posted on Sept. 25: Faculty of Health Sciences joins online education initiative


The Faculty of Health Sciences along with partners at Sheridan College's Visualization Design Institute and the City of Hamilton's social and public health services division, have collaborated on a project investigating how problem-based learning can be modified for delivery using computer-mediated communication technology.

McMaster University is a pioneer in the application of problem-based learning.

“This exciting initiative brings together three groups with
real expertise in the area,” said John Kelton, dean of health sciences. “McMaster's focus is on learning through problem solving. We are now aligned with experts from the City of Hamilton and Sheridan College to address an important public health problem that affects Canadians and people around the world. Nursing experts from McMaster and specialists at Sheridan College, which has an international reputation for its skill in animation, are joining forces to develop an exciting educational tool.”

Learners in undergraduate nursing, medicine, and midwifery programs as well as graduate nurses are given online access to a problem-based learning case, discuss the case in small groups using the communications technology and are provided with current educational resources online to support their learning.

The case that has been developed for this project deals with Fetal Alcohol Effects/Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAE/FAS), which is a national health concern. Hamilton's public health research, education and development program has provided public health context experts to assist in developing the case.

“The project will help us better understand how problem-based learning can be offered online to support learners who experience challenges in accessing educational opportunities offered in traditional face-to-face formats,” said principal investigator Ruta Valaitis, a McMaster professor of nursing. “We are also investigating emerging learning objects standards to apply to educational resources.”

Co-investigators for this project are McMaster nursing colleague Wendy Sword and professor Bob Jones of Sheridan College.

McMaster University and Sheridan College have worked jointly on the development of this online problem-based learning case to incorporate rich graphic, audio and animation technologies.

Sheridan's Visualization Design Institute is an applied research unit created to extend knowledge and skills in animation and graphics beyond the traditional fields of art and entertainment. One of its mandates is to explore how visualization techniques can be applied in health education.

Funding for this project was obtained from the Office of Learning Technologies of Human Resources Development Canada. The grant for this project came from the New Practices in Learning Technologies program.