M2 activity: Motivation and challenge of teaching online

The overwhelming majority of students who take my human physiology course intend to apply to medical school.  In order to complete a medical school application, these students are asked to complete a number of academically challenging and time consuming prerequisite classes, score well on the MCAT, and at the same time juggle volunteer, shadowing, and research experiences.  Offering human physiology online provides an opportunity for students who cannot be on campus during the summer to focus on and complete one of their many courses outside of the traditional school year.  I am motivated to teach online because I feel this approach specifically addresses the needs of many of my students.  Also, online education, in one form or another, is a trend that is unlikely to go away anytime soon.  I’m excited to learn more about how to do it the right way and have the opportunity to try it out this summer.

The main challenge that I face in design of an online human physiology course relates to the generation of meaningful discussion material.  The content of this course is not easily amenable to many of the suggestions typically provided in the literature, for example, debate.  One good practice involves solving a problem, however, if there are only one or a few possible answers/approaches to the problem, won’t the first few students arrive at the answer(s) allowing the remaining students to passively copy their work?  Perhaps student answers to discussion problems could be revealed after a set period of time, allowing each student the opportunity to arrive at their own conclusion.  I will continue to look for good examples of discussion practices in similar courses.


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