Brown's Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME) Closes Student Engagement Gap with Ving!
Since granting its first Doctor of Medicine degrees in 1975, Brown University’s Alpert Medical School has become a national leader in medical education and biomedical research. By attracting first-class physicians and researchers to Rhode Island over the past three decades, the Medical School and its seven affiliated teaching hospitals have radically improved the state's health care environment, from health care policy to patient care. Students are admitted to the School through a variety of pathways, including the Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME) – which is a combined eight-year baccalaureate/MD program through which students can obtain a liberal arts education while completing their competencies in preparation for the Alpert Medical School. The Alpert Medical School awards approximately 100 MD degrees each year.
- The Associate Dean of Medicine had difficulties getting PLME students together when she needed to share important announcements or updates on courses and requirements
- To send out critical information to the Program in Liberal Medical Education students, the Associate Dean relied heavily on email, which was not an effective way of communication – students often ignored messages or misunderstood the information
- A lack of student accountability resulted from there being no way to track who read and understood emails and other documents particularly in the PLME
- Use of “digital packets” to share important information via text and video has significantly increased engagement and responsiveness
- Associate Dean can now monitor who reads or views what content
- Students are now held accountable for accessing and understanding information, and taking necessary steps to fulfill academic requirements
In the Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME) accepts roughly 60 high school graduates every year into its undergraduate program, and works with them to earn guaranteed entry into the Medical School without the need to take the Medical College Admissions Test or other entrance exam. Acceptance into Medical School is based on grade point average in biology and undergraduate requirements being met, and results in an eight-year continuum program for PLME students.
According to Julianne Ip, MD Associate Dean of Medicine, Program in Liberal Medical Education and Visiting International Medical Students, a long-term goal was to improve communications and engagement with students, and hold them to a higher standard of accountability during their undergraduate years.
“Each year there are about 50 or 60 PLME students in our program. It’s my job to make sure they understand what’s required of them -- not so much to gain acceptance into medical school but to maximize their experience as a future physician,” said Ip. “I initially tried to hold meetings, but found that getting everyone together at the same time in one location was almost impossible. Email became the main mode of communication, but I couldn’t tell who was receiving messages or who was reading what. There was simply no way to know what information was being received."
“We’re preparing students for medical school and it’s important that they take responsibility for their own education and obligations,” she said. “Having said that, some students need more coaching and encouraging than others – and I had no real way of tracking who those students were and whether my communication efforts were working or not. Thankfully I found Ving, which alleviated many of the issues we’d been having.”
Digital Packets and Analytics Improve Engagement and Accountability
Once Ip learned about Ving, she decided to give the platform a try to see if it would improve information sharing and increase engagement among students.
“I liked a few things about Ving right away,” she said. “For one, I could send video messages which resonate so much better with students who are more visual learners. Additionally, the Ving dashboard shows me in real-time what students have interacted with whatever content I send, so I can determine which students respond better to video and which ones respond better to text – and customize messages for different groups accordingly. There is a lot of flexibility to accommodate students with different needs, and that’s extremely important,” she said.
Ip also uses Ving to send out videos of her presentations, which cover the educational planning process or various international exchange programs -- and she can identify in the Ving at which point in the discussion certain points are covered, so students know where to pay extra close attention.
“I want to see students stepping up and being more responsible about their own personal and professional development and with Ving, I can communicate with them in a way that keeps them engaged – so it’s a win-win for them and for me,” she said. “Overall, I give a lot of credit to Ving with helping me build stronger relationships with our students and arming them with the tools and knowledge they need to step into the medical field with confidence and maturity.”
Ip said the PLME Student Senate may also find value with Ving as a way to communicate among themselves and with students at large. “Right now they use Facebook for most interactions, but I can see them turning to Ving because of its simplicity, and the ability to measure what works and what doesn’t,” she said.
Ip says that Ving ultimately provides several pivotal avenues. Time constraints in academic and clinical training mean students often need to be in two or three places at once -- which is obviously impossible. As an alternative, Dean Ip finds that she can record and upload her presentations for her students who are unable to attend in person, and share those through Ving. “A video coupled with key documents and a survey gets results every time,” she said.
“If I send out a survey on any given topic, response rates with Ving are shown to be much higher, and that will help me understand even better how to improve our program and communications, and make the environment here fun,” she said. Additionally, she plans to use Ving as a way to stay in touch with students during the summer, when they tend to vacation and mentally check out from school. “With Ving, I can continue sending them personal communications and share information they’ll need as they start planning for the coming school year, and I’m certain things will run more smoothly at the beginning of the academic year.”
In the end, Ving is a communications platform that has helped transform student engagement and that means improved accountability and transparency with information sharing between Dean Ip, the program in liberal medical education and her students.