The Anatomy and Physiology of Animals/Learning Design/ProjectPlan

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Project aims and overview

This project aims to design and develop an integrated OER resource for teaching Anatomy and Physiology of Animals to a level 2 standard approved by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. Currently, the course is taught in both face to face and distance modes at the Otago Polytechnic, New Zealand. Teaching and learning occurs primarily around:

  • lectures and tutorials, (in class for full-time students or at block courses for distance students
  • a core textbook Anatomy and Physiology of Animals available as a wikibook, or in print
  • worksheets which complement the text and exist in WikiEducator,
  • PowerPoint slides, handouts and quizzes which exist in the learning management system of the Polytechnic.

The outcome of this project is to integrate these resources into one teaching ‘package’ openly available on WikiEducator. Using the existing wikibook and worksheets, the project is to develop resources which will guide learners through their study of the text and engage them in practical activities. This will include the development of a teaching narrative, integrated learning activities and supporting media (images, audio, video and web-based interactions). As an OER, design and development of these elements needs to be towards reusability in a variety of learning contexts.

Learners and learner needs

Current learners are enrolled students at the Otago Polytechnic, studying for: the New Zealand National Certificate in Animal Care; The National Certificate in Veterinary Nursing; the Certificate in Rural Animal Technology (covering the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) Unit Standard 5180).

The Otago course typically attracts around 140 students, with up to 90 studying from a distance. The majority of students are women. Full time learners tend to be school leavers with about 20% mature students. Some of the learners have done little previous study and some want to move from a previous occupation. Others have done a university degree usually in a biological subject. Distance students tend to be older and working usually in the industry either as a veterinary nurse or at another kind of animal care facility e.g. pet groomers, cattery, farm. Entry to the course is open so many students have done virtually no previous biology. We therefore have to assume all biological vocabulary is new. Full time students tend to have greater computer literacy than the majority of distance students (at first anyway). Basic technical guidance will also need to be considered. Both face to face and distance students will benefit from this development but design will be focused on the needs of the distance learners.

Information from previous learners

Feedback from 5 students who have already completed the course (both face to face and distance) affirms a need for online resources which will provide them with the opportunity to review and expand concepts introduced in the book.

The chapters students seem to have most problems with are bones, the endocrine system, gut and digestion, cells and the cardiovascular system.Teaching staff feel that the first part of the course is the most difficult because it exposes students to a lot of subject jargon for the first time.

Distance students attend a 3 day block course, three times during the year. These courses are mostly very popular with the students as they give them the opportunity to meet each other and their tutors and to undertake practical aspects of the course such as dissections, viewing live animals, using microscopes etc. All except one of the students interviewed found the hands on aspect of these sessions very valuable although they felt they were rushed and there was not enough time for review and questions.

Specifically students articulated the following recommendations:

  • full colour, 3D images and animations to assist understanding of difficult concepts (eg endocrine system)
  • interactions which allow you to move things so you can learn a concept in a 'new way' – creating opportunities for repetitive learning
  • being required to summarise concepts in their own words
  • real life cases which highlight particular concepts (eg dog having puppies, 'violent dog')
  • dissections – filmed and viewable (eg rats, rabbits which were shown in class)
  • the lecturer talking through sections using diagrams or models or animal parts to help explain difficult areas.
  • images/photos of models or real objects to highlight particular sections
  • printable images and diagrams for note-taking and labelling ( students print the current PPTs to do this – some cut out pictures and put on walls to 'memorise')
  • audio to ensure correct pronunciation of new words/jargon
  • make linkages from topic to topic and to 'real life' more explicit
  • ways to overcome the sense of isoloation many distance students have. Opportunity to discuss learning problems with other class members, to share way in which they have been able to use new learning in practical work settings, discuss other related issues and perhaps some suggested, set questions.
  • clear guidelines at the start of the course about how best to use the resources (technical tips)

Both staff and students agree that the development of activities that will engage learners more with the text will be of benefit to the teaching and learning of the course. All students could benefit from access to these sorts of enhancements to the course, but the distance students will find them particularly useful and supportive.

Learning Activity

At the end of the course, students need to be able to demonstrate knowledge of animal cells, body tissue, body systems and associated fluids.

Learning mainly involves reading, memorizing subject-specific vocabulary, identifying major anatomical and physiological structures of animals, and applying this learning to practical situations related to animal care. Activities students need to undertake to successfully learn include:

  • rote memorizing
  • correctly identifying and labeling
  • viewing images, models, real anatomical parts
  • dissecting
  • using equipment correctly
  • learning from watching modeled activity
  • recalling and articulating information
  • demonstrating understanding

Teaching and learning approach

The course is very practical. However students are exposed to a lot of theoretical information and need to process it and rote memorise much of it in order to successfully undertake the practical exercises. Students are expected to do much of the reading on their own. Face to face sessions concentrate on elucidating more difficult concepts and include live or filmed demonstrations to enable students to see aspects of the course that are hard to explain with text only (for example, handling of real bones, correct use of a microscope).

Students have access to self-tests and quizzes to check learning and get immediate feedback. Students also have to show what they have learned in practical sessions.

(Extremely) summarized, teaching and learning involves cycles of ‘reading, watching, doing, recalling’. Students need to be actively engaged with learning materials to develop an understanding of new concepts, and to connect their relevance to the ‘real world’.

Currently this is possible because full-time students have regular face to face sessions and distance students attend face to face block courses. The block courses are regarded as highly valuable, but students feel rushed and say they want more time to speak with lecturers, each other and to be shown more.

Learning is currently assessed by satisfactory completion of a practical assessment book and 2 theory tests (multichoice, time restricted, must get 100% within three attempts).

Design rationale and concept

The main design considerations are to:

  • enhance the learning experience for distance students
  • integrate resources
  • further develop the visual richness of the course
  • maintain ‘hands-on’, practical, ‘real-world’ approach
  • create opportunity for reusability in multiple contexts

Integration of resources requires bringing them together in one place – WikiEducator.

To create a learning resource that can be used by distance students, with minimal mediation, it will be necessary to add a teaching narrative to the current wikibook. This means including brief introductions with brief rationale to each chapter, and adding in-line activity tropes indicating points at which learners need to move from text to activity.

From discussion with teaching staff and students, it seems that the main categories of activity which would assist students to engage effectively with the materials are:

  1. Practising: activities that get students moving objects, labeling, identifying (puzzles, drag and drop, colouring in, interactive quizzes...providing the opportunity for reviewing learning in a different way, enabling repetition to check understanding and assist memorising of a concept....inclusion of current worksheets or sections break up or keep together?
  2. Virtual or Online Lab: activities that require students to 'watch this', 'talk about', 'dissect', 'try this'. Providing further opportunity for repetition and deeper processing of information.
  3. Taking it further and When things go wrong: opportunities to consider application of understanding to real world situations (localisation issues?), going beyond recall of facts to thinking about ‘why’ they are learning and ‘how’ it is important. eg Skin - blisters etc
  4. Stories from the clinic: 'stories' of real scenarios highlighting new concepts in familiar contexts (will require local adaptations)
  5. Talk: an online ‘classroom’ providing the opportunity to discuss set study issues (perhaps one or two from each chapter), develop understanding and share work/clinical experiences or application of learning…use of wiki discussion pages?

Each of these activity categories will require a graphic icon/pedagogical template so they can become a predictable ‘trope’ for learning. They should be in-line, associated with each chapter, so they allow learners to progress fluidly though the course. But they also need to be able to be ‘pulled out’ and either omitted or adapted to suit a different learning context. Over time, users could add contextual adaptations to activities or teaching notes to the categories for future reuse.

Based on student interviews it could be useful to include visual ‘maps’ of the content showing how one topic relates to another and in turn to overall understanding of the area and ultimately to clinical practice. (Students commented that it would be useful to know, from the outset, how a topic related to their work).

Concept example

For a given topic, a page might include the following...


  • Rationale
  • Relationship to previous and next topics
  • Suggested study approach

Wikibook text...


  • At point of need
  • In-line as used in wiki elsewhere in pedagogical templates…OR
  • Within the template a link to new page with instruction and interaction
  • Activities such as drag and drop, labeling, matching
  • Links to already identified suitable and existing websites

Wikibook text...


  • View images with audio
  • Try doing 'this' plus instruction

Wikibook text...

Practice As above

Wikibook text…

Case study View movie relating learning to real world Or view link to already existing


  • Issue/question to discuss/share on discussion pages?

Summary and link to next topic

Worksheet – self-test - quiz

Wiki structure needs nutting out!!...Help!:)

Development issues


  • Funding for development to be obtained…
  • Role clarification…work flow….re image development of audio, video, web-based interactions etc …
  • Copyright issues….
  • Printable versions of interactions
  • Usability of WikiEd pedagogical templates in other contexts?
  • Assessment?

Evaluation plan

Time frames