4 Tips for Creating an Online Pharmacy Course

APRIL 17, 2018
Creating an online class can be a daunting task fore those accustomed to teaching live. My drug information course was previously a traditional class with live lectures. During the course, I taught pharmacy students how to conduct literature searches, and the best resources to utilize for drug information requests, in front of a live classroom of more than 200 students at 3 different sites.  Due to the nature of the material, it was decided that an online platform would be a better fit to utilize more technology through the drug information course. 

One recent study examined a pharmacy class offered as a hybrid course with video recorded lectures, and in-class skills laboratories, compared with a traditional classroom lecture based course.1 The study found that students preferred the online hybrid course over the traditional lecture format.1 This hybrid class format is similar to the flipped classroom concept to offer more hands-on learning experiences. 

Classes that are completely online, such as drug information or elective courses, can offer pharmacy students and professors flexibility, but they can also lose the personal interaction, and active learning component. Here are 4 tips for creating an online pharmacy course:

1. Communicate well with students and post materials on time 

Since this is an online class, it is important to communicate well with the class. Sending out reminder e-mails, just as an instructor would announce in a traditional class, about upcoming due dates for assignments and exams is recommended. Instructors can post slides prior to a video lecture, so that students can follow along, and take notes.

2. Make lectures interesting

It can be awkward doing a lecture in front of a camera without an audience, so it is best to do a short, 5 minute recording first and watch it back prior to completing a video. It can take a few test runs, but it gets easier. Most platforms will show slides and the instructor's image during the video. Presenters can also make notes, and highlight important slides during the video, using various technology. Instructors can provide examples of their own practice experience in the lectures. For example, those who are lecturing about how to check for 'red flags' on controlled substance prescriptions, can discuss personal experiences with accessing the prescription drug monitoring program, and contacting the prescriber.

I had the opportunity to do an online dermatology lecture and sported sunglasses and a safari hat while discussing sun protection strategies. Offer some interesting trivia questions at the end of a video, and students can send an email with the correct answers. It is also a good way to see if they are reviewing the material. Many times I would ask about new drug approvals so that students would search the FDA website, and be encouraged to stay up-to-date with drug information.

3. Encourage students to ask questions through the discussion board 

Many colleges of pharmacy utilize online platforms, such as Blackboard, that enable students to post questions through the discussion board. This feature will enable everyone enrolled in the course to see, and respond to the questions. Make sure to answer student questions quickly, generally within 24 hours. Professors can also use the discussion board feature to post exam reviews, and class announcements. 

4. Create innovative assignments.

Assignments will facilitate the active learning component of the class. One group assignment that I developed for my online class was to respond to a drug information request, and submit through Blackboard. The possibilities are endless and include cases, drug interaction assessments, and clinical interventions, to name a few.

It is important to make sure that due dates for online coures are also posted for the assignments. Instructors should keep the contact number handy for technical support, in case they or their students have technology issues.
 
Reference
  1. Wanat MA, Tucker AM, Coyle EA.  A critical care hybrid online elective course for third-year pharmacy students.  Am J Pharm Educ.  2016;80(9):154.  doi: 10.5688/ajpe809154.
 

Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh
Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh
Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh, received her PharmD degree from Nova Southeastern University (NSU) College of Pharmacy in 2006 and completed a 2-year drug information residency. She served as a pharmacy professor at NSU’s College of Pharmacy for 6 years, managed the drug information center, and conducted medication therapy management reviews. Dr. Gershman has published research on prescription drug abuse, regulatory issues, and drug information in various scholarly journals. Additionally, she received the Sheriff’s Special Recognition Award for her collaboration with the Broward, Florida Sheriff’s Office to prevent prescription drug abuse through a drug disposal program. She has also presented at pharmacist and physician continuing education programs on topics that include medication errors, prescription drug abuse, and legal and regulatory issues. Dr. Gershman can be followed on Twitter @jgershman2
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