Dr Michelle Rank shares teaching innovations with Australian Biochemist magazine

Learn how using digital technologies helps create an engaging small group learning experience in large Bachelor of Biomedicine cohorts.

Students have been impacted by a high degree of social isolation over the past two years of emergency remote learning, says Dr Michelle Rank, Department of Anatomy and Physiology Teaching Specialist, Topographic Anatomy.

“Many students early in their undergraduate learning journey have been disproportionately affected by the lack of on-campus interaction and have not yet had the opportunity to foster new social connections and participate in their education as part of a community of learners.

“This is important in the context of learning because effective learning is an inherently social activity.”

Dr Rank, who also features in the School’s In the Lab campaign, tells Australian Biochemist how a blended synchronous learning (BLS) approach is being used to deliver team-based learning activities, in online and face-to-face modes concurrently, to more than 550 students.

“Using a combination of digital technologies – Campuswire, Padlet and Zoom – and abundant enthusiasm, the large group lecture experience is transformed into a workshop format with collaborative small group activities,” she says.

“Students are able to collaborate with peers, communicate scientific thought, give and receive feedback and engage in formative learning based on exam-style short answer questions.”

This innovation in teaching has been rolled out in 2022 and is now recognised as a novel way to improve the student experience on-campus.

Many universities are embracing the benefits of flexible and remote learning formats post-COVID, but facing challenges in re-engaging students with social learning, particularly in large cohorts and especially while retaining flexible learning formats, says Dr Rank, who developed the initiative alongside Dr Yossi Rathner.

The impact is a re-imagining of the traditional university teaching format. It’s taking the best of our digital and on-campus capabilities and using them to radically improve the student experience.

Student feedback has been supportive with a majority agreeing the BLS approach has a positive impact on their learning experience.

One second year undergraduate biomedical sciences student says: “The Challenge Questions were really useful to go over what we had learnt in a different way, just to cement our learning with our groups. It was good to be able to interact with our lecturers and peers.”

Dr Rank’s teaching innovations were also showcased in the education section of the Australian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. The Society highlights the best of tertiary STEM education innovations in an effort to share best practice with science educators across the Australasian region.

Watch Dr Michelle Rank 

In the Lab with the Department of Anatomy and Physiology