When Kaplan University’s Chair of the Medical Assisting Program, Dr Tricia Berry, was first asked to teach medical assisting online in 2006, she thought, that’s crazy!
More than ten years down the track, and now part of Purdue University Global, Trish and her team have proven that their own special form of blended learning produces successful medical assisting professionals. How do they do it? By taking advantage of technological developments that deliver realistic simulations for students to learn their skills and then placing students directly into clinics to practice.
When Trish started her journey to figure out how to teach medical assisting online, simulation options were limited. Online learning meant text and pictures and a few videos. Students didn’t have the opportunity to practice their skills. SIMTICS online simulations have changed all that. Trish says, ‘SIMTICS simulations are as close to the real world as you could get. What happens when you pick the wrong needle, place it at the wrong angle, or give the wrong medication? You’ll find out without the high stakes consequences.’
Chris Hollander, faculty member at Purdue Global and a Certified Medical Assistant for 30 years, agrees. ‘When I first saw SIMTICS, I felt like a kid in the middle of a candy store with a discount card! The challenge for online teaching is helping students visualize what they need to do. With SIMTICS, students can step through procedures, making decisions along the way. They can practice as much as they want, where they want, so when it’s time to work in the clinic, they know what to do.’
And the students love SIMTICS. Offering immediate feedback on the decisions students make during a simulated procedure, the product also provides explanations for each procedure, 3D and 2D anatomy images specific to a procedure, and videos of expert practitioners. Chris says the product encourages students to be critical thinkers and this is a big plus. ‘When students are practicing a procedure and receive corrective feedback, they can pause and work out what they did wrong, what they need to know and do differently.’
When students feel confident in their knowledge, they can test themselves using the test-mode simulations. If they’re proficient in that, SIMTICS offers a certificate of completion. ‘The certificate is the “refrigerator piece” for the students,’ says Chris. ‘But more importantly, for us as faculty, the analytics offered by SIMTICS allow instructors and clinical managers to see where students are excelling or struggling. We know where students need help and we can support them. Being able to practice the skills again and again online can turn students’ weaknesses into strengths.’
In her position, Trish says she is often approached by vendors selling education aids and she is naturally suspicious. While Trish and Chris were excited to see the SIMTICS demonstration and the opportunities for learning it embodied, the deal was sealed because SIMTICS was competitively priced, integrated easily with Purdue’s online platform, and offered credible people backing the product. ‘It was the right time and right opportunity for us and the perfect product for our students,’ says Trish.
They’ve never looked back.