Sunday, February 22, 2009

Go to iTunes U and Become a Psychiatrist

An interesting convergence of themes occurred today, from three separate threads. From this remarkable thematic convergence, I have come to the conclusion that one can become a psychiatrist just by sleeping.  Please, follow along.

I couldn't fall asleep last night and could no longer focus on writing a chapter for our book, and so was cruising iTunes U, looking to see what sort of interesting lectures they had there.  (Yes, it is ironic that, despite my above-stated conclusion, I was already a psychiatrist yet could not sleep.)

If you aren't familiar with iTunes U, they make audio and video podcasts of
 college lectures from MIT, Yale, Stanford, and other participating universities, available for free. No enrollment fee. No 8am lectures. No uncomfortable chairs. Alas, no credit, but you get to learn for free.

Believe it or not, I spent 45 minutes watching a Stanford engineering course on Fourier transforms -- and didn't fall asleep!  At 3:00 AM!!  Thank you, Brad Osgood (iTunes link HERE).  I did not take any notes, btw.

So, that was the first thread.  

After a fitful four hours of sleep, dreaming of wavelengths and lambda, I begin my Sunday morning with blueberry and ginger pancakes.  Since this is 2009 and all, I am reading -- not the Sunday paper -- but the Sunday blogs and news on the computer.  I come across a post by a fellow psychiatrist blogger in the Netherlands, DrShock, about a just-published article from Computers & Education, entitled "iTunes University and the Classroom: Can Podcasts Replace Professors?", and written by SUNY psychologist, Dani McKinney et al.  This was a very interesting second thread, which related to the first.  What Dr McKinney did was have two different groups of psychology students receive a lecture on "perception."  One group attended a traditional class lecture and the other received the lecture as a podcast.  They were later tested on their recall of information from the lecture.  Alas, there was no random group assignment, which is a relative weakness of the study design.  

But the findings suggest that a podcast lecture provided more opportunity to re-listen and take notes than the live lecture, as the podcast group scored significantly higher than the live lecture group.  Of those students who took an average amount of notes, the podcast students scored an average letter grade (10 points) higher than the classroom students.  (If you'd like a copy of the entire article, you may write Dr McKinney at mckinneyATfredoniaDOTedu.)

Most of the podcast students listened to the lecture more than once, so they had more opportunity to learn the material.  This is one of the benefits of having a recording of the lecture.

Here's what made me go "Hey, wait a minute, this is quite a coincidence!" -- I have had dinner with Dani McKinney before.  She is, in fact, a close friend of one of my close friends.

So, the third thread of this convergence of ideas hits me when I go to Shrink Rap and see that the Google ad on the right sidebar says,
"Be a Psychiatrist.  Advance your career - earn a degree in Psychiatry completely online."
Well, I can see the handwriting on the wall.  THIS is the 7th future trend in Psychiatry.  Online medical degrees.  You don't even need to go to class.  Just listen to the podcast (at least twice for better retention) and take notes while you listen, and you can advance your career in no time.  I suppose if you are really lazy, you could play the podcasts while you sleep.  I'm not sure if there would be adequate retention to pass the tests under this condition, but Dani assures me that she will be testing out this hypothesis with the next group of psychology students.  Wake me up when we get there.  In the meantime, I'm heading over to iTunes U to take some neurosurgery classes.  Reimbursement for procedures is much better than for cognitive services.


Anonymous said...

The idea of being able to pause the podcast while I write things down is appealing. But I'm not sure the podcast could compete against a classroom if the classroom were not a large lecture. I'm probably spoiled going to small university. There's just no way the podcast could beat out the dialogue in a small classroom. I've listened to some of those itunesu podcasts. It's neat. Some could use editing though. I found one that had a lot of junk at the beginning talking about people waitlisted for the class etc. Things that don't matter to the person listening online.

Owner said...

I'm not quite sure what to make of these findings. I've attended courses where the professors audiorecorded the lectures, so if we needed to, we could relisten to the lectures at any point throughout the semester. Most students didn't though, simply because listening to a lecture = 90 minutes, skimming over notes from that lecture = 10-20 minutes.

Now, for those who never attended the lectures in the first place, I guess it's convenient, however, watching lectures online not only takes away the fun of raising issues in class and asking the prof questions, but it also practically removes you from your peers. Asking your friends "what does that word mean? - what is he talking about? - do you wanna split the readings and get together later to go over them, with a cuppa hot choc?" etc, that stuff is invaluable.

Don't get me wrong, I am very happy that lectures are available online for free. But the ones I watch/listen to now are only the ones I am really interested in, while in college I attended some courses more because I had to than because I found them personally interesting. I don't regret any of them, but it's a bit difficult to compare the two, just because everything about them, from the motivation to the wider-ranging implications, is so different.

I think online courses are great, but they can never replace the classroom.

Anonymous said...

I am guessing that it was probably a shrink with a degree from itunes u who prescribed xanax to a chimpanzee.

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile, in my teacher ed training the wisdom of the moment is NEVER EVER lecture. Classes are all supposed to be participatory activities. The current wisdom is that the less a teacher say, the better.

manchester fat acceptance said...

As an adult with Asperger Syndrome, I can tell you that this idea is highly appealing to me!

I took one online class during University (a multimedia / technology class), but sadly I had to suffer the presence of my classmates during the rest of my lectures (kidding! sort of...). I guess it makes sense, as I was studying Education, which is a highly social field.

Never mind how an Aspie can manage to be a teacher lol!

Sarebear said...


I use my mp3 player to record my sessions, as you know I think, and when I actually listen to them, I do better overall, actually.

I also catch things I didn't the first time around, or that I may have been too emotional to at the time to really.

I also get more perspective . . . . I feel like I get more of his expertise, because the "good stuff" of therapy, the "work" of therapy, sometimes the really hard stuff (which sometimes can take me a long time and alot of pausing to get through, but I do it because I KNOW how much better I do overall when I do listen to the sessions), I come to the next session feeling better "prepared", kinda like when references to last week and the couple of weeks before are part of the discussion, we can really dig into it, because I've just been there.

Once, when I hadn't listened to any for along time, just kept forgetting, putting it off, etc., and then I listened to 4-6 in a row one week (not all at once, but over a couple days), I came back the next time and said WOW thank you for all the work you do with me and THANK you for your PATIENCE and some other things I said yada yada but geez it really became apparent how much goes into therapy . . . .

When I'm feeling lazy, or guilty, or other things, I don't listen, among other reasons. Not really lectures, but still, retention of the information, and the benefits thereof . . . .

It's quite amazing, actually.

NeoNurseChic said...

I like the ability to listen/view lectures online, but also really enjoy the ability to learn in the active classroom. I'm not sure if I've mentioned in comments on your blog or just in my random twitter updates that I am currently applying for a masters degree as a pediatric acute/chronic nurse practitioner and a masters degree in bioethics. I attended a bioethics lecture one day as an "introduction" to the bioethics program at one anonymous very well known univeristy here, and it was amazing!!! I hung onto every word the professor was saying! I took 5 pages of furiously scribbled notes while she was talking.

The lecture is recorded. And for this class, they offer the same lecture on both Tuesdays and Thursdays so that students can pick a date and attend the lecture when it is most convenient for them. If they miss attending in person, then they can listen to the recordings online. The downside to that is that you can't ask questions to a tape recorder or see the body language of the presenter and classmates. However, you can always email the prof and arrange to meet in office hours or by appointment, if necessary!

I think the best combo, for me, is the ability to attend lecture and also to listen to it later online. That way, if I'm having a bad day physically and have to miss the lecture, I can still listen to it online. Also, if I attend the class, take notes, but want to review something that I didn't fully process upon first hearing, I can then re-listen to the lecture my leisure and as many times as I want! I do a lot of my best learning at like 2am. Do people usually teach then? No! But you can listen to the lectures then if they're recorded and available online! :) However, I still really enjoy the interaction of being in the actual classroom environment.

As you may or may not know, I actually completed 2/3 of a masters program to become a pediatric nurse practitioner at another university. I quit taking courses in December 2006 because I wasn't happy with the program. Many of the classes were online. I enjoyed the flexibility of online learning and work-at-your-own-pace structure, but sometimes it meant that I didn't delve as deeply into the material as I would have if someone was actively guiding me. I'm good at self-directed learning, but structure and guidelines help - and having a teacher talk you through the most important points and be available for interactive feedback is something you just can't replace. The programs I'm applying to now have no online learning opportunities. Even though you can listen to many lectures online later, you still need to be present in class. I'm actually really happy about that! I had thought that online learning was a better fit for me, but I think I need the structure!

Take care,
Carrie :)

Anonymous said...

My dream is video lectures by awesome professors will replace the crappy professors are insurmountably accented or who call it in. For elementary courses, the TAs are the ones who work with students anyway at UW-Madison. Plus, I could learn at a time of day when I was actually functional.

Thanks btw; because I need to see for myself that it isn't mind-numbing, I see a lecture on fourier transforms in my future.

Do benzos kill chimps or am I overthinking this?

Anonymous said...

"crappy professors WHO are insurmountably"

PS: I'm excited to see I'm apparently capable of making relatively brief comments.