Just like a movie trailer, but better: SmartBook for Anatomy & Physiology!

Published August 18, 2017

By Michelle Monlux, Modesto Junior College

You know how it is when you see a movie after you have seen the trailer? You know how it is when you read a book after you have heard your friend give you an idea of what it is about? Well, it is the same for our students when they have been exposed to the stuff we are going to talk about BEFORE lecture. I hope you would agree with me that the movie, the book and the lecture are better if we have an idea of what we getting into before we actually watch it, read it, or hear it.

Very few of our students actually will read a science book chapter before they have heard the lecture. It is difficult material and often confusing without a guide as to what we want them to know. It would be helpful if they looked at the figures before they came to lecture, but only a surprisingly low percentage will actually do that before class. So, what can we do? As instructors, we know they would understand our lectures better if they had an idea of what we were going to be talking about that day.

McGraw-Hill provides a tool for helping students engage with lecture material before class, which allows us to enhance our lectures called SmartBook. SmartBook is as an online interactive version of a specific McGraw-Hill textbook. SmartBook allows an instructor to create an assignment by choosing specific topics from a chapter. The actual assignment requires students to read core concepts related to the selected topics in the online text while also answering questions that pertain to this content. While students answer questions, an adaptive engine assesses both a student’s confidence and correctness each time they submit an answer. This adaptive engine identifies topics in which students excel and provides opportunities for improvement on difficult topics for each student.

See SmartBook for Anatomy & Physiology

This brief video highlights SmartBook for Anatomy & Physiology. Available within McGraw-Hill Connect®, SmartBook makes study time as productive and efficient as possible. It identifies and closes knowledge gaps through a continually adapting reading experience that provides personalized learning resources at the precise moment of need. This ensures that every minute spent with SmartBook is returned to the student as the most value-added minute possible.

One way to use SmartBook is to assign this to students BEFORE lecture. I typically would create an assignment for each chapter that would take the average student about 30 minutes to complete. Some longer chapters that took multiple days to cover in lecture can be split into two different SmartBook assignments. How is this fair? How can we give students an assignment on lecture material before they have been given the opportunity to have seen it or heard it during class? You might hear this argument in your head or from even your good students. I know I did.

The beauty of a SmartBook assignment is that if they answer a question incorrectly, they get to repeat it. This gives them a chance to learn the material. They may not receive the same exact question but it will be a similar question that deals with the same learning objective. There is no penalty for an incorrect answer except time, they will simply be asked another similar question. The assignment is not timed - 30 minutes is what it will take the average student to complete the assignment after I have selected the topics that I want them to cover. All our students need to do is complete the work. They can complete it during one session, or over multiple sessions spaced over a series of days. They can complete the work in the comfort of their own home, or wherever is their favorite place to study. Again, this is all done outside of class on their own time. It will not take away from our lecture time, but just will bring our students into class more prepared to learn.

Students will read specific sections in their book and look at the diagrams or images to figure out what is being asked of them while they complete the SmartBook questions. This is the engagement that will help them understand our lectures better. It won’t be the first time they are seeing the image or the first time they have thought about a subject. By going through the SmartBook assignment they will have answered questions related to the material they are hearing in lecture. So, like viewing the movie trailer, they know they are going to either see an Indiana Jones film or a Swedish indie film with subtitles, either way they will be ready.

I remember attending a trendy speed-reading seminar at the Claremont Hotel in Berkeley when I was an undergraduate at Cal, in the seventies. (Yes, I am old but I come with experience). I was desperate to try and read and comprehend all the assignments I was given. The Evelyn Wood seminar was excellent. One of her comprehension techniques was to look at all the chapter sections and subsections BEFORE reading the chapter. I believe this is just what SmartBook does for our students; it allows them to engage with the core concepts we will be talking about in lecture BEFORE lecture so they can more fully absorb the subject matter during our discussion. SmartBook leverages two principles to help students learn. Repetition is perhaps the most intuitive principle of learning. And we all know that the first time we hear new material it can be difficult to absorb. The second time is always easier than the first. So, having a tool that guides our students through the material we will be discussing in lecture gives them the benefit of this repetition and a more meaningful learning experience. Familiarity also helps with learning. Having seen the new words and concepts that will be discussed in lecture will facilitate their learning. Instead of being distracted by an image from the power point you are showing in lecture, they will have seen it already in familiarizing themselves with it while doing their SmartBook activity on their own time before class. It is a win-win situation. You don’t have to spend time on remediation. Our students will have the benefit of exposure to material before they come to class. This familiarity and repetition will benefit them greatly in their understanding of lecture material.