May 4, 2007

Neurology clerkship uses podcasting to enhance learning

Featured Image

Heather Burks listens to an educational podcast from Vanderbilt's Neurology clerkship while working out last week in the student recreation center on campus. Students can download the digital media files to iPods, MP3 players, or burn them to a CD, and continue to study while engaged in other activities. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Neurology clerkship uses podcasting to enhance learning

Vanderbilt's Neurology clerkship program is one of the first clinical departments and medical school clerkships in the country to implement podcasting as a tool for enhancing medical education.

Students can download the digital media files to iPods, MP3 players, or burn them to a CD, and continue to study while engaged in other life activities, said Neurology Clerkship Director Adrian Jarquin-Valdivia, M.D., R.D.M.S.

“We began creating and delivering podcasts with the purpose of enhancing medical education,” he said.

“The technology is just sitting there, but most institutions are not making as much use of this as they could. We are the first clerkship to do this, and, really, the first department to use podcasts as an educational tool.”

Neurology Chair Robert Macdonald, M.D., Ph.D., views the addition of podcasting as one of many techniques being used to “enhance and enrich the Neurology clerkship.”

“Dr. Valdivia is a Vanderbilt Master Clinical Teacher and he has used his energy and creativity to develop many novel and exciting approaches to learning during the clerkship,” Macdonald said.

“In a short time, he has become a leader in innovation in neurology education. His impact on our clerkship can be clearly seen in the enthusiasm of our students and in their outstanding performance on the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) scores that soon will be leading all neurology programs in the country.”

Others who were instrumental in developing the podcasts for VUMC include medical student Francine Arneson and Neurology residents Liya Beyderman, M.D., and Derek Riebau, M.D.

The project began late last year with an initial five podcasts, and has since increased to eight topics – sleep disorders, dementia, stroke, headache, acute back pain, meningitis and two segments under the title of “NeuroMedley.”

“We were trying to increase the quality and the quantity of the educational value of our clerkship,” Valdivia said.

“We had all of these slides and lectures, but we knew there was something more that we could do so we started to study podcasting as an innovative tool.”

Since implementing podcasts, the technology has opened up several other possibilities for future projects. Ideas include extending the podcasts to the residency level, assigning new podcasts to groups of students as part of their clerkship, and using the technology for CME credits at Vanderbilt or outside of Vanderbilt.

“This is just the beginning,” Valdivia said. “We are trying something new and we like it, and some people, including myself, are very interested in seeing how this will evolve and how can we use this new technology to learn more, to learn better, to learn faster and to deliver more in less time.

“Something that has been reiterated to me is that different people learn differently; some people are very visual and some people learn by hearing more than others. I think part of it is trying to figure out what would make the non-auditory students be more interested in the delivery of knowledge,” Valdivia said.

One important aspect of this project is that it only requires a computer with a microphone and a podcasting program to get started. The Neurology clerkship used the “Audacity” program for its podcasting.

Valdivia said it is important, when podcasting, to consider that the material has to be “listenable” and not just readable.

“It added a nice element to the process, making the individual more engaged and able to absorb the material better,” he said. “We want to strengthen memory and deliver new knowledge, or strengthen what was originally studied.”

“In some ways it is passive learning but nevertheless it should strengthen the knowledge that they have.”

Topics are chosen based on what is important that has not been covered in lectures and that can serve as supplemental education to the core clerkship material.

“We don't have a lecture on sleep disorders, for example, so we made a podcast so there will be a little bit more material there. And, when they finish their clerkship, they will know a little more about sleep disorders than some of the prior generations.”

To find the educational podcasts, go to the Brainiacs Web site, <, navigate down to NeuroVortex, log in, then scroll down on the page.