Tales and Tips for Bringing More Educational Technology into Healthcare Courses, with Devin Marble

Devin Marble is an anatomy instructor at Pima Community College where he teaches students enrolled in the Public Safety and Emergency Services Institute. The Education Team at Visible Body reached out to Devin to learn more about how he is using his previous Hollywood career and technical expertise in movie-making to put education technology into the hands of healthcare students.


You are a relatively new instructor who brings a lot of knowledge about how technology can positively impact how you teach. Tell us about that.

I just finished my first year teaching at Pima Community College as a paramedic instructor. Emergency medicine is the start of a new education career for me—I hope to be a P.A. one day. Before this, I worked in Hollywood as a producer for independent films and reality TV shows. I also did some show hosting for Syfy/NBC Universal. After ten years navigating the entertainment industry, creating content, sourcing funds, budgeting, filming, traveling, networking, and successfully selling my first feature length film, I wanted a new career and was interested in making more of a difference. That led me to a job as a full-time paramedic for Tucson Medical Center ER and to PCC where I teach.

Allied Health enrollments are growing at Pima Community College, and school administrators are interested in addressing student needs. It is an exciting place right now. We are becoming a Center of Excellence. The nursing, dental assisting, paramedics, fire, safety, and policing programs will be under one umbrella. Once the buildings are finished, our offices, classrooms and labs will be physically close to each other. That construction will begin soon.

Devin-Marble-high -quality-compressions-cpr-that-paramedic-might-perform- during-code- arrest.pngDevin Marble, instructor at Pima Community College, demonstrating CPR  for a 360VR video on the Pima Paramedics Youtube channel used by students to review skills lab. Image courtesy D. Marble.

Technology that Pima provides students can put our allied health programs on the cutting edge and ahead of the game. If the risk isn’t too high, we should TRY something new. New, cool, and fun use of technology can have a great effect on learning. We are innovating. It is great for the school. Students want a college that is trying new ways to help them succeed.


Tell us about the students you are teaching and how Pima Community College helps them meet their career objectives?

Most of our allied health students are adult learners looking for their next career jump. I teach in the paramedic program. Students have weekly exams and high scores are required to succeed in paramedicine—below 80% is failing. For example, to pass their pharmacology exam, students can only miss one question. That’s TOUGH. Especially for topics like pharmacology.

Handing these students a stack of medical textbooks books and assigning 50 pages to read before class offers them one way to ingest the material to successfully complete the program. Read it. That’s the standard everywhere. Many students struggle to learn this way, especially adult learners who have to re-learn how to study.

What kind of resources do you recommend your students use?

I don’t want students spending too much time on Google looking for resources to master the content for the course. It’s enough to have to ingest all this content; if they’re not getting it, they shouldn’t be expected to have to find another way to learn it as well. I think of my job as curating the content students need so they can focus on learning it. I do that when I am lecturing in class and I select adjunct materials for the lesson. The materials we provide students have to be visual, dynamic, and accessible anytime and anyplace.

Two or three really dense resources can make for success. These have to be resources that meet the students' learning needs—whenever they have time, wherever they are—and on a home computer, on a school computer, or on their own mobile device. Resources have to be cost effective, for the students and for the school. I am always thinking of unique ways students can learn. Just because you didn’t understand it from the text, doesn’t mean you can’t.

Has this approach been successful?

Our paramedic program is very successful. Students who complete it and take the Paramedic National Registry Exam have a[n average of] 91% first-time pass rate. I think the national average is 70%! I think our first-time pass rates can be even better, and my directors at PSESI agree. Aim higher!

How do you come up with technology ideas that can improve how allied health students learn and perform on exams?

I was a paramedic student not that long ago and had to source content outside of the assigned materials in order to learn. I went to Khan Academy and Youtube, and found some Fire Department videos to help me pass a part of the NREMT practical exams. But the content was old sometimes, and NREMT was updating their guidelines. Plus, it was time consuming to find good material. I was never sure it was exactly what I needed—or what I was missing.

I remember all that. When I started teaching, at first I just proctored skills while students did NREMT tests and I graded pass/fail. I had empathy for these students; I remember the stress of taking the tests and the high stakes.

When I started lecturing, my thought was always how to make the best use of students' time, convey the key information and help them practice, and give them ways to study for these tests.

How has your film-making background helped your program?

My background in video led to my first idea, what is now the Pima Paramedics Youtube Channel for students in our Public Safety and Emergency Services Institute. We have more than 25 videos up that teach skills and walk through demonstrations. There have been 130,000 views! In just a few months! I shoot, edit, write, and manage the whole project. Not because I want to do it alone, but because it requires a unique set of skills that I happen to have from my previous career. We have the facilities, the instructors are ready to teach, and the students need it.

Allied health students and students from all over the world have responded to digital education. We are being watched by 205 countries! Our students are requesting specific videos to help them learn a difficult skill or concept, and that helps me come up with content to add to the channel. We record our very talented instructors, who are all professional paramedics, and put the education online and students can watch it as many times as they want, whenever they want and wherever they are! The whole project was a $4,000 investment. Now that we own the equipment, we can film indefinitely.

Visible-Body-Virtual-Anatomy-Pima-Community-College-Allied-Health-Ziegler-Story 2.jpg"Allied health students respond to digital education," says Pima Community College instructor Devin Marble. "When I started lecturing, my thought was always how to make the best use of students’ time, convey the key information, help them practice, and give them ways to study for these tests.” Image courtesy Justina Ziegler.

How do you get technology funded for your education initiatives?

We have a program budget. We spend a lot of it on standard lab equipment like Syndavers—the synthetic models you can use in skills labs—monitors, CPR mannequins, etc. However, students can only access many of those assets with an instructor present during lab hours. They need access to resources outside those lab rooms. They need to be able to access models and review what they’ve learned over and over, outside of lab time to increase success rates.

The paramedic program budget is not enormous. But when educational resources affect all students at the college, there are other budgets available for use. The administration that supports our program has been great at helping to locate resources, and I do my best to communicate the need and solution. During my Hollywood career, I made pitches all the time, and I’ve pitched at Pima to receive budget money.

Here are five tips that have helped me receive funding for technology purchases that improve our anatomy and skills teaching:

1. Call a meeting to get buy-in from higher ups. I request their time, call a formal meeting, and book a room. It’s serious and purposeful.

2. Have a formal high-level summary to hand out. These are short, 2-3 page handouts with images and key bullets that stakeholders and decision makers in the room have for review while you make a pitch. I always have a quick summary of the problem we all share and the solution I am pitching, and why it’s a win for all of us. Oh, and the summaries END with the dollar signs. You don’t want people to stop reading on the first page.

3. Ask for resources and talk about the payout. Never have I asked for money. Instead, I show a need for resources. And when the money comes I usually stay under budget. When I talk resources I often have a “Plan A”—starter basic plan that costs less, and “Plan B.” Plan B is Plan A, plus a few things I could live without but would be great to have. For example, when I started the video program, I said I needed a camera, a computer that could handle video production, and a microphone. The most expensive piece of this plan was the computer. Because the media department (PCCTV) had one, I asked to use their resource to start us off. That way if they wanted to start small with Plan A (which we ended up doing for the first few videos) the option was on the table. Don’t give them a good reason to say no; give them reasons to say yes!

4. Be strategic. Every pitch I make meets the basic test: It’s cost effective, students will use it, and the school will have better outcomes.

5. Be willing to discuss and help solve any challenge the team may have so we all win. For example, the Visible Body trial we are running now brings digital anatomy resources to students. I am working with my manager and the library to present the benefits of this resource to other programs. My manager and the librarian are so excited about this technology. It is all new for some instructors in other allied health programs, and I am working to put out the word. It’s a success if multiple programs use these digital resources. We are using the library budget and the library succeeds if the resource is heavily used. I also called the school newspaper and worked with them on an article about our trial. I’m not shy! We need to get the word out.

Here’s another tip for pitching a technology idea. When I presented to the library team and my Directors of PSESI, I set up two tablets with the VB trials pre-loaded and displayed, and had them use it while I talked. I also played the Augmented Reality trailers from Visible Body on the conference room TV connected to Youtube. The information was surrounding them. The library team said they were looking for some new technology just like this. That’s how the trial started.

What led you to pick Anatomy Education and the Visible Body 3D and Augmented Reality apps as the next curriculum area and technology you wanted to share with instructors and students at PCC?

From day one working as a medic instructor there was a big charging station and a box of UNUSED technology! These were 30 new Microsoft Surface Pros. We bought them because our program is growing and we must meet testing needs. The computer-based testing is only a handful of days in the semester. I kept thinking about how students could use these devices and started doing research. I was looking for learning technology that was cross platform, something that could work on these Surfaces but also on our computers and whatever technology students might own.

Visible Body came up as the closest thing to a silver bullet for the anatomy curriculum in my program. Students can’t just go into a room and play with a Syndaver. I wanted students to access the human body before the scheduled time with Syndaver so that their time was more efficient, and after that simulated lab experience so that they could study.

I called Visible Body and started asking questions and getting quotes. At first I started with just our program and our enrolled students. The allied health program at Pima is probably our biggest. We have a huge nursing program, Vet, dental assisting, and public safety. Visible Body had great site license pricing for school-wide access. Students can even access from home.

How have your students responded to Visible Body apps?

Visible Body apps will empower students to succeed in their biology courses. This is their chance to study anatomically correct anatomy that you wouldn’t even be able to see on a cadaver.

The initial reaction to the Visible Body app trial is strong. Our cart of tablets that students can check out and use hasn’t been full since we started this trial. We’ve heard from students that studying in a 3D environment with the apps has made the difference between failing and passing an exam. We have instructors using it during both lecture and lab time.

If you continue this path of incorporating technology to meet students learning styles, what do you think a course could look like in a few years?

In a magical world where everything was perfect, I think it would be incredible if a student received a new iPad with all their books that was pre-loaded with software that answered complex questions and helped them learn in easy and fast ways. Utilizing resources that teach in multiple ways is the way to go. Education and resources that are accessible while a student is sitting in between clinicals and needs to study for an exam scheduled for the next day. In that magical world, students aren’t Googling to find reputable resources. They have everything they need loaded and available on their iPad to immerse themselves and master the material.

I am so excited about the video series and the Visible Body trial to which students have access. I think 2018 performance numbers will show higher pass rates throughout the curriculum. Let’s see. I’m excited about what the results can show.

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