Online teaching thoughts

After making my grand plan for monthly online eye pathology teaching/discussion sessions, I now have a dozen under my belt. Here are some reflections on how it’s gone so far, and what might be different (or the same) in future.

My process

For each session, I gather 8-10 cases based around a theme. Since my audience includes a mix of ophthalmologists, histopathologists, students and researchers with variable experience, I focus on common or important pathology rather than rare diseases. For each case, I scan one or two representative slides using Micropix’s slide imaging software (which I’ve talked about previously).

Low power scan of an eye
Here’s one of the scanned globes I used in July.

I upload the images to PathPresenter, a site where you can share scans and photomicrographs (and radiology images). In the PathPresenter interface, I then create a presentation of all the cases in the session. I’ve learned to also upload a Powerpoint file with introductory information (eg “If you have a question, unmute yourself to speak”) and case details, and I now intersperse Powerpoint slides with the scans. The Powerpoint can’t be edited in PathPresenter, so if I notice an error I need to upload a corrected one.

For each batch of cases, I schedule 2 discussion sessions to cater for time differences. Although I miss in-person sessions, going online is a good opportunity to get international perspectives. I share links to the PathPresenter presentation by email and on social media. My email also includes Zoom links for the live discussion. I provide the joining links by private message to interested people who contact me via social media.

Currently, I don’t require pre-registration. That’s not been a problem, although it does leave me not knowing whether anyone will show up. I’ve not played to an empty room so far 😛 Also, many of the attendees just lurk (ie attend without saying anything). Since I don’t know who they are and want to keep things low-pressure, I don’t want to fire questions at the lurkers, but it can lead to long silences or 1-2 attendees doing most of the talking.

Themes so far

April – common corneal pathology
May – corneal stromal dystrophies
June – non-neoplastic globes
July – uveal melanoma globes
September – eyelid pathology

Photomicrograph of an eyelid specimen
One of the common eyelid pathologies we see: a chalazion

November – orbit

Photomicrograph of orbital dermoid cyst
Orbital dermoid lined by both epidermal-type and conjunctival-type epithelium

I’m in two minds about themed sessions. They’re good for attracting specific groups of attendees: for example, corneal researchers or ocular oncologists. However, it’s more time-consuming to gather the right kind of cases, especially if I haven’t already scanned them. From now on, I’ll probably use more of a mix and maybe arrange specific themed sessions around special interest groups.

The online sessions are a lot more work than in-person teaching (where my prep work was simply putting interesting slides in a box as I came across them). However, I’m reaching a wider audience and hopefully inspiring some to think about eye pathology.

If you attend or organise online teaching, I’d love to hear your experiences and suggestions 🙂

2 thoughts on “Online teaching thoughts”

  1. Hi Caroline, as an optometrist academic, I developed an interest in pathology when I completed a post doc at Moorfields and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology. Having 4 PhD students using some form of histology and teaching 80-120 optometry undergrads per year, the knowledge I have gained in these enjoyable and engaging sessions has a huge knock-on effect to these groups, so thank you for all your work! Teaching online is challenging to get interaction. Not everyone feels comfortable to speak up, and so if you can monitor the chat and/or allow people to write on the slides that might help. Also some people like to talk especially if they are confident in their knowledge and others prefer to listen, so if people offer to talk usually they want to. You could also have a 5 min “who are you” and/or “icebreaker” at the beginning which usually loosens people up. The specialised sessions have been great, but I think the mixed bag will also be great, and it might have a bit for everyone 🙂
    Hope this is helpful,

    Liked by 1 person

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