How I Prepare My Students for Taking A&P

Published February 6, 2018

By Steve Sullivan, Bucks County Community College

Hi. My name is Steve Sullivan, professor of anatomy & physiology at Bucks County Community College. I’ve been teaching A&P since 2002 and after almost a decade of attending HAPS conferences, symposia, and visiting campuses, one challenge has stood among the most ubiquitous we face in A&P: Unfortunately, many of our students are just not prepared for a course as challenging as ours. They sometimes lack the study skills, the scientific background, and the prerequisite material, like chemistry, to succeed in our anatomy and physiology courses.

Recently, I found a solution in McGraw-Hill’s Connect program. It’s called Learnsmart Prep. Learnsmart Prep is an adaptive learning program that you can assign to your students right within Connect. Since it’s adaptive, it tailors itself to each individual student’s needs and delivers the most appropriate learning resources to bring that student up to speed.

The student isn’t finished with the assignment until he or she successfully demonstrates knowledge and understanding of the outcomes you’ve assigned. That means they can’t phone it in, they can’t just fake their way through it, and they can’t copy off their classmates. Assigning LearnSmart Prep is really simple. You just choose the topic you want to assign, make it worth some points, give it a due date, and let it roll.

The students can even access reports about their performance to see where their strengths and weaknesses are. Of course as the instructor, you can also access them for each student and for the class as a whole. This allows you to see which topics or outcomes you may want to focus on in class to bridge their knowledge gaps.

Here’s how it works: when the student begins the assignment, he or she will be asked several questions covering the learning outcomes from the assigned topic, which could be cell biology, math, chemistry, DNA structure, study skills, or even general knowledge of the human body. Based on their responses Learnsmart Prep will begin to assess their level of understanding and choose learning resources that will help them achieve those shaky outcomes.

Learnsmart Prep does the rest. If you know the specific outcomes you want every student to brush up on, you can assign a customized version, rather than an adaptive version, to make sure no one can skip past something you really want everyone to review.

Finally, Connect has a pre-loaded placement test you can use to see which of your students needs Learnsmart Prep. There are 50 questions tagged to the topics Learnsmart Prep covers. If you’ve got those star students who are ready on day one, you can give them a pass

Personally, I’ve been using Learnsmart Prep to replace covering the chemistry chapter in my A&P class. It’s worked really well for my students and saved me a ton of class time. I also use it mid-semester in A&P I and in the beginning of A&P II as a review for DNA biology, cell biology, and other topics I do cover in my class.

Learnsmart Prep has given my students a very valuable resource in Connect. It comes free with your students’ text book or it can be available for purchase on its own. I highly recommend making it available to your students early and often.