How an Active Learning Strategy turned into an Authentic, Real Life Experience

Concurrent Session 2

Brief Abstract

Join us as we share our journey of teaching our future biomedical science educators how to develop and teach online courses. Learn how a brainstorming activity identified an authentic need in a program that ultimately led to the deployment of three online, self-paced tutorials for use in a biology course.


Mary Gozza-Cohen is an Assistant Director of Curriculum in the Institute of Emerging Health Professions in the College of Health Professions at Thomas Jefferson University with faculty appointments in the Department of Occupational Therapy in the Post Professional Occupational Therapy Doctoral Program and the College of Life Sciences. She has a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University at Albany. Her prior experience includes a full-time faculty member in various schools of education, Director of Technology Integration and Online Teaching and Learning, occupational therapy practitioner and various administrative business experiences in the medical industry. Her expertise in teaching, educational psychology, evidence-based practices in all learning environments, and special interest in online teaching and learning is utilized in her current role at TJU. She provides 1:1 assistance and professional development and support on course re/design, pedagogy, formative assessment, technology integration, and collaborates on grant projects, serves on dissertation committees, conducts research, and presents at conferences.

Extended Abstract

Theoretical perspectives and evidence-based practices are essential to learning but authentic learning experiences tend to lead to a deeper understanding.  Join us as we share our journey of teaching postdoctoral fellows and graduate students – our future biomedical science educators – how to develop and teach online courses. Learn how a brainstorming activity identified an authentic need in Jefferson’s Postbaccalaureate Pre-Professional Program (P4) that ultimately led to the development and deployment of three online, self-paced tutorials for use in the P4 biology course.

The journey began with a grant from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, titled “Online Teaching Immersion Experience,” that was awarded to the Jefferson College of Biomedical Sciences (JCBS) in collaboration with the Jefferson Center for Teaching and Learning and Widener University. The program was designed to immerse the postdoctoral fellows and graduate students in two online courses on evidence-based practices for developing and teaching online courses while simultaneously observing a real-time online course taught by their assigned faculty mentor.  The development of a science module that could be used in their mentor’s course or in their future teaching was supposed to occur during the second semester grant-related online course. However, leveraging the enthusiasm and excitement about creating online content that would be used in JCBS’ P4 program in the early spring was an unanticipated bonus.  In collaboration with Dr. Erin Heine, Assistant Director of the P4 program and biology course instructor, as the content expert, the creation of the science modules involved the use of the Backwards Design Framework, multiple methods of presenting content and engaging students (Universal Design for Learning), self-assessment techniques that included immediate feedback to the learner, and evidence-based practices in online course design and teaching.

In this session, we will share samples of the student-created online science tutorials and discuss the processes and experiences that the students had while creating and deploying the modules. We will also discuss our trials, tribulations, and thoughts regarding future modifications and the sustainability of the program activities. 

  • Participants will understand how active learning strategies can result in naturally occurring authentic and meaningful activities for students.  It is the hope that this shared experience will elicit some ideas for faculty use in other courses.

Bransford, J.D.,  Brown, A. L., & Cocking, R. R. (Eds.). 2000. How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, And School (expanded ed.). Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

Major, C.H., Harris, M. S.,&  Zakrajsek, T. (2016). Teaching for Learning: 101 Intentionally Designed Educational Activities to Put Students on the Path to Success. New York, NY. Taylor & Frances.

Miller, M.D. (2014). Minds Online: Teaching Effectively with Technology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.