Using Media to Teach the Classics | Distance and Online Education
The University of Iowa

Corey Hackworth, visiting assistant professor in the department of Classics was faced with updating the course, Medical and Technical Terminology.  This course draws students from many disciplines including pre-medicine, biology, psychology, athletic training and radiation sciences, to name a few.


Using a new textbook, Hackworth sought the help of Distance and Online Education.  Mark Hamilton, DCE media specialist, Nina Prozzo, lead instructional designer, and Hackworth collaborated on ways to leverage visual technology to reinforce learning—they wanted to make the online experience both more functional and more fun. They worked as a team—starting with a script, but relying on a back and forth discussion to ensure that the words and images worked well together, not just for clarity’s sake, but with the goal of aiding retention.


“Millennials are very visual,” says Hackworth. “One strategy we use is helping the student realize what they already know.” With that in mind, Hamilton looked for images that would create a web of references that were familiar to students. Many references are from modern culture and include the musical group Lady Antebellum; television shows and movies including The Simpsons, Big Bang Theory, Star Trek and X-men; and the games, Operation and Legos.


Use of pop culture images make the learning fun while reinforcing key concepts and is especially effective in delivering content. According to Hamilton, “The bigger the visual dissonance between what the student expects and what they actually see—the better the learning.”


Medical and Technical Terminology offers a systematic approach to learning medical and technical vocabulary by focusing on the Latin and Greek elements in English words. Knowledge of Greek and Latin elements can help students determine the meaning of a scientific word by breaking down its structure in terms of prefix, stem or stems, and suffix. An example of this structure would be the suffix “pathy” which comes from the Greek root pathos which means feeling, suffering, but in medical terms indicates a type of disease. By visually inserting different prefixes (tele, sym and em) on the screen, students see how the words telepathy, sympathy and empathy are formed--words that the student is already familiar with, but likely did not yet appreciate on an etymological level. Hamilton makes use of visual imagery when switching out each prefix or suffix with each root stem to reinforce the learning.


Course content is presented in a number of ways to appeal to a variety of student learning styles. Some information is relayed during short videos (2.5-7 minutes each). The decision to include several very short clips per chapter, rather than a longer lecture was deliberate. “Brief, concise, high-content clips are more watchable, not unlike media students are accustomed to consuming on the web, says Hamilton.


“Given this, editing was done to condense the video in a meaningful way.” These short videos provide the most critical information that is reinforced with other learning activities on Canvas and on the parallel textbook site.


Medical and Technical Terminology is just one of approximately 117 new or completely revised courses that University of Iowa faculty worked with Distance and Online Education to develop in 2015-16.


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How does a course transition from an on-campus format to an online one?


The University of Iowa Distance and Online Education office partners with faculty to create new and revised online courses, many of which will become part of an academic degree program now or in the future. Faculty designing an online course are assigned a team including a lead instructional designer, a course coordinator and media specialists. Here’s an example of how the process works