Pathophysiology is a complex and sometimes overwhelming topic for students. Being able to answer the question “why is my patient experiencing this?” is vital for our graduate nurses and clinical practitioners. They need to identify and understand how to manage abnormal changes in patients – with accuracy and without delay.

It can be difficult to do all this with just a traditional textbook. With digital technologies now readily available, the power of interactive and animated learning resources cannot be underestimated. They help students use different mechanisms in their brain and memory to retain information. Peate’s Fundamentals of Applied Pathophysiology (1st Edition) offers students innovative interactive modules to complement the traditional textbook learning. Dr Sufyan Akram, Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences at Charles Darwin University, took the lead in creating these animated learning resources.

Managing the cognitive load of pathophysiology students with interactive modules

Managing the cognitive load of students is very important. Dr Akram is an advocate for re-framing how we teach students: “Providing information to students using visual, auditory and other cues, cements the information in their long-term memory.” These are the principles that have guided Dr Akram while developing interactive content throughout his teaching career.

For the dynamic process of pathophysiology, there is an order of occurrences related to a patient’s condition – one thing leads to another. Dr Akram adds, “In providing information on a static image or text it becomes wordy, and students need to use their imagination to really understand. But we can provide them an interactive module where information is flowing logically, and there’s some level of personalisation – they can stop, rewatch, rewind, go forward or backwards. So that helps students solidly cement their understanding of these complex topics.”

Dr Akram’s interactive modules focus on the art of storytelling. They are a mix of many different activities that relate to a case study of a real-life scenario. For example, the patient presents with certain symptoms and signs, and the attending physician orders certain investigations: the story begins. Dr Akram explains, “We are bringing pathophysiology into the clinical context: from patient presentation we work backwards to see how the disease was caused.”

Dr Akram also describes the importance of language use. “We use conversational language, not written language, so it’s much more relatable to the student. Textbook language can be intimidating, so as a balance, the interactive modules reflect a friendly conversational style.”