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May 18, 2021 3 min read

CHSU: How did CHSU switch to online TBL classes during COVID-19?


About California Health Sciences University, College of Osteopathic Medicine

California Health Sciences University was established in 2012 with a mission of developing leaders capable of meeting the healthcare needs of the future through a performance-based education.

 The CHSU COM program is a four-year Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) program where students spend the first two years learning from a modified two-pass systems-based curricular model in a team-based learning (TBL) environment to improve knowledge, retention, and performance. This model integrates realistic patient scenarios with scientific principles, problem-solving skills, active learning, and clinical practice. 

 In years three and four, COM students gain hands-on experience through their clinical clerkships based at regional hospitals, and other health care facilities.

CHSU COM’s shift to virtual TBL classes during the pandemic

CHSU COM started using InteDashboard in October 2019. When COVID hit and the education rapidly moved online, the CHSU COM team was proactive in identifying the challenges early on and was determined to find solutions to continue delivering quality education to their students. Some of the challenges faced by the team were:  

  1. The technological necessities: To deliver quality TBL online, the CHSU COM team realized that they needed a digital infrastructure to serve the faculty members and students. They needed a TBL platform and a video conferencing tool. InteDashboard was an obvious choice for the TBL platform as it allows to deliver the entire TBL process online. Zoom was the other obvious choice because of its video conferencing and breakout room functionality. 
  2. Need for faculty development: Besides software and the equipment requirement, the CHSU team saw the need to have a team to support the faculty and students. There was a need for faculty development so that all the instructors could teach online, using InteDashboard and Zoom comfortably. There was a need to manage student concerns and expectations.
  3. Challenge of delivering quality TBL Class: The CHSU team did not want to compromise on the quality of virtual TBL classes. For example, simultaneous reporting is a key component of the application process in a TBL class and adds substantial value to a TBL class. They needed a platform that would allow instructors to do simultaneous reporting. Another challenge was how to manage the integrity of the RATs. 
  4. Student engagement: With no more face-to-face interactions, student engagement in a virtual setting would remain a challenge. The benefits of the team-based learning approach are that it fosters deeper discussions and improves learning retention. CHSU COM team couldn't have comprised on this aspect.  

CHSU team had to address these challenges quickly, head-on. To move online, the CHSU team implemented the following plans: 

  1. The digital readiness plan: CHSU team came up with a digital readiness plan to help their students and faculty members move to the virtual environment quickly. A bigger component of this plan was to get faculty members familiar with InteDashboard and Zoom. This was achieved through online faculty training workshops. Faculty members were provided in-house training. The InteDashboard team also supported the educators by organizing group onboarding training sessions and online workshops, such as Flattening Online TBL Teaching Curve to help instructors move to online teaching effectively.
  2. Using co-facilitation as a strategy to train instructors: CHSU encouraged instructors to attend other instructors’ sessions and support them until everyone became comfortable with online teaching. Co-facilitation helped instructors new to TBL to get familiar with the entire TBL process. Once the instructor became well versed, then he/she could start facilitating sessions on their own. Having a co-facilitator, or even a couple of facilitators in the TBL class was helpful for instructors as it allowed instructors to visit breakout rooms during team discussions and to get a sneak peek of discussion points. This provided a structured idea to the instructor on how to lead the TRAT and application discussion.
  3. Re-working on the facilitation skills: The CHSU team decided to re-work the facilitation skills to make sure that educators were able to facilitate comfortably. CHSU organized both internal and external faculty development activities to highlight the importance of facilitating, especially in a virtual environment. The facilitation screen on InteDashboard allowed instructors to lead the TRAT and application discussion in a consistent manner. This helped maintain the quality of instruction. Facilitating the classes using InteDashboard made sure that students didn’t feel a huge difference between a virtual class versus an in-person class.
  4. Building engagement using InteDashboard and Zoom: InteDashboard provides the digital immediate feedback to teams during the TRAT. The instructors get to see in real-time how the teams are performing. This is extremely useful data for an instructor as it allows the instructor to provide adequate information and explanations to teams and cover the knowledge gaps as much as possible. The instructor visits to the breakout rooms allow the instructor to keep note of areas that sparked the discussion. This helped the instructor in guiding the facilitation during the TBL session and allowed the instructor to ask probing question to drive further discussion.

The CHSU COM team implemented other steps as well to manage student expectations and drive cohesive team dynamics. The program continues to provide an optimal learning environment to best serve CHSU-COM’s Student Doctors. CHSU has been able to keep its promise of performance-based quality education even in these uncertain times.

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