Assessment of a Hybrid Live/Online Histology Course: Facilitating Millenial Students’ Learning

Shepherd, Kathi, and Michelle Wheater

Understanding external demands confronted by millennial students, a hybrid live/online Histology course was piloted summer 2009 in the University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry Dental Hygiene Program. The purpose of developing the course was to provide students with more flexibility not only in learning but also in scheduling professional and personal obligations. The objectives were to: 1) increase learning satisfaction utilizing online learning as an adjunct versus traditional classroom learning alone; 2) provide a method of learning that will better prepare the student for taking electronic licensure examinations; 3) provide a format for self directed and/or group learning and 4) provide a mechanism to enhance the utilization of technology for learning. The course was organized as seven Learning Units, with one Learning Unit corresponding to each of the seven weeks in the session. For each Learning Unit, online instruction consisted of narrated PowerPoint lectures, links to relevant web content, a non-graded worksheet, and a graded ten question quiz. Students were permitted to work in groups to review the lectures and worksheets, but were expected to complete the quizzes independently. Once a week, the course director met with the students to review the material from one Learning Unit. The midterm and final exams were conducted in the classroom using conventional pencil and paper methods.

Methods: An assessment of student’s perceptions of the online course was conducted using a 15 question Likert scale survey. Approval as an exempt study was obtained from the University of Detroit Mercy IRB prior to administration of the survey (IRB Protocol Number 0809-56).

Results: The response rate was 70%, with 19 of 27 students completing the survey. All of the respondents were comfortable using the computer before taking the online course, and all but one enjoyed using technology to complete the course. Although students were permitted to study in groups, only 37% agreed that it is important to be a part of a group when learning a new subject. Correspondingly, only 32% of the respondents listen to narrated PowerPoint lectures in groups, preferring instead to study alone. About half (47%) of respondents felt that they had to spend more time on Histology compared to other courses during the summer term because they had to learn by themselves. 21% agreed that they would have learned more about Oral Histology if live lectures would have been given, and 16% agreed that they would have performed better if they could have interacted with the instructor every day. The majority of respondents (84%) felt ready to answer Histology questions on the National Boards. All respondents agreed that next year’s dental hygiene class will be able to learn about Histology by taking the online course.

Conclusions: Dental hygiene students are accepting of a hybrid live/online course in Histology and appear to find it a successful methodology for learning. One of the main goals of this course is to prepare students for National Board exams, and it is encouraging to find that the majority of the students feel prepared for the exam. The hybrid live/online course in Dental Hygiene Histology will continue to be offered and assessed.