Learning Organizations and Systems Thinking

For organizations to grow and sustain themselves, it is essential that they take a learning stance. What is a “learning stance,” you ask? Well, learning organizations: encourage new ways of thinking and doing business, focus on employee learning, and build the organizational capacity. These companies focus on learning about the organizational systems within a business, such as interconnected actions and patterns of behavior. However, only understanding the systems themselves are not enough. Systems thinking requires the creation of a shared vision within and between teams, because teams are the core learning units in organizations. Leaders cannot lead and learn without a deep understanding of these systems and the interconnectedness of them.

Therefore, it’s important to understand the concept of systems, as people are influenced by their environment. Open systems have a continuous outflow and inflow and maintain a steady state (not to be confused with a state of equilibrium) as long as the system is alive. Closed systems only interact with themselves; there is no outside influence and all information is only shared within the system. An example of a closed system in an organization is intranet; this system is only accessible to employees and the information is not shared outside of the intranet system. An example of an open system is an HR department, which is constantly influenced by governmental policies, organizational changes, personal issues, and internal ideas and suggestions. Another example of an open system is the medical laboratory, where samples are moved between multiple people and specialties within a system. A chemistry analyzer that tests cholesterol levels might be a closed system in and of itself, but in order for it to be effective (namely, diagnosing a patient) it needs to be open because a phlebotomist collects the specimen, a laboratory professional inspects the specimen and releases the results to the clinician, who then communicates the results to the patient, who then makes adjustments to their diet (which creates a whole additional open system). It is clear from this example how intricate open systems are and how they are all connected to other aspects and possibly other systems.

In order to create an effective organizational culture, leaders need to see people and events as systems. There are twelve key systems, namely: role description, selection to role, task review, performance planning and review, performance evaluation, salary admin, career assessment, career development, succession planning, discipline, and fair treatment. When implementing a new process, structure, or project it is important to consider the impact on all these systems to check if you need to take them into account. A change in one of these key systems can have a tremendous impact. For example, having the wrong job title can not only be demotivating it can also be detrimental to productivity and outside communication.

It is also important to note that small changes in systems can become catastrophic, especially over a longer period of time. Errors and conflicts that seem inconsequential can indeed be the reason why companies fail. Such critical points often become clear in hindsight, because the impact of these points was overlooked. However, using a systems thinking approach can bring these critical points to the surface before the results are catastrophic. Systems thinking allows organizations to locate these seemingly random events, because it focuses on the underlying structures and actions that create the conditions for certain events. These events have impacts in the long-term and it allows leaders to understand and prepare for them before their negative impact occurs.

 

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-Lotte Mulder earned her Master’s of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2013, where she focused on Leadership and Group Development. She’s currently working toward a PhD in Organizational Leadership. At ASCP, Lotte designs and facilitates the ASCP Leadership Institute, an online leadership certificate program. She has also built ASCP’s first patient ambassador program, called Patient Champions, which leverages patient stories as they relate to the value of the lab.

History of Generation: Traditionalists

Traditionalists make up the smallest percentage involved in the current workforce, but they are the organizational historians as they know and remember the organization’s past and founding goals. Traditionalists are typically born between 1927 and 1945 and grew up during the Great Depression, which was from 1933 to 1938. After that, the second World War started and the U.S.A got involved after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

These years had a significant effect on this generation. Traditionalists are known to work collaboratively, know how to do more with less, and are task-oriented. They typically have a strong sense of what is right and wrong, which was fueled by the historical events in their childhood and early adulthood. They have a strong sense of patriotism and respect for authority figures.

This generation is also one of the first major innovators; they created space travel, vaccination programs, and the foundation for modern-day technological innovations. They were the driving force of the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s and were also the ones that started moving to suburbs. Currently, the are serving on many Board of Directors, as Presidents of organizations or as executive leaders. They have generally moved up in the hierarchy of organizations that they have spent years working for. They are loyal employees who require little feedback from their managers.

Because this is the era of pre-feminism women, the majority of women raised children and only had a job before marriage as teachers, nurses, or secretaries. This generation is self-disciplined, cautious, and self-sacrificing.

 

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-Lotte Mulder earned her Master’s of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2013, where she focused on Leadership and Group Development. She’s currently working toward a PhD in Organizational Leadership. At ASCP, Lotte designs and facilitates the ASCP Leadership Institute, an online leadership certificate program. She has also built ASCP’s first patient ambassador program, called Patient Champions, which leverages patient stories as they relate to the value of the lab.


 

This generation was born before 1945 and is the oldest generation in the American culture. However, not all of those born before 1945 are alike.  They either fought in WWII or were children through those war years.  The Traditionalist generation are really the first strong innovators and if they are still working they act as the historians of the organization because they have been there for a long time. They often serve on Board of Directors and are Presidents because of their organizational knowledge and expertise. They are typically very disciplined, consistent in their behavior and opinions, and are known for their loyalty.

The majority of Traditionalists are retirees and are the largest lobbyist group, which is the AARP.  If your parents or grandparents were of the Traditionalist Generation, you might have experienced a “waste not, want not” attitude with strong family values, conformity, and team players.

The Traditionalists are often referred to as the “Silent Generation.” This term came from the fact that during this era, the children were often expected to be seen and not heard.

As I pondered this generational topic, I found myself searching for an example of an “Active Working Traditionalist” that I could talk about because they might not have yet retired!  To my surprise I found myself thinking about my Uncle Tom.  This man has taken care of me and his family of five children with my Aunt Pat my whole life. He is a strong family man and then realized he is still working! Uncle Tom (he prefers to remain nameless) turned 83 year’s old this past April 16th.  He is still the principle owner of his own CPA firm and worked those long and hard CPA hours during this 2018 tax season.  As I mentioned early in this blog, all Traditionalists are not alike, and Uncle Tom never expected children to be “silent.”  He valued their opinions, and my Aunt Pat was both a stay home mom and a partner in their CPA firm.

Uncle Tom values the old-time morals of family first, safety, conservatism, patience and financial security.  I encourage you to look around for your Traditionalist at home, or maybe even in the workplace.  Let’s appreciate our Traditionalists while we still have the opportunity to learn from them!

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-Catherine Stakenas, MA, is the Senior Director of Organizational Leadership and Development and Performance Management at ASCP. She is certified in the use and interpretation of 28 self-assessment instruments and has designed and taught masters and doctoral level students.  

Ethical Leadership

Ethical decisions are a part of everyday life, but they are even more prominent when leading a team, a company or an entire organization. Ethics are essential for effective leadership, and leaders are responsible for creating ethical organizations.  Because people make decisions multiple times a day, ensuring that every decision is ethical is an essential skill, especially for leaders. Ethical decisions are often based on intuition without a logical explanation for why a certain solution was chosen. However, to increase the ethics of a situation, logic needs to be applied to the decision-making process.  Logical analysis of a situation creates a deeper understanding of the underlying issues and so improves outcomes. As ethical leaders it is our duty to lead employees and the company towards the best possible outcomes.

There are many logical approaches to ethics and multiple approaches can be used simultaneously to arrive at the best ethical answer. Some analytical approaches to ethics include:

The Utilitarian Approach

This approach relies on the concept that the best ethical decision has the most beneficial consequences for the largest group of people. The four steps of a utilitarian analysis include defining the ethical challenge, identifying those affected by the decision, determine the positive and negative consequences of the decision, and weigh the differences between those consequences.

Kant’s Categorical Imperative

Kant approaches ethical dilemmas based on the belief that people should always be the main focus and never be treated as a means. Kant recommends basing your ethical decision on one simple question: “Would I want everyone else to make the decision I did?” If the answer is no, then it is not the right decision. If the answer is yes, Kant argues that the analysis and decision are correct.

Rawls’ Justice as Fairness

This concept is centered on two principles based in theories of fairness and justice. First, everyone has an equal right to basic liberties, and second, inequalities, both social and economic, have two conditions: 1) everyone has an equal opportunity to qualify for job, and 2) priority should be given to meeting the needs of the less fortunate.

Pragmastism

This approach uses pragmatism as an ethical decision making tool. The process of using the scientific method allows people to come up with ethical solutions, because the hypotheses are tested through dramatic rehearsal. One should come up with a solution to an ethical dilemma and then test it, hypothetically, to see if the solution and its consequences were indeed ethical. What sets this approach apart is the use of emotion and feeling as indicators of unethical decisions.

Altruism

This method to ethical dilemmas focuses on what is best for others and not what is best for oneself.  People helping one another and witnessing leaders make sacrifices to the benefit of their employees or customers has a trickle-down effect on the rest of the staff.

Ethical decisions have a profound impact on others, even when they are not directly involved or affected by the decision. Good character is created when making ethical decisions and that character disintegrates when unethical decisions are made. Everyone has an influence on other people, therefore it is our obligation to others and the world to not only keep our ethical character intact, but to increase it so that it can withstand the tests of our time while encouraging others to do the same.

 

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-Lotte Mulder earned her Master’s of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2013, where she focused on Leadership and Group Development. She’s currently working toward a PhD in Organizational Leadership. At ASCP, Lotte designs and facilitates the ASCP Leadership Institute, an online leadership certificate program. She has also built ASCP’s first patient ambassador program, called Patient Champions, which leverages patient stories as they relate to the value of the lab.

 

 

 

Modern Radiation Safety in the Laboratory

In the “old days” in the clinical laboratory, the main sources of potential radioactive substances were found in the Radioimmunoassay (RIA) department. Techs who worked in this specialized testing area handled reagents which often were radioactive isotopes. The materials were used to label specific antigens which would compete with unlabeled antigen from patient samples. This method would allow the determination of high-quality quantitative diagnostic values. In the early 1990s, radio-immunoassays were commonly used to perform thyroid testing, narcotics assays, and a variety of hormone level analyses. Unfortunately, the use of such isotopes for testing was costly, difficult to automate, and their use was potentially hazardous to staff. Eventually this major testing method was replaced by ELISA testing, chemiluminescence, and other techniques, but some labs still do utilize RIA analysis today.

In the Anatomical Pathology areas, there has been potential radiation exposure from certain specimens in the past, and newer techniques have introduced other sources into the lab as well. Tissues (such as thyroid gland sections) are not typically removed from patients when treated with radioactive dyes, but it can occur. Good communication to the lab from surgery staff is important so that no one is unnecessarily exposed. Sentinel lymph node biopsies are sometimes infused with radioactive tracer dyes. Pathology staff may also receive radioactive seeds used to treat prostate cancer. Usually these seeds have decayed sufficiently and are inert, but that may not always be true. Again, clear communication about these samples is important. Other radioactive seeds are now used for breast tumor localization, and these do arrive in the lab while radioactive, and they must be handled and stored with care.

The best protection from radiation exposure is distance, duration, and barriers. Being away from a radiation sources isn’t always possible, but working with them for short periods and using some form of barrier protection will help. The types of radioactive material handled in labs today generally emit low levels of energy, and the use of Standard Precautions offers sufficient protection. Gloves, lab coats and face protection will provide the necessary protective barriers when handling these standard materials (Note: items like thyroid tissue that have been infused with Iodine-125 contain above-normal levels of energy and should be treated with extra care).

The College of American Pathologists (CAP) updated its regulations last year regarding radiation safety in the laboratory. Some of the standards were moved from the Anatomic Pathology checklist, and some are new. When asked, the CAP has stated that these standards do not apply to laboratories that handle low-level radiation samples such as sentinel lymph node biopsies.

First, the regulations require radiation safety handling policies and procedures which are maintained in a radiation safety manual. This manual can be paper or electronic, and it does not need to be separate from other lab safety policies. The policies should need to spell out who in the lab is authorized and restricted from handling radionuclides. Specific procedures should also be maintained to describe what actions to follow in the event of a radionuclide leak or damage to radioactive seeds. All radioactive materials and supplies should be inspected to ensure that there is no leakage or compromise that could expose staff unnecessarily.

The updated standards also require workplace radiation decontamination procedures, and labs that perform this type of work must keep records that document the effectiveness of the decontamination processes. Laboratories that handle radioactive substances must post radiation warning signs to communicate to others the potential dangers present, and all laboratory and medical staff must have comprehensive training prior to handling radioactive substances. Lastly, the CAP checklist now requires that if radioactive substances are handled in the lab, a laboratory representative must participate as a member of an institutional radiation safety committee.

Many things have changed in the laboratory setting over the past decades, and the regulations keep changing in an effort to stay current. The bottom line for radiation safety regulations in the lab is that staff need to be aware of what radioactive substances they may become exposed to, so they need to know safe handling processes as well as emergency response procedures. In the real world of lab medicine, radioactive substances do not glow, so lab staff may not be aware of the dangers when they enter the department. If the proper communication and practices are in place, however, everyone can maintain the minimum radiation exposure levels needed to live long and safe lives.

 

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Dan Scungio, MT(ASCP), SLS, CQA (ASQ) has over 25 years experience as a certified medical technologist. Today he is the Laboratory Safety Officer for Sentara Healthcare, a system of seven hospitals and over 20 laboratories and draw sites in the Tidewater area of Virginia. He is also known as Dan the Lab Safety Man, a lab safety consultant, educator, and trainer.

History and Characteristics of Generations

History plays a significant part in the development of any person; we are changed and altered by big historical events that take place during our life time. Understanding history is therefore an essential aspect of understanding people, communities, cultures, and generations.

The oldest generation living today is the GI Generation. This generation was born between circa 1901-1926 and have gone through significant changes in life and work environments during their lifetimes. The term GI Generation stems from the fact that a lot of soldiers from both WWI and WWII came from this generation. This generation came of age during the First World War and the Great Depression and most grew up without electricity, refrigerators, and credit cards.

The Traditionalist Generation was born around 1927-1945, so during the Great Depression and at the end of WWII. This is the era of pre-feminism, so women generally stayed at home to raise children. If women had jobs, it was typically until they were married and in professions such as secretary, nurse, and teacher.

This started to change during the next generation, the Baby Boomers, who were born between 1946 and 1964. The timeframe for this generation is so large that there are essentially two main groups: the revolutionaries from the ‘60s and ‘70s and the yuppies of the ‘70s and ‘80s. Women began working outside the home in record numbers, which created double-income households. Divorce also became more accepted and people starting buying things on credit.

The following generation is Generation X, who are born circa 1965-1980. Because most of their parents both worked, this generation is known as the “latch-key kids”, because they would walk home after school themselves as both their parents were working or divorced. This generation experienced the transition to digital knowledge, but remembers a time without computers.

The Millennial Generation, also known as Generation Y, was born around 1981-2000. This generation grew up in a world of technology and they have experiences some significant technological advances, which typically are very natural to them. They also grew up with enormous academic pressure and also the notion that you might not be save at school due to school shootings.

The newest generation is Generation Z who are born after 2001. People born during this time have never known a world without cell phones or computer and they are very technological savvy. Growing up during the great recession of the late 2000s, Z’ers feel unsettled and a level of professional insecurity.

The events mentioned above are all focused on events that took place in the United States of America, with some worldwide events included. To understand generations from other countries, it is important to learn about important historical events that occurred, while there are also some events that overlap. For instance, internet and cell phone are more widely available worldwide and there might be some similarities across nations in terms of the effect on generational understanding.

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-Lotte Mulder earned her Master’s of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2013, where she focused on Leadership and Group Development. She’s currently working toward a PhD in Organizational Leadership. At ASCP, Lotte designs and facilitates the ASCP Leadership Institute, an online leadership certificate program. She has also built ASCP’s first patient ambassador program, called Patient Champions, which leverages patient stories as they relate to the value of the lab.


 

The GI generation experienced events that impacted their assertive characteristics. If you know someone in this generation, they probably worked until they couldn’t work anymore instead of retiring. This work ethic comes from growing up during the deprivation of the Great Depression and are often referred to as the “Greatest Generation.” This term was coined by the NBC Nightly News anchor, Tom Brokaw in his book by the same name.

The Traditionalist generation are, well, traditional.  The value old-time morals, safety, security and may try your patience, especially in the work place. They are still working and act as the historians of the organization and/or the family because they have been there for a long time. You still might see them serve on Board of Directors and are Presidents because of their organizational knowledge and expertise. They are also known as the Silent Generation for an interesting reason.  It was this generation that coined the phrase, “Children are to be seen, and not heard!”

Did you know there are two groups of Baby Boomers?  The first group was born between 1946 and 1964.  They are often called the “Leading-edge Boomers.”  Those born between 1955 and 1964 are often called the “Shadow Boomers or Generation Jones.” The Baby Boomers are the largest generation in the US today, but they are slowly overpowered by the Millennial Generation. The have a team-oriented attitude and take their self-worth from their job. They are driven and optimistic and are often willing to learn how to use technology, but it takes a process as it doesn’t come as natural to them as to younger generations.

The Generation X are often referred to as the “middle child.”  This generation is street smart because most grew up in homes where both parents worked or were divorced. They started school without computers, but are experienced with them. They change careers often and are independent, flexible, and can easily adapt to new circumstances. They have an entrepreneurial spirit.

The Millennial Generation is our fastest growing generation in the U.S. workforce. They are the most diverse and are also known as the “Echo Boomers, Millenials, or Generation Y. Millenials understand the world of technology and it comes natural to them. They are resilient, optimistic, and creative because they experienced enormous academic pressure. They are very focused on professional development and to learn and improve what they do.

Generation Z is just starting to enter the workforce and they are independent, open-minded, and determined. They also have an entrepreneurial spirit, like Generation X, and they are loyal and compassionate. This emerging generation will be our new teachers because their minds work in so many directions because of their technology skills and aptitude.

It is easy to see how working with multiple generations in one department offers a full range of experiences, work styles, ideas, as well as, challenges. How can you improve the generational diversity of your personal or professional life?

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-Catherine Stakenas, MA, is the Senior Director of Organizational Leadership and Development and Performance Management at ASCP. She is certified in the use and interpretation of 28 self-assessment instruments and has designed and taught masters and doctoral level students.  

 

 

FISH! Philosophy

In Seattle, Pike Place Fish Market is nearly synonymous with the Pike Place Market. Tourists and locals stand and watch the fish mongers fill orders by throwing fish around the stand.  Everyone, including the employees, laughs and enjoys the atmosphere. This is where the FISH! Philosophy was born. FISH! is a leadership training method that focuses on four concepts to increase collaboration and excitement about work:

  • Choose your attitude
  • Be present
  • Play
  • Make someone else’s day

These concepts are not mind-blowing, and this is exactly why they’re effective. They are easy to remember and easily integrated into daily practice, whether you are a teacher,a an office worker,  or a laboratory professional. Becoming an effective and productive employee starts with choosing your own attitude. For example, when you choose the attitude of empowerment, support, and kindness, you start enacting them. In other words, you become kinder and you support and empower others more easily. As an experiment, I recently said to myself “I am energized and excited” when I was feeling the complete opposite. I started it as more of a joke, to be honest, but the interesting thing is that within twenty minutes, I actually became energized and excited. The power of our attitude is immense and we can all use it to our own and others’ benefit.

To be present is not an easy task. We are often pulled in many different directions, whether professionally or personally. Sometimes we can only think about work when we are at home, or we want to be at home when we are at work. The power of being present comes from acceptance; accepting that we are at work frees us from the resistance that is sapping our energy if we are mentally at home. We have all had conversations where someone wasn’t quite present and we can all remember how frustrating that was. On the other hand, having a conversation with someone who is present makes us feel important, appreciated, and empowered.

Work can be a serious place, especially when lives are at stake. However, there are always moments of play possible, even if it is during breaks or at lunch. If we focus on making someone else’s day, not only do we create a happier work force, we become happier ourselves. We all know how good it feels to make someone laugh, to make someone feel cared for. Perhaps it is something small, like asking if you can bring someone a coffee when you are running out to get one. Or perhaps you leave them a nice note or do a small task for them to make their day easier. I have a notepad with “Awesome Citations.” It is a simple note that I fill out and I hand to someone each week. Making someone’s day does not have to be big or extravagant. It is often the small gestures that people remember.

So go out and be present, while choosing your attitude. Play a little at work to make someone’s day. The simple acts we take every day can transform an entire department and organization. So why not throw some fish and have some fun?

 

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-Lotte Mulder earned her Master’s of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2013, where she focused on Leadership and Group Development. She’s currently working toward a PhD in Organizational Leadership. At ASCP, Lotte designs and facilitates the ASCP Leadership Institute, an online leadership certificate program. She has also built ASCP’s first patient ambassador program, called Patient Champions, which leverages patient stories as they relate to the value of the lab.


 

My story begins many decades ago when I was working in the laboratory at Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo, Michigan. While my favorite departments were Blood Bank and Hematology, I had the honor of working with Joie Vine and Dr. Hubbard, the supervisor and chief pathologist, respectively, of the microbiology department. Microbiology was my least favorite department, but luckily for me, Dr. Hubbard discovered early on that I loved to learn. Dr. Hubbard was small in stature, yet large in leadership skills.  He knew when to be serious and when to be light-hearted.  That attitude permeated the lab. Dr. Hubbard made it possible for me to go to the AABB conferences and U-Hospital (University of Michigan) for specialized training. As a lab professional, I was living the dream!

It was spring when Joie told me she was going on vacation and was short-staffed.  She asked me to fill in for her during the lunch hour for one week, which would allow her staff to go to lunch.  I said yes.  Everyday Dr. Hubbard would check in with me on his way to and from lunch.  By Thursday, I was really missing Blood Band so I decided to have some fun.  When Dr. Hubbard stopped by microbiology,  I opened a  feces container.  I look at him and said, “hmmm, looks like feces,” held it to my nose, “smells like feces,” and with my finger, I scooped a little and placed it in my mouth. I proclaimed, “it tastes like feces!” He was in total shock.  After a brief moment I burst into laughter and so did he!  I had placed peanut butter in the feces container!

So if you’re thinking you can’t apply the Fish Philosophy to the clinical laboratory environment, remember, we “Choose our Attitude every day.” It feels good to “Be There” when a friend needs us.  I’ll always remember when Dr. Hubbard said that “I Made His Day!” because we took a break from our serious work and played!

Catch the Energy — Lab Professionals are Fun People!

 

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-Catherine Stakenas, MA, is the Senior Director of Organizational Leadership and Development and Performance Management at ASCP. She is certified in the use and interpretation of 28 self-assessment instruments and has designed and taught masters and doctoral level students.  

Faculty Insights: Teaching Medical Laboratory Science in a Blended Learning Format

Thus far, we’ve talked about the structure of our blended model of curriculum delivery and the learner experience, but what about the instructor experience teaching in this format?

I surveyed a few of our faculty members about their experience teaching in our Medical Laboratory Science (MLS) Program, and their comments about our blended model of curriculum delivery fell into a few themes:

Benefits of the “flipped classroom” model

“Having students complete the lecture content as homework and then meeting with them for the hands-on ‘face-to-face’ learning adds another layer and more reinforcement of key concepts. If learners can’t understand what they’ve read or interacted with in the online component, they’ve got another chance to hear a short review of the material and actually perform a hands-on, real-world lab activity to reinforce again what they have learned. This is what makes blended learning so effective—read, learn, see, do—it hits the learning from every angle.”

“I believe the blended learning style with the online component is very effective, and I would bet that students retain more information and retain the information longer than in traditional formats. It’s all about reinforcement.”

Role of the instructor from “Sage on Stage” to a facilitator of the student’s knowledge acquisition and enhanced student learning

“As an instructor, I am no longer required to be the “Sage on the Stage,” and the questions from our students tend to be more specific, in that they come into the classroom prepared, having some base knowledge of the content.”

“I love teaching with a blended format. Having the online component allows the student to review the learning content prior to coming to lab where we meet face to face. The online blackboard format allows for several different ways to attack the learning, which is nice for the variety of students that we have (age, gender, and background), as well as a variety of learning styles.”

“Teaching with the online component allows for embedded written lessons, recorded lectures, PowerPoint handouts, images, YouTube videos, interactive activities such as a discussion board and wikis, and online worksheets—all at which the student can work through as fast or as slow as needed. Online learning allows for multiple levels of reinforcement to help make the information stick. It also helps learners be in control of their own learning. Access to information is not just a one-time shot in a live lecture. It’s there to use and review as much as needed.”

More time for instructor-led hands-on activities

“Time is another factor. We are only given so much time with the MLS students, and if we had to present all the lecture material in the classroom, we would not have time for all the laboratory activities that we have developed.”

“I like the fact that it puts the onus on the learner to engage with the material ahead of time, which allows for more hands-on learning in the classroom. The blended format makes it extremely conducive for a laboratory-based class.”

“When teaching morphology of cells, I like to use online question ‘banks’ with images of cells, crystals, casts, etc., for the students’ practice. They can review these question banks as much or as little as needed outside of the classroom. They can practice morphology identification at home, outside of class—all without the need of a microscope. Not only do they come into the classroom/lab knowing their cells, but they can work more efficiently and progress more quickly to advanced case studies.”

“I think the flipped model we implement is a great way to enhance our students’ reading skills and comprehension, while holding them accountable for completing the required assignments.”

“The blended approach allows us to address more difficult concepts. While the students may be able to grasp the concepts from their online reading, they also need talking points to confirm that they actually understand and can apply the concepts. We have found that giving the students the task of learning the online concepts can only really be successful if we follow up with them the next day, starting with a discussion about their online homework. We also give quizzes and have designed laboratory activities that apply the online concepts.”

Varied thoughts about course maintenance

“While the time to develop online content can be extensive, once it’s built in this format, it is easier to update and maintain on an annual basis.”

“It is not so easy to maintain the details in the online course. It takes a lot of time and effort to update all of the dates for assignments and other activities for each class section. Once the core components are built, one can easily add to the content. However, if one is building a new module or lesson, it can take a lot of time. It seems that the time to maintain an online course is similar to the time it takes to keep materials up-to-date in a traditional course.”

“At first, it took some getting used to grading assignments online, but I am used to it now and actually prefer it. It’s so easy for a student to do a “copy/paste” when filling out an online worksheet, so I do question typing (copy/paste) vs. writing things out on a worksheet and how well the information is sticking. With the intensity of our program, time is of the essence. I like that as soon as students submit their online assignments, I can grade it. Some students like to work ahead, and some turn things in at the last second. With the online submissions, I can grade as they come in, instead of getting hit with 24 assignments at once, which is a big time-saver for me.”

Repurposing

“One of the greatest positives with [the software] Blackboard Learn is that we can use the system with multiple learners. The learner has easy access to the course once he/she is added to system. One cannot always say that with traditional classroom teaching/learning. Unless the content/didactic is recorded, there is not easy access to the materials.”

In summary, I would stress the following key points as benefits of adopting a blended approach to curriculum delivery:

  • Increased classroom time for hands-on activities that are more closely aligned with what the students will actually be doing once they graduate, get jobs, and go to work.
  • Increased instructor satisfaction.
  • Students are more prepared for the classroom activities.
  • Increased ability to engage students with higher-learning concepts.
  • Course maintenance is more efficient, and learning tools are enhanced.
  • Time and cost savings are realized, related to repurposing of curriculum across different learners.

 

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-Susan M. Lehman, MA, 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.