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OnlinePath - Experience with Teaching an Online Pathology...

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Experience with Teaching an Online Pathology Course (Lectures, Labs, Discussions) John R. Minarcik, MD James Austin Destiny University School of Medicine Vieux Fort, St. Lucia, WI Summary: The author describes his 1) background , 2) technology , 3) experience , and 4) joys in delivering an entire Pathology course in 2009-2010. Background: The early days of the Internet were characterized by information (search engines) and simple person-to-person communication (e-mail), but now has evolved into interactive television, which includes spam, scammers, viruses, and spyware. There are a host of methods for people to share voice and graphics simultaneously, most of which work perfectly well on a one-on-one basis, but fall short beyond that. My dream had been to broadcast pathology lectures, pathology microscopic slides, and to host discussions all over the world using standard free software and standard home internet connections. That dream was realized in the fall of 2009. I was asked by Dr. Dan Harrington of Destiny University Medical School in St. Lucia to teach a pathology course geared for USMLE, step one.
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Technology: I had a good familiarity with all of the chat and instant messenger programs, especially those with multi-user capability. In addition, I had experimented with some of the “share screen" programs which seemed to work well for two people only. I had a basic familiarity with the popular net conferencing software such as WebEx®, but what I became particularly intrigued by was a newer free website called Dimdim 1 , which Dan had been using. Of course all of the net meeting software programs promise you the moon, especially if you pay for the premium services, but they usually fall short because of bandwidth hogging, if you are a mere mortal with a standard home DSL or cable account. Jim Austin at Destiny was the mastermind of working out all of these false promises and turning my classes into seemingly unlimited international online presentations. What I am the most proud of, and this may be unique to pathology, is that I discovered a way to put all of my pathology slides under the virtual microscope and project for each individual student simultaneously and easily. This is akin to every student feeling he is being personally tutored by sitting down with the pathologist over his office microscope. The general technique, specifically, is this: the student with the greatest band with hosts the audio portion of the lecture and lab sessions by virtue of using the Skype® 2 software, and the pathologist professor controls the video portion (Dimdim). This method enables a large
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number of students, perhaps at least 10 or 20 or more, to enter a pathology classroom and lab as long as the following conditions are satisfied: Each student: 1) is familiar with Skype.
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