Intentional Use of Digital Technology in Graduate Epidemiology Education

Intentional Use of Digital Technology in Graduate Epidemiology Education

Charlotte Baker (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9331-7.ch008
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Public health education is continuously changing. Several papers have been written on the need to update epidemiology education in public health to match the needs of the “real world” as well as keep up with the digital age, yet few papers have been published on how to make this happen. Utilizing a blended learning framework, a graduate-level course was revised to improve student learning and teaching practice. By considering and implementing various pedagogical practices and tools, students learned more, were able to utilize this information in class and in other settings, and were able to take more control of their learning. Improvements were made to teaching practice, specifically by being more student-centered and providing better planned integration of technology for the advantage of the student and instructor. Using well-designed pedagogical tools and spending the time to plan out the course methodology based on expectations at the conclusion is a best practice that should be used by instructors in various fields but especially those in public health.
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Public health education is continuously changing. The field of public health has traditionally been divided into five core areas – biostatistics, environmental health, social and behavioral health/health education, epidemiology, and health policy and management. As defined by the World Health Organization, epidemiology is “the study of the distribution and determinants of health-related states or events (including disease), and the application of this study to the control of diseases and other health problems” (World Health Organization, 2018). It is widely recognized as the foundational science of public health. Mathematics and statistics are among the areas of knowledge important for using epidemiology or being an epidemiologist. Numerous public health academicians and practitioners have discussed the shortcomings of current public health education, and even specifically epidemiological education (Brownson et al., 2015; Caron, 2013; Gange, 2008; Goldmann, Stark, Kapadia, & McQueen, 2018; Keyes & Galea, 2014; Morabia, 2014; Muttappallymyalil et al., 2016; Ruiz de Castañeda et al., 2018; Sullivan & Galea, 2017; Young, Naude, Brodovcky, & Esterhuizen, 2017). However, little has changed in terms of the practice of teaching in this digital age. Few publications exist that provide directives of things programs and schools should or did change to improve public health education (Mincey & Gross, 2017; Sullivan & Galea, 2017) but more exist on the reasons why it needs to change (McKeown, 2013). As Sandro Galea, Dean of the Columbia University School of Public Health, emphasizes at every given chance, we must commit to making public health education relevant to the work that public health students are doing when they exit educational programs and we must commit to helping them understand how the work they do feeds back into changing the world – it must be of consequence (Galea, 2013). These papers, though few, lay the groundwork for why this chapter in particular is important – it is not enough to continue to state why we need to change. More work on pedagogy and practice needs to be published demonstrating how things have changed in public health education in order to drive solid pedagogical knowledge and practice.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Teaching: The act of conveying information to others.

Flipped Classroom: A course in which the traditional lecture portion is completed at home and the homework portion is completed in class.

Station Rotation: A teaching method in which students rotate through stations that are designed to teach or engage them in an aspect of importance to the lesson of the day.

Statistics: The science of collecting and analyzing data in large quantities to derive answers about populations.

Blended Learning: A course designed with a blend of teaching methods including online and face to face.

Mathematics: The science of number, quantity, and space.

Public Health: The science of the health of the population as a whole.

Quantitative: Numerical.

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