Tips for Teaching Virtual Human Disease Courses

June 29, 2023

Teaching a human disease class online has its challenges. Human disease courses cover a great deal of material, from the details of disease transmission, function, and symptoms to diagnostic tests and treatment protocols.  If you are transitioning from a traditional teaching environment to a virtual classroom, there can be a learning curve in accessing technology, facilitating authentic online discussions, and adapting in-person activities and assessments.

Virtual learning has its advantages, too. Human disease course materials offered in multimedia formats can better engage students of the digital age. Online study aids can be more effective than their paper counterparts, and students may be more likely to use them. While studying online course materials, students have the vast resources of the internet at their fingertips, allowing them to look up confusing terms or double-check their understanding instantly. 

To make the most of the benefits of the virtual classroom, following a few tips will help ensure class success.

1. Develop Chapter Pretests

Assessing students’ knowledge base before teaching a topic allows you to tailor your teaching to their needs. For example, if pretesting reveals that your class already has a solid understanding of genetics, you might not have to devote as much time to that topic. On the other hand, if pretesting shows that a large percentage of your students have misconceptions about immunity, you can focus your efforts there.

Pretesting is especially valuable in the virtual classroom. The lack of face-to-face interaction with students can make it more difficult to discern how much background knowledge your students have. Online class discussions do not provide the same level of feedback you would get from the clearer facial expressions and body language of an in-person classroom. 

Comparing pretest scores to exam grades can help measure individual student progress and gauge whether the class is connecting with the material. Flexibility is one of the positives of virtual learning. Teaching online can make it easier to adjust your plan mid-course if students need additional instruction or a different mode of learning.

2. Encourage Students To Pronounce Terms Aloud in Context

Human disease terms, such as the names of pathogens, diagnostic tests, and treatments, can be easy to confuse and difficult to say. Learning to correctly pronounce vocabulary helps students break down longer words into their parts, deepening their understanding of definitions.

Provide opportunities to use the terms in context by having students explain the underlying causes of a disease, describe a diagnostic procedure, or compare treatment options. This can be incorporated into class discussions, virtual Think-Pair-Share activities, or unique assignments such as video or audio clips. 

Encourage your students to look for more chances to use the words in context by explaining what they’re learning to a friend, family member, or simply to themselves in the mirror. Practice in the accurate use of terminology builds confidence and competence, preparing students for further coursework and their transition into the working world. 

3. Provide Multimedia-Rich Course Materials

Virtual human disease course materials can enable you to present information in an engaging, interactive format that appeals to modern learners. Media-rich lessons allow you to connect with students who have various learning styles and preferences. Technology opens the door to a buffet of options for your students. In assigning graded work, you can select the learning tools that best suit a particular lesson, class, or student.

At Caduceus, we design media-rich human disease course materials that include 3D models, engaging video lectures, interactive learning modules, and supplemental resources.

4. Teach Your Students To Harness the Power of Metacognition 

Metacognition — actively thinking about how you think and learn — has been linked with overall academic success. Typically, many college students read and listen passively without comprehending or even truly engaging the material. You need not teach a study skills class to empower your students. You can demonstrate concept maps or model metacognitive thinking while presenting human disease concepts. 

Self-testing is a form of metacognition in which you ask yourself questions about the material and check your own answers. Study strategies such as flashcards and practice tests allow students to evaluate areas of strength and weakness, helping them study more efficiently.

Flashcards can help students memorize disease characteristics, methods of diagnosis, and appropriate methods of treatment. However, students are unlikely to follow through if you suggest they carry around a stack of handwritten index cards. Digital flashcards are accessible on student phones and tablets so they can be used on the go.

Practice tests provide students another format for assessing their knowledge and understanding of the human disease concepts they are learning in your course. Researchers have found them to be one of the most effective study methods

Caduceus human disease courses include hundreds of online flashcards covering key concepts and vocabulary. There are online practice quizzes for each chapter as well as a cumulative review. When a student answers a question incorrectly, the quiz automatically repopulates with questions about that material.

5. Let Students Teach

Step back and let your students do a little lesson planning for a change. Studies have shown that students get better test results when they prepare to teach a lesson than when they prepare for a test. As an instructor or program facilitator, you know that lesson prep involves:

  • Selecting key points you want to be sure your audience understands
  • Organizing the information into a logical structure
  • Thinking about how to convey confusing concepts

These steps are an excellent way to study the material at hand. Keep student teaching opportunities simple and brief at the beginning of the semester. Each student might research a key vocabulary word and teach it to their peers by video or during a class session. By the end of the semester, each student could teach a short lesson on a disease or treatment.

Group presentations are still possible in the virtual classroom. Students are now almost all digital natives, so they will likely be confident and comfortable with coordinating and communicating entirely online. Supply a grading rubric so expectations are clear, and require students to practice their presentations via video chat before they present to their peers.

6. Customize the Curriculum

You likely have a distinctive teaching style and manner of communicating with your students. Virtual teaching does not have to hamper your creativity or box you into a formulaic recitation of facts. On the contrary, the online classroom presents endless opportunities to add fun, thoughtful contemplation, or artistic flair — personal, meaningful touches that bring the subject to life for your students.

If you like to use humor in class, send a video joke before exams to help your students lighten up. YouTube is a treasure trove of parody music videos, flashy experiments, and animations of difficult concepts. TED talks are another great resource to help pique student interest in a topic or drive home a point. The virtual classroom makes it easy to deliver these links as asides in your regular communication with students.

Perhaps you like to offer opportunities for student reflection and input. Shy or quiet students who may not feel comfortable speaking up in a classroom environment are often more willing to participate in the virtual learning experience. They also have a chance to get a word in edgewise, as the online format tends to level the playing field a bit and allows more time and space for responses.

Each student has their own unique personality. Online learning offers more freedom in pacing, assignments, and assessments, so you can customize your course to best fit your teaching style and your students’ needs and learning preferences. 

The virtual classroom can also give your students the chance to make use of their talents and strengths. Consider outside-the-box assignments using free online resources such as Easelly for infographics, Wix or Weebly for website design, Animoto for videos, Scratch for animation and game creation, and Audacity for recording audio. Check with your students about their favorite sites for digital art creation, slideshows, and photo collages.

Caduceus makes it easy to customize your human disease course so you can focus on teaching instead of worrying about logistics. A dedicated support team is on standby around the clock to help you personalize and optimize your course materials. 

Caduceus’s digital proctoring service ensures the integrity of your online assessments. Timed, proctored exams are included in our human disease course materials. These tests are flexible and configurable, enabling you to further customize your students’ learning experience.

Empower Your Students

Broaden the appeal of your human disease course, offer a wealth of learning resources to your students, and give them the tools to succeed. Incorporate the tips above into your teaching framework as you prepare for the semester ahead. With the resources and support offered by an online course materials vendor like Caduceus, you can transform your teaching and offer more to your students. Get started with a free 30-day trial of our human disease course. 

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