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Create a competitive edge with an interactive learning environment

Moravian College combines tech and hands-on learning in new rehab sciences department

In April 2015, Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pa., decided to create a new rehabilitation sciences department—but we knew these wouldn’t be traditional classrooms. We wanted students to master the physical sciences using hands-on learning and cutting-edge technologies – and we recommend a similar approach for any higher-ed facility looking to boost interest and enrollment.

We chose a combination of technologies for our new 45,000-square-foot Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Center, where graduate students use tools like touchscreen-controlled cameras and displays to learn through experience. We chose large sized displays so students can easily view what’s being presented; high resolution, so students can see the finer detail in imaging like MRIs and radiographs; network features, which allow more effective remote management; and affordability. The screens deliver content to students via video and high-res imaging like diagnostic exams.

The Center’s design

In the Splinting Lab, students learn how to fabricate custom-made splints and casts. A 90-inch display is used for video instruction, so as the instructor demonstrates how to set a splint or cast, video plays in the background, showing the step-by-step process.  

In the Home Simulation Lab, students learn to provide care for patients returning home after a hospitalization or surgery. A 70-inch display delivers content to students as they learn activities like safely moving patients in and out of a bathtub.

Our Orthopedic Assessment Lab features a pentagonal arrangement of five 70-inch displays in the center of the room, and a 90-inch display on the wall. Students can use the displays to share presentations via wireless AirPlay, review demonstration videos and images, or parse research data, all at the same time in the same space. A faculty member can perform techniques that require close-up views, like a mobilization of a hand or wrist, under the cameras in the room. The cameras simultaneously project to screens, so all students can see their outputs from anywhere.

The Research Lab and Therapeutic Modalities Lab each have a 70-inch display to project images, sent via AirPlay or AirMedia from laptops and PCs connected to specialized instruments, for better viewing. In the Therapeutic Modalities Lab, students learn laser, ultrasound, electric stimulation, massage, and cold and heat therapy – all via hands-on work: The displays show students a case study before they use its findings to “deliver care,” with students playing the roles of clinician and patient.

Two classrooms, each with dual 80-inch displays, deliver lecture-type didactic materials in high resolution. In summer 2016, we employed these for distance education, allowing guest instructors across the country to teach via GoToMeeting and Zoom.  

The Functional Rehabilitation Lab uses two 90-inch displays as well as cameras to teach emergency medical care, biomechanics, and functional strength and conditioning. The screens and cameras allow instructors to capture video and play it back in slow motion to reinforce specific concepts.

Success Factors

We used the following best practices for our new experiential learning center:

Keep an open mind when designing or expanding curricula – you have a blank slate on which to work, so don’t be afraid to incorporate new technologies that will help students learn.  

Seek feedback – ask instructors what they need to enhance delivery of content and increase student engagement.

Ensure the technologies are easy to work with and that instructors receive appropriate training on them. This will ensure they actually use them.

Involve IT from the inception of the project. If internal resources are limited, hire an expert before you buy or install anything – they can advise on technologies and infrastructure requirements you might not think of.

Our new technologies let our instructors refine how they teach. They can show videos and subtle detail in diagnostic imaging, or film what’s happening in the lab and then use it as immediate feedback for students, while students learn via hands-on experience – because the best way to learn is by doing.  

Craig Underwood is director of media services for Moravian College’s Information Technology department. He can be reached at underwoodc@moravian.edu.

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