PUBLIC HEALTH, LIVE ON TOUR: EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING IS A BUS RIDE AWAY FOR UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS
University of South Florida (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2011 Proceedings
Publication year: 2011
Conference name: 4th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 14-16 November, 2011
Location: Madrid, Spain
Educators are constantly challenged to provide students with hands-on learning opportunities. One way to address this challenge is to engage students in real world applications of learning. The University of South Florida (USF) created an undergraduate public health major, the first of its kind in the state of Florida based on student desire and demand for public health workers in the United States. Undergraduate instructors at the USF College of Public Health (COPH) implemented a class titled “Public Health, Live on Tour” to provide public health undergraduates the opportunity to visit, learn about, and network with various public health agencies and services in their community.
Two faculty and twelve undergraduate students visited a variety of public health agencies in the surrounding community using public transportation. The class occurred over one week, during university spring break. After an initial briefing to discuss class guidelines and expectations, the group embarked on their daily site visits.
A myriad of prospective public health related agencies were reviewed for appropriateness and accessibility. Additionally, the agencies selected were done so with several factors in mind: relevance to public health, a hands-on approach, and strengthening community-university relations. Agencies visited included those related to environmental health, hazardous waste, nutrition, infection control, safety, and medical care. Assignments included daily reaction papers and ungraded group discussions facilitated by instructors.
Evaluation and Results:
Upon completion of the class, instructors were interested in the degree to which the class met certain objectives, including if the agencies visited and the assignments provided offered students new information and a stimulation of academic and professional interest. The feedback will be used to improve the class in the future. Seven out of twelve students completed an anonymous exit survey. Demographics were assessed in addition to questions about their experiences with public transportation, their interests in the agencies and services, and the relevance and interest of each assignment. In addition, students provided their likes and dislikes about the course. Results indicated that all students liked the format of the class and the experiential learning focus. The most common item that students reported disliking was the use of public transportation. However, those who stated their objections also stated that they realized the importance of using public transportation in the context of the course. All students disclosed that the class provided them with new information, the topics were interesting and they would recommend the class to a friend.
Key features for future course development include: improved time management, revision of assignments, and class expansion to other locations. To assist with time management each agency should be provided a list of essential topics to address. Both students and instructors felt it appropriate to reduce, but not eliminate, the number of papers and substitute with tests to add to the assessment variety and support the short duration of the class. Lastly, instructors felt that it would be plausible to expand the class to other cities and locations, thereby allowing an even more well-rounded and robust curriculum.
Keywords: Public health, education, experiential learning, undergraduate, class creation, course creation.