In another two years, faculty and students at the University of
Texas Health Science Center at Houston Dental Branch (UTDB)
will move into a new, state-of-the-art building, but they aren't
waiting for the big move to change their approach to education.
Even before breaking ground in December 2009, the faculty was hard
at work planning for and implementing an approach to educational
delivery that incorporates the latest technologies. What spurred
this embrace of technological innovation? The intrinsic potential
of a new facility, the opportunity to reevaluate practices prior to
an upcoming accreditation, and a widespread recognition that the
current, tech-savvy generation of students learns differently than
their predecessors did.
"We wanted to create the best learning environment possible,"
says ADEA CCI Liaison Dr. Paula N. O'Neill, UTDB's Associate Dean
for Educational Research and Professional Development. "These
changes were not driven by the technologies. They were driven by
our educational objectives and our desire to reach all our
students, whatever their learning styles."
Getting there has been a painstaking process. The faculty formed
task forces to examine curriculum, research, simulation, patient
care, and educational technology. They considered which
technologies to adopt in each of these arenas, and how to configure
the new physical plant to maximize their utilization. They informed
the faculty on what was available and offered training to get
everyone up to speed well before the big move in 2012. They looked
at how to configure the new building and its classrooms to take
advantage of the new technologies.
"We decided to make many of the rooms multi-functional to give
us the flexibility to teach in different ways," says Dr. O'Neill.
"The rooms can be used for theater-style seating or divided for
small-group instruction. They can accommodate laptops and other
technologies such as the automated response system, which is
already an established practice among a quarter of our
UTDB also has put in place electronic patient records, a digital
imaging system for x-rays, and a sophisticated clinical simulation
center with high-fidelity full-body mannequins. The school is also
in the process of developing a library of virtual patient cases to
allow students to supplement their clinical experiences with a
wider range of diagnostic and treatment planning processes.
Despite this impressive record of innovation, UTDB is
considering what more might be needed to improve educational
delivery. The Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, ADEA CCI Liaison
Dr. Leslie Roeder, is leading an effort to map the curriculum. This
should give the faculty additional clues about how well they are
achieving their goals and what they might want to teach