New techniques for a new time: DPT Professor Schilling on adjusting lab instruction amid COVID-19

David Schilling

“Student safety has and will be paramount.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about many changes across the world, and close to home at Utica College has certainly been no exception. From aggressive testing efforts to social distancing and mask requirements, the College community has taken many steps to ensure that in-person instruction can continue, including some creative thinking on the part of faculty.

“This semester has been extremely busy with all of the changes,” says Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy David Schilling, who is one of many Utica College faculty who have had to find new and innovative ways to engage students in-person while keeping everyone safe. 

For Schilling’s first-year Doctor of Physical Therapy students, he’s taken what he calls a “flipped classroom experience” for some lab modules, optimizing the time he has with students in the lab space.

Optimizing online tools has also proven beneficial, he says, with students posting responses to case discussions with embedded questions using VoiceThread, which allows instructors to give individual feedback. VoiceThread has also been used for asynchronous lab lectures for students to review prior to their in-person lab experiences. 

“We have created video content and interactive powerpoints for instruction of the use and application of therapeutic modalities,” says Schilling. “And we use Zoom for synchronous lecture content weekly and record the sessions so students can review them.”

For therapeutic exercises prescription, students are creating and posting Flipgrid videos, a tool that allows teachers to post topics that students then upload video responses. This video discussion platform allows for an interactive, fun and supportive social learning experience. 

“We are using video-based competency examinations where they are assigned a skill and post their video of that skill for grading by instructors,” Schilling explains.

When Mother Nature agrees, some lab activities have been held outside for added social distancing - activities such as gait training (teaching patients how to walk following an injury or surgery) with assistive devices. 

“Student safety has and will be paramount,” Schilling says. “Students are assigned one lab partner for the semester, students when in close proximity to one another use a face shield and facemasks along with standard precautions. We are holding our PT labs in Carbone Auditorium to maximize the space for the lab activities, as well as going outside for some learning activities.”

While the experiences may look a little different, they are not only necessary amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but crucial in maintaining the same high-level of quality instruction and education that students expect from Utica College, and Schilling is proud to keep that tradition alive, even in such unprecedented times.

“We are constantly trying to be innovative to engage the students, make asynchronous learning activities as meaningful as possible, maximize feedback to the students and optimize the in-person lab learning experiences.”

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