Student led interactive lectures: using an iPad app to deliver biology sessions to undergraduate nursing students


When did you first introduce the innovation?

Between 12 and 24 months ago

Please describe the innovation you have developed

Students requested additional 1-hour a week lectures on biology (in addition to what is already offered in the curriculum) during semester time. I delivered these sessions, but I did not use the traditional PowerPoint presentation, as giving a lecture was not what I wanted to achieve. I incorporated the use of an iPad app called ‘ShowMe’, which when connected to the computer and screened, transforms the projector into an interactive whiteboard. This allowed students and I to build a picture of an organ system together, answering questions and developing interaction during a lecture. This method of teaching allowed students to direct the session and myself to meet their individual needs as a learner or learner group.

The app allowed tape recording of the session, together with the drawings of organ systems, the brainstorming and notes generated so that these can be down loaded and placed on blackboard for students to access and listen to again. Generally each ‘extra biology’ session was based around a body system, led and directed by the students’ needs, so to complete a system may have taken more than one week to achieve. Thus, one system can take up to two/three weeks to go through it thoroughly. In addition, pathophysiology was often brought in throughout the discussions in the sessions and this helped the students to link the biology to the development of a particular illness/condition. The sessions were made relevant to all branches of nursing (adult, child and mental health) and a variety of examples were used to aid understanding.

In addition, throughout the exploration of each system it became clear to the students that each body system does not function as a separate and distinct organ (e.g. heart, lungs, kidneys, brain) but function as a collective whole. The students learned to recognize how the systems linked together and functioned as a single unit.

What prompted you to develop this innovation?

Often students undertaking nursing come from a widening participation and context and do not have a science background and often find biology difficult to grasp. The students requested these ‘extra biology’ sessions so I believed the students would be there. I wanted to make the students feel valued, arouse their curiosity for learning more about biology, build their self-confidence and begin to apply this knowledge to the care of individual patients on the ward. Therefore, incorporating the use of an iPad app to transform the overhead projector into an interactive whiteboard allowed student led learning, and them to direct the session.

In your view, what is it about this innovation that makes it different/important?

Through the use of an iPad app I can make every session context based, completely interactive, ask students questions throughout, link theory to practice and get the students to think. This approach to offering additional support for students promotes students’ individual development, making Higher Education a more thoughtful place that engages students in meaningful activities. I am trying to enable individual students to learn effectively by exposing them to high quality and appropriate teaching experiences geared to their own level of understanding.

To what extent does your innovation make use of existing approaches, resources or technologies?

To support these additional sessions I devised a selection of learning and teaching resources e.g. workbooks, quizzes. All students had open access to these materials on blackboard. These materials were there to help students attending the sessions consolidate their learning. In addition, free access was given to these materials to students who did not attend the sessions especially for students with dyslexia, who may require a little more time to understand and absorb information or for students who may be or have been sick and not get too far behind in their studies.

To support students to help them interpret and understand biology, and make the information delivered in these sessions more accessible to a much wider audience. I use my book written with a colleague as a resource ‘Essential pathophysiology for nursing and healthcare students’ released in October 2014. The motivation for this book was to bridge the gap for students between normal and abnormal human biology, which consequently leads to a pathophysiological condition/ illness/ disease.

In the book I focus on explaining simply nursing issues and provide the practical perspective that nurse’s find useful and relevant. As nursing research or theoretical books can often be written in a language which some nurses find inaccessible with their use of complex technological language or jargon. In this way I have presented my ideas in a language that student nurses can easily understand, in the same way I explain it to students in the ‘extra biology’ sessions.

To what degree has this innovation led to changes in education or clinical practice?

This innovation has led to changes in how lectures can be delivered and viewed by others. There is evidence emerging that suggests an overuse of PowerPoint in most universities and at conferences, and the use of an iPad as an interactive whiteboard can be a move forward in the development and enhancement of presenting information to large groups. For using lectures as a means to aid learning does not have to be one sided it can be interactive, inclusive and student directed.

What evidence do you have of the impact of the innovation?

Internal recognition

This work contributed to an award of an internal University Teaching Fellow

Student evaluations stated in their own words:

‘Thank you for all your help and support you have given us through out the course and even so much more unselfishly with such compassion! An inspiration to me, and everybody you have taught.’

‘I have learned a lot from you and appreciate your help.’

‘Thank you so much, your lessons were always so much fun and knowledgeable and helped me a lot!’

Students seem to benefit from this style of support for their learning:

‘Sharon has a wealth of knowledge, which inspires me to learn more about the subject’

‘Sharon has a passionate and caring approach, strives for her students to gain knowledge in the most effective way appropriate to their individual style’

‘The content was discussed thoroughly with a link to nursing practice!’

‘Interactions with students during sessions.’

‘I thoroughly enjoyed it and I learnt a lot, which will help me in placement.’

‘Overall the sessions were great and have been helpful.’

‘You demonstrated the body systems very well with the ShowMe app.’

‘2 hour sessions would be better, to cover more topics.’

‘Very helpful! Thank you for what you have taught us!’

‘Sharon has a wonderful way of delivering information in simple words.’

‘Sharon is very good at getting information across to students.’

‘An amazing lecturer who speaks students’ language; by saying that I mean she makes her lessons simple and more accessible for students to learn and easily understand what is being said throughout.’

Students have commented about the use of my book as a resource to support the ‘extra biology’ sessions:

‘For the first time, this book has made previously complex problems and issues much clearer and more accessible’.

‘Sharon’s new book explains pathophysiology the same as in the classroom, her knowledge is ‘up there’ but she puts it in such a way that explains it at our level’.

To what degree has the innovation been disseminated in your organisation or elsewhere?

I recommended this app at a recent iPad training workshop and the impact is that it is now shared and recommended to all iPad trainees.

Please provide details of any plans you have to disseminate the innovation in the future.

The saved ‘lectures’ can be viewed via a collective saving point available from ‘ShowMe’ and the presentations are disseminated and available to all users on request.