Learning Moment

We worked with the Boston University Digital Learning Initiative to a build a system to capture knowledge from medical students in the ER.

Faster-Moving Field Education

Formal learning patterns have given way to faster-moving, less centralized methods of instruction in the medical field. This is fueled by advances in the business and administration of ER care. While this evolution is widely documented, there is little understanding of how this impacts the effectiveness of teaching.

A group of faculty members at the Boston University School of Medicine (BU) is seeking to address this understanding gap. The team designed a study to track key learning moments of medical students during their field education in the ER. To accomplish this, BU reached out to Vermonster to help design and build a system to gather information.

Requirements for the study included adhering to the strict confidentiality and security guidelines required in healthcare. We also needed to satisfy two business objectives: first, document key learning moments within the physical space of an emergency room, and second, allow medical students to share their experience.

Paper, Stickies, and Kano

We wanted to test the interface and learn more about the variables relevant to students. We started testing our initial ideas for logging a learning moment with real users: medical students and attending physicians. Using paper and sticky notes, we built four prototypes of the application with features we discussed during our weekly alignment meetings with faculty members.

Each test took 35 to 40 minutes per user. Prior to the individual tests, we briefly introduced interviewees to the concepts of usability testing and paper prototyping. Each user received a predefined learning moment to enter into the paper-based “application”. We asked users to walk us through each step they took during this task and to indicate whether their expectations were met. Through a Kano questionnaire, we received additional feedback for each feature tested. These studies gave us valuable insight for the technical decisions of the project and helped us rank which features were truly needed for the application.

Learning moments visualized on an ER floor plan

Storytelling with Interactive Visualizations

This academic study is an attempt to give insight into the current state of experiential learning. It uses practical experience to reinforce classroom retention by the learner. The goal is to create a system for medical students and other trainees to share what they have learned with their colleagues.

We’ve built a platform where students create sharable learning journals that describe the context surrounding a learning moment. A highly searchable experience features two interactive data visualizations. One visualization attempts to tell a story—it connects learning moments with the hospital floor plan. For example, it uses color and size to highlight the physical spaces that are more significant in the learning process. The other visualization is more explorative and uses color in a two-dimensional representation of the dataset, allowing users to select driving factors to highlight trends. Students can download journals and gain insights with reporting.