My career portfolio and thought journals

Make Class Like a Video Game

Sim City

I’m Teaching My First Course!

Well, that’s not entirely true. As a graduate student, I taught the pharmacy law course under Dr. Dewey Garner, but he was still the instructor of record. However, he put me in total control of the course, from course discussions, test creation, and grade assignment, which gave me a really good perspective on how to manage a course. So, this course is my first course to teach as the instructor of record and I am very excited about having the opportunity to teach an elective course to pharmacy students. Being on research faculty, my only real opportunity to engage with pharmacy students has been through aligning the service requirements of my job to maximize student interaction. A research faculty teaching a course counts towards service. I am offering a 1 credit hour elective in Spring 2014 called Understanding Managed Care for pharmacy students in their second professional year of the pharmacy curriculum (PY2). You can follow my development of this course on this page, where I will be posting content about the course as I develop it.

My Plans for the Course

I am anticipating it to be quite a challenge to engage students in a seemingly boring topic like “managed care.” It even makes my teeth hurt a bit when I hear someone say those words and I am in managed care. In the interest of self-plagiarizing, I am going to lift a line from my teaching philosophy:

My primary goal as a teacher is to imbue students with my appreciation for information while providing both relevant and engaging learning opportunities so they never have to silently wonder, “Why do I have to learn this?” Keeping students engaged is far easier than trying to recapture their attention once it has been lost or reassigned.

I hope to make the class engaging by putting the pharmacy student in the decision maker position for all aspects of the class, through crafting their own formulary and deciding which utilization management techniques that would best serve the beneficiaries in the health plan or health system they are “in charge” of during the class.

Borrowing Ideas from Video Gameplay

Also, I am aiming to make learning managed care topics an organic experience throughout the semester. So, rather than having a class period dedicated to learning a potentially boring topic like “reimbursement and payment systems in managed care” and covering a smattering of esoteric key terms in one sitting, I am designing the course so that those terms come up when they are relevant to the discussion or the decision that the student needs to make concerning the drug benefit they are crafting. I think that is a tall order that I am assigning myself. After all, it would be much easier for me to just create a “lecture” (I despise that word) and “talk at them” about the topic, but ultimately I think it will be worth it in the long run for the student. I am envisioning progressive disclosure of relevant information as the course unfurls; similar to the way you might learn gameplay in a video game like SimCity. Now, I am not a huge video game player. In fact, I probably haven’t really played anything since my friends and I partook in a quick game of NCAA Football 2003 as a study break during pharmacy school, but think about it, if you were to sit down and read the entire manual before getting to play the game you would likely get bored and still not really get the concepts of the game until you actually got to play and make a few mistakes yourself. The game and the underlying rules are so complex, yet the gameplay is so smooth that it makes learning the rules seem like a natural part of the game. What fascinates me about SimCity is that there are so many elements that can influence the outcome of the game. It is considered an open-ended game, meaning that the game is played in a nonlinear fashion. You complete challenges as they arise and really in any order you please. All the while, there are underlying rules at play that you get the hang of as the game progresses and each move you make can affect the outcome of the game. Sounds a lot like the healthcare system, right?

How Will I Pull this Off?

Truthfully, I am not sure. I have some ideas that I have been floating around in my head for quite some time, but I don’t know whether they will play out in a class setting. I am a self-proclaimed edutainer, though not through the use of technology (yet), I aim to make classes in which I guest lecture as entertaining and engaging as possible. It began as a crutch for a shy, greenhorn graduate student, but it has continued into my faculty role, quite frankly because I think class should be a place to explore topics without reservation and nothing makes a class more reserved than one that doesn’t laugh together. I’ve had classes go both ways and I would much prefer laughter and engagement to silence and disconnection. I want to take the same principles of gameplay I described and apply them in the classroom setting. I think that would make for an exceptional class: one that is fun to teach and fun to be a part of as a student.

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