Meeting the challenge of designing and delivering an entry level unit of study to engage and inspire adult learners in online neuroscience education in a Bachelor of Dementia Care
Canty, A and Goldberg, LR and Ziebell, JM and Ceperkovic, H, Meeting the challenge of designing and delivering an entry level unit of study to engage and inspire adult learners in online neuroscience education in a Bachelor of Dementia Care, ICERI2015 Proceedings, 18-20 November, 2015, Seville, Spain, pp. 3941-3951. ISBN 978-84-608-2657-6 (2015) [Non Refereed Conference Paper]
The Bachelor of Dementia, offered by The University of Tasmania, Australia, is an open access degree program with few entry restrictions that attracts a diverse, predominantly part-time, mature age, female, non-traditional student cohort normally classified as ‘high risk’ of failing to meet the demands of a university level degree. The challenge was to design and deliver an entry level unit of study which would break down anticipated barriers to the study of neuroscience and to inspire and motivate students to progress towards core units exploring the neuroscience of the brain and pathology of dementia. Establishing a sound knowledge of the nervous system is essential for understanding the neuropathology and clinical manifestations of dementia and is important for those who need to provide effective daily care for adults with this condition. The Foundation unit ‘CAD004 Neurospeak – understanding the nervous system’ provides scaffolded opportunities for students to engage with the language of the nervous system, and to use it in a variety of ‘low stakes’ forums that develop confidence and encourage collegiality in an online environment. Students are led through weekly modules which provide opportunities to interact with the content and teaching staff via external websites, game software, discussion boards, drop-in virtual classroom sessions, short recorded vignettes and longer instructional vignettes prepared by staff that explore the anatomy of the brain using plastic models and human specimens. The vignettes culminate in a final virtual tour of a pathology museum to consolidate learning of a variety of anatomical features and disease states of the nervous system. Assessments cater for a variety of learning styles and include a self-directed research essay, the generation of a glossary of terms, a creative poster illustrating a component of the nervous system, a group oral presentation using interactive virtual classroom software and online quizzes for students to monitor their progress through the unit. Extensive written feedback for each assessment is provided as well as audio recordings from teaching staff to personalise the study experience and motivate students to continue. Student feedback consistently rates the unit highly; with high student agreement that the unit motivates learning and that feedback provided helps to achieve learning outcomes. "A feast of learning, and this is still just the beginning. From feeling daunted by this subject I now feel enthused, equipped and encouraged to delve deeper". This paper will summarise the design approach used and evaluate a number of components including the use of vignettes in online teaching, oral presentations and assessment strategies which together engage and inspire students to continue their neuroscience education.