Mission: Public Health Preparedness
The IML at Dartmouth is dedicated to providing specialized knowledge, research, educational, and production support to the public health system in the application of computers and the Internet for professional education and training.
Variously known as "E-Learning," "Distance Learning," and "Technology-mediated Learning," this specialty area has long been the focus of the Interactive Media Laboratory (IML) at Dartmouth Medical School. IML has been a pioneer in E-Learning, producing multimedia-based, immersive training programs for a variety of audiences, as well as developing high-bandwidth, Internet-based E-Learning systems. It is currently developing key elements of a prototype distance learning system for public health professional education that takes advantage of the nascent broadband Internet. The system is designed to be accessible on demand from any location world-wide. For those lacking broadband Internet access, individual programs can also be run via stand-alone CD-ROM or via CD-ROM/Internet combination using current-generation Internet.
In its instructional programs, the Interactive Media Lab applies experiential learning models stemming from the philosophy of John Dewey and connectionist learning theory to produce E-Learning combining sound pedagogy with extremely high production quality. A hallmark of IML programs is the incorporation of narrative, immersive, constructivist environmental designs. Programs are hosted by prominent "mentors" who are both master practitioners and master teachers. Past programs have featured such mentors as C. Everett Koop, John Bartlett (HIV/AIDS care), and Russ Portenoy (pain management). A recent program in clinical genetics features Ed McCabe, currently chair of the Secretary's Advisory Committee on Genetic Testing for the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Professional education in public health will be increasingly facilitated by the proliferation of computers capable of displaying combinations of text, graphics, video, and sound; broadband networks capable of delivering these multiple media to the home or office; and new methods for using these technologies for education and training. However, current models and methods for E-Learning are limited, lagging behind the rapid technological evolution of computers and the Internet. Further, there is no community of educator/developers in medicine and public health with shared purposes, models, methods, and tools. As a result, the application of these new technologies is fragmented and uncoordinated.
The IML continues to research and develop new E-Learning models in addition to creating multimedia education and training programs. This research will assure several outcomes of distinct value to public health and medicine. It will:
- enhance the dissemination of models, methods, and other resources that have already been developed
- promote the evolution of new models and methods (and their dissemination)
- create a community of experienced educators/developers with a common purpose, language, methods, and standards of excellence
- promote the development of methods for collaboration using "virtual teams" and communication networks
- create a library of excellent E-Learning programs, of sufficient size that they:
- have an impact on professional education and training that can be assessed
- generate an expectation that other programs should achieve similar levels of quality
- create a demand for new, high-quality programs, building a market that will draw new developers and new sources of funding
- promote the development of methods for collaboration among professional education institutions, to allow them to achieve commonly-held curricular goals while allowing for tailoring of materials to accommodate the special needs of particular institutions