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Sushi lessons

From maki-nori combos to water coolers: International acclaim for animated analogies

Teaching and Learning

By Heidi Wicks

What do sushi belt restaurants have to do with pharmacy education?

Both are digestible ways of learning, it seems.

A series of animated videos created by the School of Pharmacy in conjunction with the Centre of Innovation in Teaching and Learning has recently received acclaim as a runner-up in the e-learning category in the International E-Learning Association Awards, joining the ranks of projects by Harvard and Columbia Universities.

It also received an Award of Merit in the field of Excellence and Innovation in the Integration of Technology in Higher Education with the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education.

Dr. Noriko Daneshtalab has created a number of analogies to explain pharmacokinetics – the branch of pharmacology concerned with the movement of drugs in the body – something she has been using verbally in her lectures for years.

The analogies, which include a water cooler, a bathtub, traffic and a sushi bar, were transformed to animated videos available for online learning, in collaboration with Memorial’s Centre for Innovation in Teaching and Learning (CITL), as part of the School of Pharmacy’s new Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) for Working Professionals program.

Dr. Noriko Daneshtalab
Photo: Chris Hammond

From memorizing to understanding

Dr. Daneshtalab says that pharmacokinetics is a difficult topic to teach.

“Students often get bogged down with the mathematics and many equations, and cannot relate them to what is actually happening in the body,” she said. “As an instructor for pharmacokinetics, my struggle is always to try to make the subject that is so number and equation driven be relatable enough that they can remember it after they graduate in real-life situations.”

She also says her students now ask pertinent questions for clarification on pharmacokinetic concepts, using the analogies as a basis for the questions.

“Rather than just memorizing, they are understanding the concepts enough to ask questions, and that is very rewarding.”

The sushi belt analogy illustrates organ clearance concepts. Watch the video below.

Multimedia design

The creation of award-winning course content has more ingredients than a maki-nori combination platter.

Lisa St. Croix, a senior instructional designer with CITL, says that the use of animations is a highly effective strategy for helping students understand complex concepts – if designed well.

To do so, she draws upon her knowledge of learning theory, the science of learning, multimedia design theory and current literature on teaching and learning to help inform a successful final product.

Lisa St. Croix
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

“A great animation starts with a great idea,” said Ms. St. Croix, and she credits Dr. Daneshtalab, an expert in her field, for hers. “From the onset of development, she had a vision for what she wanted, and the job of the development team was to make sure her ideas came to life on screen.”

To help clarify ideas and guide the process, instructional designers encourage faculty to begin storyboarding (mocked-up visuals) and writing scripts. It can often be an extensive process.

Once an initial script and storyboard is produced, the senior instructional designer collaborates with the multimedia team to help facilitate the animation. The multimedia team then further develops the vision, creates the  illustrations, records the script, adding music and edits the video.

For more information on the Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) for Working Professionals program, visit the School of Pharmacy website.

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