COMPUTER-SIMULATED PHARMACOLOGY EXPERIMENTS FOR

Document Sample
COMPUTER-SIMULATED PHARMACOLOGY EXPERIMENTS FOR Powered By Docstoc
					Indian Journal of Pharmacology 2001; 33:                 280-282                               SHORT COMMUNICATION
      LEXIN WANG


COMPUTER-SIMULATED PHARMACOLOGY EXPERIMENTS FOR
UNDERGRADUATE PHARMACY STUDENTS: EXPERIENCE FROM AN
AUSTRALIAN UNIVERSITY

              LEXIN WANG

              Clinical Pharmacology, School of Biomedical Sciences, Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga,
              NSW 2678, Australia.


              Manuscript Received: 27.4.2001              Accepted: 14.5.2001


SUMMARY       Objective: To assess students’ views on computer-simulated pharmacology experiments.
              Methods: A questionnaire survey was conducted in 85 undergraduate pharmacy students who completed
              seven computer-simulated pharmacology experiments. Students’ opinions on the objectives, effectiveness
              and utility of these simulated experiments were analyzed.
              Result: Almost all respondents (98.7%) indicated that they achieved their learning objectives and
              enhanced understanding and confidence of the subject after the simulated experiments. All respondents
              (100%) preferred computer simulations to live animal experiments for pharmacology practical lessons,
              and would recommend this type of learning to other students. Provision of instruction sheets with
              detailed learning objectives and specific working tasks was found to facilitate students’ performance with
              these simulations.
              Conclusion: Untergraduate pharmacy students find computer-simulated pharmacology experiments to
              be an effective alternative to live animal experiments since it assists them in acheiving their learning
              objectives.


KEY WORDS     Pharmacology        computers          pharmacy        undergraduate         computer assisted learning




                  INTRODUCTION                                   a limited number of drugs at a given period of time.
                                                                 Furthermore, animal experiments, in particular whole
Pharmacology is the study of the manner in which                 animal studies, are often labour-intensive and costly3.
the function of living systems is affected by chemical
agents. Practical lessons are an important part of               A variety of computing programs have been devel-
pharmacology curricula of various undergraduate                  oped for undergraduate and postgraduate teaching
courses, such as medicine, nursing, science and                  of pharmacology4-8. Previous evidence has shown
pharmacy. In vitro and in vivo animal experiments                that this innovative educational technique, either as
have been widely used in the practical lessons to                an adjunct to the traditional teaching methods such
help students gaining hands-on skills of pharmaco-               as lectures, or as a sole teaching tool for distance
logical experiments, and more importantly, reinforc-             education or home studies, facilitates students’ learn-
ing their knowledge learned from lectures and text-              ing and improves overall study outcomes in pharma-
books.                                                           cology7,8. Pharmacy students’ perception on using
                                                                 simulated experiments as an alternative to animal
Although traditional live animal experiments are in-             experiments, however, is unclear. The purpose of this
valuable, they do have shortcomings, and their cost-             study is to evaluate pharmacy students’ views on ef-
effectiveness has been questioned 1,2. Apart from be-            fectiveness and utility of computer simulations at an
ing time consuming, animal experiments can only test             Australian university.


 Correspondence: Lexin Wang
                 e-mail: lwang@csu.edu.au
                                                          COMPUTER-SIMULATED PHARMACOLOGY EXPERIMENTS                  281


Table 1. The outcomes of computer-simulated pharmacology experiments.

                                                                                                           Yes
Overall the simulations were good/excellent                                                            75/75 (100%)
I have achieved my learning objectives                                                                 74/75 (98.7%)
My understanding of the subject has improved as a result of using these simulations                    74/75 (98.7%)
I enjoyed using it                                                                                     75/75 (100%)
I would recommend this form of practical to other students or friends                                  75/75 (100%)
I prefer current simulations to live animal experiments                                                75/75 (100%)
I prefer 1.5-2 hours per practice                                                                      75/75 (100%)
The written instructions were helpful                                                                  72/75 (96%)



             MATERIALS AND METHODS                                 ity of the simulated experiments (Table 1). Partici-
                                                                   pants had the option to remain anonymous; they were
Background information: Computer-simulated                         clearly informed that the survey was not a formal as-
pharmacology experiments were first introduced in                  sessment and not related to their final grade.
June 1998 to a 4-year undergraduate pharmacy
course at Charles Sturt University, Australia. The                 Given the small number of possible respondents and
major teaching strategies for pharmacology, a full year            diversity of answers expected, no statistical analysis
subject, were formal lectures, small group tutorials               or cross correlation was proposed: only descriptive
and practical lessons in laboratories.                             statistics are therefore used.
The practical lessons comprised of seven computer                                       RESULTS
simulations and one live animal experiment. Compu-                 Overall outcomes: Seventy-five of the 85 (88.2%)
ter-simulated experiments took place in the Phar-                  participants returned the questionnaires. All respond-
macy Laboratory at the University where 16 personal                ents found the simulated experiments either excel-
computers were equipped. Students worked in pairs                  lent or good and their understanding and confidence
on a computer for each simulation, which usually took              in pharmacology were improved by these practical
2-3 hours to complete. A member of academic staff                  lessons (Table 1).
was present at all times during the practical lesson
to provide assistance.                                             As shown in Table 1, most students indicated that they
                                                                   had achieved their learning objectives in the simulated
The simulated experiments covered receptors in                     lessons, and would recommend this type of learning
guinea pig ileum, adrenergic and cholinergic phar-                 to other students. All respondent preferred computer
macology, cardiovascular pharmacology, epilepsy,                   simulations to live animal experiments (Table 1).
schizophrenia and drugs of abuse. The software pro-
grams used in this study were developed by the Uni-                Some students provided additional comments on the
versity of Bath. Some of these programs have re-                   simulated experiments. The contents of the addi-
cently been evaluated and reviewed9. Detailed de-                  tional comments were diverse, from the usefulness
scription and evaluation of the contents of these pack-            of the simulations to the way that academic staff
ages are beyond the scope of this paper. The objec-                members conducted these simulations. Most the
tives and specific working tasks for each topic were               comments were that the simulated experiments have
provided in written format at the beginning of the                 made many pharmacological concepts much easier
teaching semester. Students were required to read                  to understand and hence, to memorize.
these instructions before the practical lessons.
                                                                   Most respondents found that the provision of written
Survey: A total of 85 students participated in the                 instructions on objectives and specific working tasks
questionnaire survey. Each questionnaire had eight                 of these simulations excellent strategies (Table 1),
questions, ranging from the effectiveness to the util-             reducing the time they would have spent on the
282   LEXIN WANG


non-essential contents in these exercises. All re-        contents may have already been covered by previ-
spondents indicated that 1.5-2 hr practical session       ous lectures and there is no need to repeat them in
was preferable to a 3-hour session (Table 1).             these practical lessons. Handouts with detailed learn-
                                                          ing objectives and specific working tasks have en-
                    DISCUSSION                            hanced students’ efficiency and motivation to these
The primary finding of the study is that computer-        exercises, which in turn ensured the best use of this
simulated pharmacological experiments are well re-        novel learning modality.
ceived by undergraduate pharmacy students, who
                                                          In conclusion, computer-simulated experiments appear
believe that their understanding of pharmacology is
                                                          to be feasible and effective as a major part of practical
enhanced by these simulations.
                                                          lessons of pharmacology. Given the learning objec-
We have used computer-simulated experiments as            tives of pharmacology practical lessons in undergradu-
a major means of practical lessons in pharmacol-          ate pharmacy is to enhance students’ understanding
ogy, because we believe that hands-on skills on live      of the subject, computer-simulations may serve as an
animal experiments pertinent to a pharmacological         alternative to the traditional live animal experiments.
laboratory are not essential for undergraduate phar-                            REFERENCES
macy students, who will largely become retail or hos-
                                                          1.   Roy V, Tekur U. Animal experiments in medical undergradu-
pital pharmacists after graduation. Computer-simu-             ate curriculum: a teacher student perspective. Indian J
lated experiments, which have been used in phar-               Pharmacol 2001;33:104-7.
macological teaching and research for nearly two
                                                          2.   Gitanjali B. Animal experimentation in teaching: time to
decades10, seem to have a number of advantages
                                                               sing a swan song. Indian J Pharmacol 2001;33:71.
over the traditional live animal experiments, offering
more accurate and consistent end results, and more        3.   Glick SM. Animals for teaching purposes: medical student’s
flexibility as to when and where the experiments are           attitude. Med Educ 1995;29:39-42.
conducted. Furthermore, computer simulations re-          4.   Feldman RD, Schoenwald R, Kane J. Development of a
duce the use of animals, which has been a concern              computer-based instructional system in pharmacokinetics:
of students and animal rights organisations11.                 efficacy in clinical pharmacology teaching for senior medi-
                                                               cal students. J Clin Pharmacol 1989;29:158-61.
It is important to note that our computer-simulated
                                                          5.   Tofocic SP, Branch RA, Jackson EK, Cressman MD, Kost
experiments were run in timetabled classes under               CJ Jr. Teaching clinical pharmacology and therapeutics:
close supervision of academic staff members. We                selective for fourth-year medical students. J Clin Pharmacol
found that timetabled classes are crucial to ensure            1998;38:670-9.
the efficient and correct use of these simulation pro-
                                                          6.   Neafsey PJ. Computer-assisted instruction for home study:
grams, and to improve overall learning outcomes.               a new venture for continuing education programs in nurs-
Our previous experience was that students who                  ing. J Continuing Educ Nursing 1997;28:164-72.
worked in their own pace often have difficulties in
                                                          7.   Neafsey PJ. Immediate and enduring changes in knowl-
working through the experimental tasks and some-               edge and self-efficacy in APNs following computer-assisted
times fail to complete assessments on time, or                 home study of the pharmacology of alcohol. J Continuing
achieve poor scores. Studies from other universities,          Educ Nursing 1998;29:173-81.
where similar simulation programs were used, have
                                                          8.   Ohrn MA, van Oostrom JH, van Meurs WL. A comparison
also shown that self-paced learning of these simu-             of traditional textbook and interactive computer learning of
lated experiments is sometimes problematic and less            neuromuscular block. Anes Anal 1997;84: 657-61.
effective than timetabled classes9.
                                                          9.   Timmis S, Brown KN, Gilbert MJ, Gifford L, Lloyd A, Moss
Another important issue to be addressed is that stu-           SH et al. PCALL Review. http://WWW.coacs.com/pccal/re-
                                                               views. May 2000.
dents may experience fatigability and even frustra-
tion to some of these activities if the objectives and    10. de Graff JS, de Vos CJ, Steenbergen HJ. Fully automated
tasks are not clearly outlined before the simulations.        experiments with isolated organs in vitro. J Pharmacol
The contents of the simulation programs used in the           Methods 1983;10:113-35.
study were very comprehensive; it may take a stu-         11. Ammons SW. Use of live animals in the curricula of U.S.
dent 4-5 hours to study every detail. In addition, some       medical schools in 1994. Acad Med 1995;70:740-3.

				
DOCUMENT INFO
Shared By:
Categories:
Tags:
Stats:
views:32
posted:9/24/2012
language:Unknown
pages:3