Dr. Amul H. Singh was happily ensconced at the University of
Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) School of Dentistry when he
encountered an all-too-familiar problem for academics: his wife was
admitted to a postgraduate program at Indiana University. What to
Enter Dr. Cynthia C. Gadbury-Amyot, Director of Distance
Education and Faculty Development at UMKC. She suggested a way for
Dr. Singh to continue teaching his class in histopathology. Dr.
Singh had already begun archiving his lectures using a webcam and
making his PowerPoint presentations available to students on
Blackboard. He could use these as stepping stones to make the leap
to teaching his course online, and with some administrative help
from Dr. Pamela R. Overman, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs,
that is just what he did.
"The topic was near to my heart," says Dr. Singh, "and I was
curious to see how it would work out."
From his new home in Indiana, he began offering online lectures
and PowerPoint presentations, and he introduced several synchronous
components to the course: a live, online orientation that reaches
his 130 students at the beginning of the course, and weekly, online
office hours. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.
"One evening I had more than 50 people logged on at once,"
marveled Dr. Singh. "I never had that number of students coming to
see me on campus. Office hours have become a forum for group
discussion, and the exchange of ideas is phenomenal, so much more
than occurred in the face-to-face class."
The students appear to be as impressed with the new approach as
their professor. They are far more likely to attend office hours
online than they were in person and to schedule one-on-one sessions
when they need help. Their course reviews have been stronger than
ever, and their average exam scores have risen. They express
special appreciation for being able to download lectures to their
portable devices so they can study anywhere, even while
If it all sounds too good to be true, Dr. Singh admits that
there were a few bumps in the road. The first year, students asked
for more interaction with him and with each other. He responded by
introducing group projects using Wiki sites, which allows students
to feel connected as well as engaged.
Testing has also been a concern. To date, Dr. Singh has had
others at UMKC administer his final exam in person, but this year
he began trying an online browser designed to handle assessments.
He has been working out the kinks through a series of small quizzes
and hopes to move his final exam online next spring with the help
of the university's IT staff.
This coming year, Dr. Singh will apply some online technologies
in two face-to-face courses that he will teach at Indiana
University, where he currently holds the position of Clinic
"I plan to post my lectures online and include online group
projects. Why shouldn't the students on campus benefit from these
technologies as well?"