Designing for medical students during their field education in the ER
We worked with Boston University and Boston Medical Center to design a custom application to gather information from medical students during their field education in the emergency room.
Field education in American emergency departments has changed. Through a combination of advancements in the business and administration of emergency room care, formal ‘learning moments’ between instructor and student have given way to a faster-moving, more decentralized methods of instruction. While this evolution is widely documented, there is little understanding of how this change has affected the actual process of learning.
A group of faculty members at the BU Medical School is seeking to close this gap. The team designed a study that would track the key learning moments of medical students during their field education in the emergency room. To accomplish this, Boston Medical Center reached out to Vermonster to help design and build a custom application that would gather information for the study while adhering to the strict confidentiality and security guidelines required for work in the healthcare sector. The application needed to serve two purposes: document the subject, character, and location of key “learning moments” within the physical floorplan of the emergency room; and build a resource for medical students to allow them to share their experience and understanding of classroom knowledge with their peers.
Telling a great story through interactive data visualizations
This academic study is an attempt to give insight into the current state of experiential learning, harness the power of using practical experience in reinforcing classroom retention by the learner, and create a platform for medical students and other trainees to share what they have learned with their colleagues.
Within the platform, students create learning journals that describe the context surrounding a “learning moment.” These journals are shared with other users in a searchable database and two interactive data visualizations that users can use to explore the dataset as well as download for use in reporting. One visualization attempts to tell a story — it connects learning moments with the hospital floor plan where color and size are used to highlight the physical spaces that are more significant in the learning process. The other visualization is more explorative and uses color in a two-dimensional representation of the dataset, allowing users to select driving factors to highlight trends.
Usability and prototyping using paper, stickies, HTML, and Kano Model
We wanted to test the interface and learn more about the variables relevant to students. We started testing our initial ideas for logging a learning moment with real users: medical students and attending physicians. Using paper prototypes and stickies, we built four prototypes of the application with features we discussed during our weekly alignment meetings with faculty members.
Each test took 35–40 minutes per user. When it comes to usability testing, it is crucial to create a safe environment where users feel comfortable interacting with the interface and thinking out loud. Prior to individual tests, we briefly introduced interviewees to usability testing and paper prototyping. Each user received a pre-defined learning moment to enter into the application using the paper prototype. We asked users to walk us through each step they took during this task and to indicate whether their expectations were met during each step. Through a Kano questionnaire, we were able to receive additional feedback for each feature tested. These studies gave us valuable insight for the technical decisions of the project and helped us rank and prioritize which features were truly needed for the application, keeping user goals and needs at the center.