Designing Robust Assessments for ‘A&P Evolved’: Bridging Knowledge and Practical Application

October 18, 2023

In the field of health sciences education, the use of effective online assessment tools has become essential, especially when it comes to practical application of knowledge learned. But, when it comes to online education, one of the major questions  is how practical assessments can be created, implemented, and taken by the student, entirely from a computer screen.

Nowhere in the health education curriculum does this question come into play more than in Human Anatomy and Physiology courses, where a main focus is those hands-on assessments which take place in the physical lab. These courses are pivotal to health science education, and therefore, have always presented a challenge when it comes to adapting the course to online.

But, it has been done, and we can see it in Caedecus’ A&P Evolved course. This course is tailored to meet the needs of modern students and educators, utilizing  innovative assessment methods that actually improve student success rates and minimize attrition.

Here’s how it’s done, and how educators can learn from this model to apply it to their own online courses. 

The Anatomy of a Rigorous Assessment

Speaking of anatomy, online assessments in this specific course have their own anatomy in order to be reliable, consistent, and sensible for students. This can be done by following these steps: 

1. Creating Diverse Question Types

Online assessments adapted for courses that traditionally include a practical component will need to go beyond the conventional multiple-choice questions in order to rigorously assess students. This approach not only assesses knowledge retention but also stimulates critical thinking and cognitive skills development. By incorporating diverse question types — from  essay questions and case studies, to practical scenarios, diagrams, etc. — educators can engage students in higher-order thinking and problem-solving while being able to accurately evaluate their answers. 

2.  Implementing Real-World Application

Another method is to implement real-world application into assessments. This can  be achieved by creating case-based questions that require students to apply their knowledge to practical scenarios. These questions should present real-life medical or athletic situations and challenge students to analyze, problem-solve, and provide reasoned responses, bridging the gap between theory and practice.

Leveraging Technology

Online education harnesses technology to achieve what was once deemed impossible. Daily advancements pave the way for educational institutions to recreate the physical classroom in ways that often surpass the capabilities of traditional brick-and-mortar settings:

A. Simulations & Interactive Models

Simulations and interactive models within assessments are powerful tools to replicate real-life scenarios. By providing students with opportunities to virtually experience medical or athletic situations, educators can assess their decision-making, problem-solving, and critical thinking abilities in a controlled, risk-free environment.

B. Randomized Question Banks

Randomizing questions and answer choices can be a deterrent to academic dishonesty, especially now that AI has come to the forefront. When online courses can leverage technology, it helps to ensure  that each student receives a unique set of questions, making it more challenging to share answers or engage in unethical behavior. Not only does randomization uphold integrity, it also gives students the opportunity to exercise their knowledge of the material with multiple chances to demonstrate what they’ve learned. 

Feedback & Continuous Improvement

In courses like A&P, which typically include a practical component, incorporating feedback and cultivating a culture of continuous improvement are important. These concepts play an important role in developing assessments for  when these courses are taken online. Here’s how:

A. Analyzing Student Performance

Assessment data can provide valuable insights into student strengths and weaknesses, if it’s thoughtfully incorporated into the assessment itself. Educators should harness this data to make informed decisions about their teaching methods and course content, differentiating instruction when appropriate.. By identifying areas where students struggle, educators can tailor their instruction to address these challenges effectively, which can be easily done in online settings. 

B. Iterative Design

Speaking of data, it’s important that well-designed assessments should not remain static;tThey should evolve alongside the curriculum, reflecting changes in the field but also catering to students’ different learning needs.. Regular assessment review and refinement ensure that the assessments remain relevant and continue to meet the course’s educational objectives.

In both cases, health science educators should always provide feedback to their students on their performance, even if they are not actively seeking it. At the same time, educators should continuously work on improving their pedagogy as well, by taking courses, attending professional developments, and learning all the ways in which health science education has evolved and will continue to do so. 

The Bottom Line

Health sciences education has evolved immensely with the push to online learning and the availability of innovative tools to make it happen. Part of this shift though requires the availability of well-designed assessment, which plays an important role in adapting courses to this new framework. When both students and educators  are able to see how this has been done successfully, 

Caduceus’  ‘A&P Evolved‘ online course offers students and educators a digital spin on a class that would otherwise need to have an in-person practical component. The course’s use of technology demonstrates the way educators can use tools and thoughtful assessment design to bridge the gap between knowledge and practical application. By taking this course to see for yourself or by undertaking some of the strategies used to adapt it to online, we aim to prepare  students for successful careers in the health sciences, while keeping educators adaptable. 

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