It’s been almost a year since I joined the iDesign team as a learning architect and nine months since I was promoted to senior learning architect. For much of that, I have partnered with Mayo Clinic School of Medicine on the creation of a blended classroom experience for first- and second-year medical students. We designed templates, iconography, workflows, material tracking systems, organizational and file naming structures, transition policies and procedures, and change management strategies even as we designed courses at a remarkable pace. It’s been an intensely creative experience and I am so grateful to Mayo and iDesign for giving me the opportunity to learn from and contribute to this project.
Our task was to design a new digital component for the pre-clerkship (undergraduate medical education Y1 and Y2) learning experience.
Learning to be a doctor is hard. An unprecedented amount of content must be committed to memory with a fluency that is not interchangeable with having information literacy. Don’t get me wrong – the information literacy is important for lifelong learning, problem-solving, communication, and collaboration. The best physicians are digital thinkers, but their capacity for connected learning is situated in a larger ability to manage massive amounts of data in their own heads.
The face-to-face learning experience at Mayo Clinic already includes the best teaching and learning practices of our times: case-based and team-based learning, interactive whole group sessions, simulations, early clinical and patient interaction, integrated curriculum. It is a lively, rigorous, multifaceted, active learning program with a lot of moving pieces as well as a lot of course content. However, from my viewpoint as an educated observer, I think it might be easy for students (and maybe some faculty) to get caught in the busy weeds and lose sight of the big picture.
Our vision for the digital learning space was to provide a deceptively simple map that organizes course logistics, materials, activities, assessments, and resources through motifs that repeat themselves across all courses. If successful, the map would work to strip away cognitive clutter and convey information so clearly that pedagogical meaning and relationships reveal themselves without additional words.
My medical background facilitated an intuitive understanding of how the learning activities fit together (and to what end). However, I leaned heavily on information sciences to inspire design. I read cartography texts. I studied maps and infographics as influencers and storytellers. I referenced Edward Tufte almost every day. I placed it all in the pedagogical context of Vannevar Bush, George Siemens and my previous experience with designing connected courses.
As I transition away from the Mayo Clinic Project, I am thinking about writing an article about what it means to design a course site as a map. If anyone thinks that might be of interest, please let me know.