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Student centered learning

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley developed a new hybrid curriculum designed to improve student success. The majority of students at UT RGV, which serves the poorest counties in the United States, balance full-time work and familial obligations while they complete their studies. To support their students–and by extension the Rio Grande Valley community–the university piloted a brand new Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences degree (BMed) in Fall 2015.

The BMed curriculum was built from the ground up to ensure students receive the practical and theoretical training they need to directly enter the health profession upon graduation. As a result, unlike traditional degree programs each course in the BMed curriculum is taught through the lens of the health sciences. For example, while students will take courses in subjects such as literature and history, the content will emphasize the medical humanities and the history of disease and vaccines. All content in the curriculum is related and builds upon each other.

To ensure each student has access to the materials and resources necessary to succeed all learners are provided with iPads. Essential course content, activities, and assessments are delivered digitally through the tablets and incorporate gamification to maximize student motivation and engagement. The digital connectivity of the cohort also serves to foster student collaboration and enhance communication with faculty and advisors.

In-person components of the program are available in both morning and evening, ensuring students have access to essential courses regardless of their extra-curricular responsibilities. Initial results indicate the new BMed hybrid curriculum model is a success. Student participation and retention rates have increased with the introduction of block scheduling and digital content access. Students are also performing better, with the majority receiving a B grade or above in biology courses and a C grade or above in General Chemistry; both courses typically see lower averages in traditional degree programs.

The BMed program is still in its infancy but shows a great deal of promise. Through this integrated hybrid curriculum, at-risk and non-traditional students are being provided the opportunity to receive a quality education otherwise inaccessible to them. That is perhaps the largest indicator of success.

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About the Author: Dustin is a senior account manager with DesignedUX, providing communications and marketing strategy to organizations in education and technology. Dustin is also a part-time faculty member at Centennial College and serves on the board of the Canadian Public Relations Society.

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