Bringing the First year class "home"
A Faculty Perspective : Amy Dinardo, OD, MBA, FAAO
Faculty and students alike at the Michigan College of Optometry were not immune to
the challenges that undoubtedly presented as a result of worldwide events in the 2020
academic year. As the summer began and the pandemic continued, Dr. Rosen and I started
talking about the unique challenges that come with indoctrinating the first year class-
particularly with our class Ocular Anatomy and Physiology. Like others at MCO, we
knew we wanted to provide first year students with a top-notch education and a solid
foundation for the remainder of their careers. With so much conflict and uncertainty
going on in society, we wanted to ensure a sense of stability and community at MCO.
We knew the first year students needed to feel connected with each other as well
as the rest of the MCO family. But how could we do that in one semester with one class?
Instead of seeing this as a disaster, Dr. Rosen and I decided to take this on as an opportunity to rethink our course design. Redesigning a course is not easy. Dr. Rosen and I invested hours upon hours of researching best practices for hyflex courses, recording and editing new content, and planning new ways to keep our students engaged and supported. As a way to get to know each other, Dr. Rosen and I started off the semester with an interactive game called “two truths and a lie”. The students were asked to post two truths about themselves and one lie. Then we would all guess which of the three was the lie. This was a fun way of us to get to know each other’s talents and interests in a way that we might not have been able to otherwise.
The remainder of the semester was filled with a combination of self-paced and live activities. Content was posted with enough time to allow students to go at their own pace. Research has shown that students retain material best when it is presented in short bursts. With that in mind, Dr. Rosen and I designed multiple short lectures that lasted no longer than 35 minutes. To increase the students’ interaction with the content and with each other, we used music and animated graphics, as well as problem-focused study guides and collaborative group activities. Live courses were interactive with no stakes quiz-type polls that allowed students to gain an idea on the level of their own understanding.
Dr. Dinardo's COVID-19 themed cookie creations
One of the unique challenges with online education is ensuring that the students are organized. Dr. Rosen and I also knew that students need to get timely feedback and answers to their questions. We combated that by posting “to do” lists with objectives and estimated time lengths for each chapter. We even estimated the amount of extra study time students would need outside of class activities in order to be successful. Additionally, any prerecorded content was posted using a platform that allows students to ask questions of us in real time.
Whenever a student posted a question about a lecture, Dr. Rosen and I immediately got an electronic notification that is time-stamped at the point in the lecture that the student had the question. Other students could see the question and read our responses. To wrap-up the course and review before finals week, Dr. Rosen and I conducted our fifth annual “Jeopardy” tournament using a remote quiz show program called Kahoot. Students logged in on Zoom and competed for points by answering questions related to course material. Some questions included optometry related questions that were actually asked on Jeopardy. Like past years when this event was conducted in person, it provided much needed light-hearted fun and friendly competition amongst students. It was a great way to get to know students and to motivate them at the end of the semester.
In the end, although the first semester was a little different from what we all imagined,
Dr. Rosen and I feel that we accomplished our goals of educating our new young O.D.’s
in a welcome and supportive environment- even if that environment was sometimes online.
In the words of first year Leah Thompson, “Drs. Dinardo and Rosen approached Ocular
A&P this semester with the students' academic and mental well-being in mind”. Ashely
adds, “Dr. Dinardo and Dr. Rosen provided some much needed structure to my academic schedule during this period of virtual learning!” Brittany Wendt says, "Dr. Dinardo's and Dr. Rosen's passion and empathy towards my class and the field of optometry was very evident. They went above and beyond to ensure we received the same quality instruction as any other class, and I deeply appreciate it." Nicholas Keinath says, " Dr. Dinardo and Dr. Rosen adapted to this semester's unique circumstances exceptionally well. They were eager to hear our concerns, and always responded promptly with understanding and flexibility."
If you know a first year student, please reach out to them and welcome them to the MCO family. Maybe give them a word or two of praise and encouragement for a job well done this semester!