new crop of medical students orientated

All excuses for not blogging recently aside, I have been quite busy with a number of things at work, including welcoming the new class of medical students and giving them homework.

I’ve already discussed what I do for the incoming students: library case studies/scavenger hunt and the PubMed tutorial.  This year I did the same.  The actual orientation itself, the scavenger hunt, went well again this year, though it was definitely not received with the same enthusiasm as last year.  For one thing, we weren’t giving out gift certificates to Chipotle as prizes for the winning team.  Another thing was that the students had the mornings to shadow physicians, which meant they were dressed to the nines, some of them (high heels and exploring the campus do not go well together).

This year, I went through their “cases” very carefully after they turned them in so that I could see if I could improve on anything for next year, something I neglected to do in the party atmosphere surrounding last year’s mad dash. I noticed that many teams seemed to have skipped several cases, likely due to the lack of explicit assignment on the case.  That, I can easily change.  One team brought back a photocopy of an article (what, not everything is online?) that was from the right journal, but was the wrong article.  Not sure what to do about that.  One of the teams completed their hunt in full in 45 minutes, and another took two and a half hours, a whole hour after their classmates’ teams.  Do we set a time limit in the future?  Weirdly, the 45 minute team completed all the cases fully and completely–a definite A plus.  The two and a half hour team, who took their time and spent a lot of time at each library investigating, didn’t complete three cases as I would have expected, anyway.

Activities that the students had to accomplish to finish:

  • photocopy article from journal that was only available in print
  • request an article that is in storage (accomplishes two tasks–getting them familiar with requesting articles, plus alerts them to older journals being in storage)
  • look up three books at different libraries in the catalog, find the libraries in question, and locate the “book” on the shelf
  • talk to a reference librarian other than me (for times when they have emergency requests and I am not there)
  •  etc

I start out the scavenger hunt with a tour of the library web site and the medical school library, to familiarize them with how to begin some of these things.  Next year, I think I might do a couple of things differently.  For instance, I might create a passport for each team that they would have to get stamped at each library they visit.  I might also add a requirement to find an article online and print it, or to use one of the online textbooks to look up something.  Any thoughts from anyone?

The PubMed tutorial bit of the orientation is not yet fully completed, but will be except for stragglers by Monday.  This year, I was amazed by the students.  When I have everyone introduce themselves to me in the orientation session, I always ask them to indicate their level of familiarity with PubMed.  This year, there was only ONE student who hadn’t used it, and I’d say that at least half said that they were extremely familiar with it.  More than one made claims like, “I live and breathe PubMed” or “PubMed is my savior.”  So, we all know the literature saying that people have an inflated opinion of what their competency really is, right?  (Marie Ascher and Diana Cunningham had a really interesting poster (PPT) at MLA talking about this kind of response bias, by the way.)  So, I have to admit, I assumed they were all exaggerating their skill.

Apparently not.  By the following day, one of the students came up to me letting me know that she had completed the quiz, but that PubMed’s MeSH Database was on the fritz.  And it was–I emailed them and they have since corrected the problems, which ranged from the search holding box not showing up to having the sent search all of a sudden switch Boolean operators on you to it misbehaving when you chose subheadings.  But, in any case, I decide to run a report of the quiz scores and check.  Of the twenty or so students who had completed the assignment within 5 days of my orientation, almost every single one of them got two questions wrong–the questions where PubMed’s misbehavior was basically making it nearly impossible to complete the assignment.  If they had gotten a chance to do those right, almost every single student would have gotten 100%.  I think that is pretty amazing.  Last year, only 2 students got 100%.  This year, I’ve already seen 5, not counting the ones where MeSH influenced the outcome.

In many ways, I think this speaks to the tenor of the various classes.  This class is just far more serious than last year’s class, and perhaps there were even more science majors than last year’s.  Or at least, they seem superficially more familiar with PubMed.

This year, I put my PubMed tutorial into DrupalEd.  Yes, I managed to convince the tech guys that DrupalEd was the bomb.  And it is, let me tell you.  I am not thrilled with its bookmarking features, and I wish that we could pull up a whole list of everyone on the system, but overall, it is sweet.  They did a great job customizing it for us.   And, because it has built-in wikis, an assignment calendar, blogs, and more, I foresee us using it for practically everything in the future, from class assignments (already has been used for one class in addition to mine, and it has only been live for 3 weeks) to student group organization space to a place to put study guides that students create.

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