Doctor’s order: a tablet, digital course books and paperless curriculum

Every new medical student at the University of Helsinki will be given an iPad when they start their studies. The campus library is heavily involved in the process and we proactively offer a comprehensive package of digital content, services and tools. As a consequence, medical studentship is already highly paperless.Using the iPad might result in students that in the future will be better off than stdents who are mainly print-based. Photo: Juozas Kaziukenas/Flickr CC

The inclusion of the latest technological innovations in medical education is critical for medical students’ ability to function in an evolving and increasingly more sophisticated healthcare environment. The faculty of medicine at the University of Helsinki, Finland has increasingly moved towards paperless teaching and studying during the past 10 years.

Established in 2002, the Terkko Digital Course Library (DiKK) is a database service where teachers can save and share their educational materials (lecture notes, laboratory instructions, etc.). DiKK is open to all students and teachers in the faculty. In the true sense of the word, Digital Course Library is the building block of the paperless curriculum.

Tablet project

The initial ideas pertaining to the iPad project began in 2011 when we at Terkko (medical campus library of the Helsinki University Library) discovered that some medical faculties in the United States (University of California, Irvine and Stanford University) presented new medical students with an iPad tablet. However, the local libraries were not included in these projects. At Terkko, we decided to be proactive and promote the idea to the faculty and campus.

In September 2011, Terkko announced a brand new service product called TerkkoPad. The patrons could borrow an iPad and explore the possibilities that this new revolutionary tool offered.

TerkkoPad included several important course books, all of them made for iPads. TerkkoPad was a timely service, because at that time most of our patrons were not yet familiar with tablets and interactive course books. TerkkoPad was a highly popular first step, but it rapidly became apparent that the patrons wanted books and other content for their own personal devices. For example, they could take advantage of the social reading tools that the interactive course books offered.

However, TerkkoPad was the perfect service to advance the original idea and introduce to the medical faculty. The dean of the faculty became enthusiastic about the project and started a target-oriented search for funding.

A two-year grant from the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation was confirmed in January 2013, and the iPad project of the medical faculty was officially launched. The project group included teachers and an IT-specialist from the faculty and an information specialist from the library. Students were also subsequently added to the group.

The new medical students received their iPads during the first days of their studies in August 2013. The first-year teachers received their tablets earlier to allow them to learn how to use the new tool and plan their educational material and teaching methods.

Inkling books

The students are able to download three essential course books for free (anatomy, histology, cell biology: they are included in the project funding). Inkling, the test winner company of highly interactive textbooks for iPad, iPhone, Android, Mac and PC, supplied the books. Inkling recreates popular and well-known course books into a social learning environment with underlining and highlighting tools and the possibility to make private or public notes.

A study group can be created within a book, and the teacher can share additional information with the students and engage in discussion around a specific topic. Every chapter of an Inkling book comes with quizzes and self-assessment tools so when it’s exam time, the students know they are ready. In addition, Inkling content is handcrafted with high resolution images, audio and video, which are all an added bonus to the actual content of the book.

Inkling and Terkko offered clinical teachers (starting from the third year) the opportunity to download two textbooks, if they had a personal iPad. Surprisingly, many of them already had the device, which made it possible for them to learn to use these highly interactive course books. In addition, they will be ready for the iPad generation of students attending the clinics in two years’ time.

A flexible library platform

Of course, in addition to Inkling books and Digital Course Library materials, the
students have at their disposal all the digital content Terkko offers. Terkko Navigator is a library platform that is developed and made at Terkko. Terkko Navigator gathers all of the information content (journals, books, databases, feeds), as well as the patron interface services together. We are building a member community around the patrons and with the help of that, we will greatly enhance loyalty to the library.

The platform technology is anticipatory with, for example, automatic proactive feeds of the latest articles from thousands of journals, blogs and news sites. Terkko Navigator is a mobile platform, which means that it is neat and focused and ready to be used with any device that the patron possesses, e.g. iPad.

Computer-savy doctors

Otto – Student’s Library is a specialized micro-library within the Terkko Navigator. There it is easy for students to find all of the digital course books available to them, as well as, of course, all of the digital resources that they will need in their studies. One special example is the use of Twitter: using a certain hashtag they are able to discuss current course books and other topical issues among themselves or with the teacher.

With their iPads, provided by the faculty, the students are able to use the library’s digital collection and services, use the course books in an innovative way, and finally move towards the paperless curriculum. In the future, they will be computer-savvy doctors, who will probably be better off than their print-based colleagues.

Chief Information Specialist, Terkko - Meilahti Campus Library Helsinki, Finland