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UT System Aims to Transform Medical Education with New Models

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With the goal of achieving exponential gains in student success, the UT System and its Institute for Transformational Learning (ITL) are working in close partnership with the System’s 15 academic and health science campuses to build new, innovative models for education including competency-based learning and mobile-first, personalized learning.
Middle School to Medical School
The Institute for Transformational Learning’s UTx initiative is working in partnership with the new University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine to create a smoother pathway for young students dreaming of a career in healthcare. Students will be able to start coursework as early as high school with a direct pathway into a BS in Biomedical Science. The BS degree is aligned with graduate medical degree programs. The first of several competency-based curriculum redesign programs, Middle School to Medical School is a bilingual pathway that combines weekly face-to-face classroom time with contextual learning in community-based labs. The program is a tight collaboration with regional community colleges and high schools, and will prepare students for exciting careers in a variety of health-related fields including: anatomy, body systems, biochemistry, bioinformatics, genetics, genomics, human behavior, microbiology, molecular and cell biology, and neuroscience. The program is designed to meet a pressing need for qualified health care providers and leaders in the Valley.
UTx: Portfolio of Initiatives
The progressive program is one of several projects being developed as part of UTx, an innovative portfolio of initiatives from the Institute of Transformational Learning. It is the stated mission of every UTx project is to empower campus partners across the UT System to identify and develop transformational and sustainable models of education that are student-centered, industry aligned, personalized, data-driven and scalable. Additionally, UTx projects are designed to:
  • Optimize time to completion
  • Provide ability to identify students’ learning gaps and provide extra practice in those areas
  • Offer powerful 360 degree student support services
  • Provide engaging premium learning content and collaborative tools
  • Support a multi-lingual educational experience
  • Illuminate data-driven analytics to inform compelling empirical research
TEx: Mobile-First Platform
The redesigned Biomedical Science degree program is delivered on the TEx platform– a next-generation, mobile-first platform that allows content, tests and interaction to meet students wherever they are via their mobile devices. In time the team hopes to use the data from TEx to power personalization of the learning environment. This could include all sorts of student interventions from content recommendations to improvements in instructional design based on student feedback. Also central to TEx is the persistent, progressive student profile that is at the center of the learning environment. The data collected about the students via the profile serves as the engine that powers the personalized aspects of TEx, according to the team. Based on each student’s goals, interests, and learning styles, faculty and administrators plan to use that data to surface different recommendations, connections, and interventions to ensure the highest rate of success for students in the course and program as part of the Institute’s work with Civitas Learning. Their early work with Civitas Learning allows the team to surface and share engagement data with the administration, faculty, and student lifecycle coaches. This data keeps them quickly and easily apprised of the students’ performance and trajectory within the program, and allows them to drive human intervention when students are falling behind or off track. The expectation is that this intervention will result in increased persistence in the program, and significantly more students not just graduating, but also making the successful transition into medical school. When creating TEx, the team at ITL was mindful that it had to compete for students’ attention with all of the consumer-grade apps out there such as SnapChat or Minecraft. As a result, they chose Robots and Pencils, a mobile app development company based in Calgary, for the TEx mobile development because of their experience building mobile apps in a competitive consumer-driven market space. Robots and Pencil’s clients include Nike, WestJet, and other global 100 companies. Robots and Pencils brings their significant experience to bear around user interface design and mobile development while ITL provides the pedagogical requirements and knowledge to build a first-class higher education learning environment app.
Competency-Based Curriculum
The ITL supports competency-based curriculum as the right match for the Biomedical degree pathway because the medical professions and medical research fields are highly skills-based. In competency-based education, students are not awarded grades or credits for ‘seat time,’ but instead receive credits for mastery of identified competencies and learning objects, as evidenced by myriad assessments and work in authentic learning environments. Students completing the program receive both a traditional and a competency-based transcript. A break-through hybrid model, the program provides an individualized, personalized pathways to completion with students able to progress as quickly or as slowly as they need based on their expertise in any given topic or learning objective. Strong, highly personalized support is provided online to each student from faculty as well as a student life-cycle coach who, along with faculty, works to monitor each student’s progress, helping them stay engaged and successfully on track to completion.
Design Thinking in Faculty Collaboratives
In building out the curriculum and new model, ITL team members work in close collaboration with UT faculty. Together they are employing design thinking with a goal to create scalable programs that can serve student audiences from high school through university, and on through professional and continuing education. This partnership process embraces analysis and synthesis in a series of iterations that allows faculty to focus on content, ideas, learning objectives and pedagogy, while ITL facilitators support documentation and assist with building the curriculum, thus allowing faculty to focus on content. Director of Competency-based Program Design and Development with the Institute for Transformational Learning, Joann Kozyrev, believes the faculty-driven process holds real promise to lead next-generation programming models, the implementation of data analytics (in partnership with Civitas Learning) and the best of educational technology. Joann Kozyrev, Director of Competency-Based Program Design elaborates on the design thinking process in this blog post.
Transforming Medical Education
In addition to working closely with faculty from UT Rio Grande Valley, UTx is also collaborating with faculty from UT Health Science Center San Antonio and the Dell Medical School at UT Austin to reimagine the future of medical education. In 2016, the team will be building educational programming with technology-enhanced, adaptive learning that can support the first two years of medical school at UT Health Science Center San Antonio. Beginning in 2017, assets from these programs can be reused and repurposed by other health sciences and medical schools within the UT System. All curriculum development in the initiative is in alignment with external standards set by the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, the Liaison Committee on Medical Education and the Institute of Medicine.
Building the Largest Public University Competency-Based Initiative
In addition to its transformational, leading work in the BS in Biomedical Science, UTx is partnering with faculty from various UT institutions and the System’s Office of Academic Affairs, to design and develop 10 competency-based degree programs in a variety of disciplines including Engineering, Nursing, Business and Computer Science. Starting in Fall 2015 the ITL team will begin the design process on nine more undergraduate competency-based degree programs. They conducted comprehensive market research to help narrow down the fields for the first programs to Engineering, Healthcare Professions, Business and Computer Science. These are the areas with the greatest workforce demand in Texas, as well as the most demand from current and prospective students. Their goal is to educate UT students through these competency-based degree programs so that they can do more than just get a job in these fields, they can have a successful career because they are prepared and have proven mastery of the material throughout the program all the way through graduation.

Dr. Marni Baker Stein

Dr. Marni Baker Stein, Chief Innovation Officer at the University of Texas System's Institute for Transformational Learning (ITL), is an authority on next generation program and curricular development, delivery, and assessment; student lifecycle management; and student-centered, outcomes-focused instructional design. Before joining the ITL, she was Senior Associate Dean of Columbia University’s School of Continuing Education, where she oversaw the school’s academic portfolio, and was responsible for the development, design, and evaluation of all online and hybrid programs.