As Assistant Director of Faculty Development and Instructional Design at Oklahoma State University’s (OSU) College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM), Dan Thompson combines his passion for education with his love of tech daily. Drawing from his background as a high school teacher and from more than a decade’s experience in higher education, he supports faculty members at CVM in developing teaching methods that prepare students for their careers in medicine.
The College of Veterinary Medicine welcomes about 100 students per cohort into a four-year program; the first three years are classroom-based while students prepare for their final year of clinical rotations. Students in veterinary medical education programs are engaged in a curriculum that covers all types of veterinarians and animals, and all students share the learning track. This presents educators with the inherent challenge of how to create valuable learning experiences for 100 students in each class without overwhelming them or overstretching the faculty.
To fully support educators and students, Thompson, along with his colleague, Dr. Brandy Close, knew it was essential that students felt fully engaged with course content. Given such a large cohort, writing weekly essays and having hundreds of pages to read and return efficiently was out of the question. Instead, he needed to find a tool that invigorated large lecture classrooms without draining time, resources, and motivation. Nearpod was the solution to actively engage students with the course material through discussions, problem-solving, case-based learning, and other methods.
Thompson and Close had used Nearpod before, and for them, there was no doubt that it could allow them and their colleagues to engage students in a familiar environment. For decades, PowerPoint has been the most common way to give presentations, and Nearpod helped them to engage students in a slide-based presentation tool modality.
Keen to introduce active learning, Thompson has also found Nearpod a great bridge to introduce team-based learning and flipped classroom methods to faculty and students without catapulting them out of their comfort zone. According to Thompson, “The quiz function activates students’ prior knowledge before they split into groups so that they’re prepared to learn that day’s lesson and participate in class.”
Democratizing the Learning Experience
In a large lecture scenario, educators often wind up knowing what about five to 10 outspoken students have learned on any given topic. Nearpod has exponentially multiplied the CVM response rate, allowing faculty to get feedback from 100 students in a safe, collaborative environment.
Thompson said, “I learned this lesson as a teacher myself, in a smaller classroom: I could walk out of the room feeling like my students comprehended what I was teaching. However, at the end of the day, I called on, if I was lucky, 10 percent. Now our faculty can walk out of the room knowing what our students have learned and how to address student learning concerns moving forward.”
Learning is a two-way street, and through Nearpod’s short answer features, the teaching faculty at OSU has found a vital tool to troubleshoot and remediate in the moment. Nearpod is also used as a tool to make data-driven decisions with real-time insight during and after lectures. Thompson often takes data from a formative assessment and encourage his faculty team to post a quick addendum video and notes after class about areas in which students are struggling. He said, “Nearpod has given us the opportunity to provide informal feedback in the classroom and then deliver pre-made, actionable, formal feedback” to students’ inboxes or in a self-paced module.”
From the Podium to the Real World
Nearpod has been essential in bridging the gap in OSU’s vast lecture rooms and fostering positive relationships with students. Thompson encourages faculty members to not only log in as a student and get a real feel for what they’re seeing on their devices, but to also walk around with their tablets and share screens. This allows them to “step off the podium, move about the room, and engage students in sharing critical thinking.”
Case-Based Learning at the Heart of Health Professionals’ Education
Educators typically present a patient scenario to students so they can come up with a differential diagnosis, then provide them with more information so they can rule out potential diagnoses that are no longer possible. Students then narrow it down to an accurate diagnosis and devise a treatment plan. Nearpod’s collaborate boards have proven incredibly useful in allowing students to share ideas in a safe, anonymous environment and enabling educators to identify common errors and misconceptions.
One of the most-loved Nearpod features at OSU is Time to Climb, a game-like activity that levels up competition and engagement in the classroom while assessing students' understanding. For the coming academic year, Thompson hopes to harness Nearpod’s virtual reality programming to enable third- and fourth-year students to see the clinical space in which they are going to work. “When students go to a new rotation, there is a transitional period in which they must get physically used to the space they're in,” he said. “I would love to be able to provide our students the opportunity to see and feel the room . . . before they ever set foot in it.” Thompson is excited at the prospect of OSU’s faculty using Time to Climb and believes adult students will get a kick out of gamification.
Primed for Personal Development
As students learn, educators at OSU are learning with them. Thompson has found an interactive tool in Nearpod that enables his office to develop micro lessons that engage faculty and staff in their own professional development. He shares the tools, benefits, and best practices through live faculty development presentations or recorded videos. “I make all my faculty developments with Nearpod—it’s an easy way to make an interactive module for faculty and distribute it!”
Now in the college’s second year with Nearpod, Thompson has seen the biggest uptake so far. Prior to each semester, he holds a pre-course meeting with faculty to share information from the previous iteration of their course so they can make data-driven decisions to improve the upcoming course. “Faculty almost always have a question about asynchronous learning or student engagement. Nearpod is the answer,” he said.
Numbers Speak Louder Than Words
Thompson highlights how one faculty member exclusively teaches remotely. This past semester she switched to using Nearpod instead of PowerPoint, and students performed better on exams—across the board. The potential that Nearpod offers to actively include students of all levels stands out, in Thompson’s mind. He stated, “Nearpod is engagement. Education has been trial and error for millennia, and it's my job to promote teaching methods and tools that ensure student outcomes as well as making them feel comfortable and motivated.”
For Thompson, there is no level of learning in which educators don't want to engage their learners, and Nearpod has provided his faculty with tangible formative assessment tools. According to him, “If you’re looking for a learning tool with reusable elements that actually prepares students for their exams and careers, I believe Nearpod can help most educational institutions make the best use of their students’ and educators’ time.”
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