The Value of Embedded Multimedia in Health Sciences Programs

December 10, 2014 Kristen Hicks

Examining a patient, analyzing an X-ray, performing surgery—most of the day-to-day tasks that doctors and nurses perform don’t involve much reading and writing. The same is true for health sciences education. Students can learn some of what they need to know through reading and writing, but much of what they must learn to be successful in the workforce can’t be easily communicated with words on a page.

Learning Outside of the Classroom

Health sciences programs clearly know this. Much of the educational process happens outside of the classroom. Anatomy labs give students hands-on learning experience with human bodies, and OSCEs allow them to examine a “patient” and make the kinds of quick decisions their jobs will require. (By the way, we can help with measuring learning outcomes while you use these out-of-the-classroom teaching methods. Just ask us how.)

Success in the health sciences requires skills and knowledge that can only be gained with access to learning tools that incorporate the more visual, audio, and personal aspects of working with a patient.

Assessment Mostly Happens in the Classroom

The effective teaching strategies health sciences faculty have developed for making sure students can pick up on these skills before graduation are more easily applied to the teaching process than the assessment process. Interactive teaching methods can help bridge the gap between book knowledge and hands-on learning; however, when it comes to exam administration and measuring learning outcomes, much of that still takes place in the classroom.

While many health sciences programs have already moved beyond the pen-and-paper exams toward computer-based testing, many haven’t taken advantage of the opportunity this format brings for incorporating multimedia into exams. For the health sciences in particular, the use of visual, audio, and video media within an exam can strengthen the learning-assessment process. If you create an exam that uses multimedia effectively, your students will be challenged to think critically, and you’ll end up with a better measure of their knowledge.

Some Examples

Think of the many audio and visual signals students must check to properly analyze symptoms and make a diagnosis. Now think of how many of those can’t be adequately described with words. Each of the following can be more effectively tested with the use of multimedia:

  • Identifying the likely cause of a rash.
  • Analyzing an X-ray.
  • Determining if there’s anything abnormal about a heartbeat.
  • Sensing the level of pain or distress in a patient’s voice.
  • Identifying pupil dilation.
  • Recognizing if a patient exhibits dry or pale skin.
  • Identifying cavity buildup or other dental issues.

This is a very short list of the many skills and competencies you can better measure the knowledge of on an exam with multimedia. 

There are still a few things you can’t quite manage with an exam—you can’t smell a patient’s breath or tell if his or her skin feels clammy—but the list of things you can use learning assessment for grows substantially once you start adding multimedia into your testing.

If you’re interested in starting to use multimedia in your tests but aren’t really sure how, let us show you with a quick demo. You’ll probably be surprised how easy it is.


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