Hines SA, Collins PL, Quitadamo IJ, Brahler CJ, Knudson CD, Crouch GJ. ATLes: the strategic application of Web-based technology to address learning objectives and enhance classroom discussion in a veterinary pathology course. Journal of Veterinary Medical Education 2005;32(1):103-112

PMID: 15834828


A case-based program called ATLes (Adaptive Teaching and Learning Environments) was designed for use in a systemic pathology course and implemented over a four-year period. Second-year veterinary students working in small collaborative learning groups used the program prior to their weekly pathology laboratory. The goals of ATLes were to better address specific learning objectives in the course (notably the appreciation of pathophysiology), to solve previously identified problems associated with information overload and information sorting that commonly occur as part of discovery-based processes, and to enhance classroom discussion. The program was also designed to model and allow students to practice the problem-oriented approach to clinical cases, thereby enabling them to study pathology in a relevant clinical context. Features included opportunities for students to obtain additional information on the case by requesting specific laboratory tests and/or diagnostic procedures. However, students were also required to justify their diagnostic plans and to provide mechanistic analyses. The use of ATLes met most of these objectives. Student acceptance was high, and students favorably reviewed the online ''Content Links'' that made useful information more readily accessible and level appropriate. Students came to the lab better prepared to engage in an in-depth and high-quality discussion and were better able to connect clinical problems to underlying changes in tissue (lesions). However, many students indicated that the required time on task prior to lab might have been excessive relative to what they thought they learned. The classroom discussion, although improved, was not elevated to the expected level-most likely reflecting other missing elements of the learning environment, including the existing student culture and the students' current discussion skills. This article briefly discusses the lessons learned from ATLes and how similar case-based exercises might be combined with other approaches to enhance and enliven classroom discussions in the veterinary curriculum.