a desire to utilize your creative side. I began this journey back in 1998 when my employer partnered with another academic center to offer a degree in medical laboratory science for our employees through distance learning. I quickly realized that I knew very little about online learning theory and enrolled in a distance education certificate program at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, my alma mater.  The experience and success of our partnership delivering a distance education program for our employees gave us the confidence to bring up our own accredited program utilizing a blended model of curriculum delivery. In the upcoming months, I will outline our specific online learning strategies, discuss our experiences and highlight our successes and challenges.

 

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-Susan M. Lehman, M.A., MT(ASCP)SM graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1983 with a BS in medical technology. She is program director for the Medical Laboratory Science Program and course director for Clinical Microbiology I and II; her areas of interest include distance education and education methodology.

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