Dr Christian Moro from the Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine has joined a distinguished cohort of Bond University educators as the most recent recipient of a Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning.
These national honours are awarded annually through the Australian Awards for University Teaching, acknowledging individuals who go above and beyond to deliver a richer, more engaging experience for their students.
As Assistant Professor of Biomedical Science and Medicine at Bond University for the past five years, Dr Moro’s Citation specifically recognises his innovative approach in developing a suite of leading-edge visualisation tools and technology-enhanced resources for Bond’s Health Sciences and Medicine students.
“I started looking at technology some years ago as a way of encouraging students to revise their lessons constantly throughout the course, rather than cramming at the end when the exams were looming,” said Dr Moro, who teaches into the Medicine Program, and the subject Principles of Human Structure and Function.
“I’d learnt computer coding so was able to use that knowledge to convert past exams and key lesson points into an adventure-based computer game.
“This has expanded to include video presentations, class YouTube channels and 3D-printed anatomy models.
“In 2015, my colleagues - Dr Allan Stirling and Dr Athanasios Raikos – and I started developing virtual and augmented reality learning suites, using a combination of Oculus Rift headsets, apps and podcasts to create three-dimensional images of specific body parts that students could move around at will and even ‘travel’ into.
“In this ‘Virtual Anatomy Lab’, which is now in full use in our classes, we can create a model of the brain, for instance, and then add a disease or malformation so students can see exactly what is happening inside the brain of a neuro patient.”
Other technological developments include inter-active tablets and student-response key pads that allow students to text questions directly to their lecturer at any time and, most recently, the use of hologram models that can be projected into the centre of the classroom through a headset device, so students can walk around and view them from every angle.
“There’s no doubt that cadavers are still the best way for students to learn the inner workings of the human body but it’s difficult to study 3-dimensional models at home, or outside scheduled class hours,” said Dr Moro.
“Using VR, AR, holographic and 3D printing technology allows our students to study each part in three dimensions at their own pace and in their own time, even when they’re working on assignments at home.”
Technology-enhanced learning has also proved to be far more effective and engaging for students. In an era when public university professors are lamenting the low turnout of students in their lectures, Dr Moro’s class attendance averages 80%-95%, student achievement has increased by 20% and failure rates are down by 10%.
“I think the key to this success is that it’s not really about the technology,” said Dr Moro.
“Everything we develop is focussed on what we are teaching and finding the best way to communicate that to our students.
“Every single feature of our virtual reality suite of programs has been developed in-house from scratch based on the lesson content. In other words, it’s tailor-made for these students, in each subject, in each class that it’s utilised.”
While Dr Moro’s ‘gadgets’ might be exclusively designed for his students at Bond, other educators are taking plenty of notice as these apps are now being used at other Australian universities.
He and his colleagues have taken their augmented reality workshops on the brain to Year 11 and 12 students at local Gold Coast secondary schools and elements of their technology have been used in postgraduate training for trainee anaesthetists.
Dr Moro was also invited to be a keynote speaker on the expert’s panel and present a workshop at Siggraph Asia 2016 in Macau, one of the world’s largest and most prestigious educational technology conferences.
“The real success of these innovations has been to observe the real impacts that they are having on student engagement and learning,” said Dr Moro.
Dr Moro was officially presented with his Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning, signed by the Minister for Education and Training, the Honorary Simon Birmingham, in a special ceremony at Customs House in Brisbane recently.