Posted on behalf of Richard Walker and incorporating notes from David Barrett
Tales from the Cardioverse (Ros Brownlow – University of York) explored students’ experiences of learning for a fully online distance learning course, drawing on evidence from structured interviews with participants and logged comments and discussion.
The presentation provided an excellent insight into how this distance learning course has adopted an ‘entertainment education’ design to teach students about coronary heart disease prevention. Entertainment education is not to be confused with ‘edutainment’ and gaming designs, but focuses instead on the emotional engagement of students with the course content, which is presented through the unfolding case histories of patients and the interventions of medical practitioners (both good and bad), which students observe and analyse. The case histories are designed to stimulate emotional involvement and engagement from students – Ros has defined these as ‘parasocial’ responses -which can take the form of empathy or aversion to the case study characters – much as we might feel when watching a soap opera on TV and forming opinions about the leading characters. However, the case histories offer far more than entertainment, they provide a valuable prism through which to observe and analyse practice and debate suitable strategies for managing coronary heart disease conditions. The melodrama draws in the student and sets a context for the discussion of the targeted learning material.
The online course is delivered through the University of York’s virtual learning environment and contains video interviews of interactions with medical practitioners and patients (played by actors), which are played out over several episodes. Students watch a video and then reflect on what they have seen using discussion forums, both privately and with course tutors. Some of the episodes are quite emotionally charged, and the VLE site has a dedicated ‘student-only’ blog area where participants can let off steam and vent their emotional responses to what they have seen, before embarking on formal learning tasks within the discussion board area of the course site. The videos of the patient – practitioner dialogues are of high production quality and authentic, enabling students to track the development of the relationship over a series of episodes, which are carefully scripted to introduce address the targeted learning concepts in an incremental fashion.
In summary, the entertainment education design offers much promise as a pedagogic model, scaffolding learning through the incremental (episodic) delivery of patient consultations, exposing students to different medical concepts and practices and at the same time encouraging to think and reflect on their own practice at the same time.
To find out more about Ros’ approach and the design of the Coronary Heart Disease Prevention programme, have a look at the case study that we have developed at the University of York on the programme, which is available here.