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Conversation #96: #KeepTeachingXULA (Part 3)

A conversation between Xavier's very own KiTani Parker Lemieux (Division of Basic Pharmaceutical Sciences), Raven Jackson and Thomas J. Maestri (Division of Clinical and Administrative Sciences), hosted by CAT+FD's Jay Todd and Elizabeth Yost Hammer, on how College of Pharmacy is adapting to remote teaching during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Dr. Jackson teaches in several courses within the PharmD curriculum including Neurology Therapeutics, Interprofessional Education, Medication Therapy Management, Self Care Therapeutics, Point of Care Testing, as well as a lecture on the Pharmacogenomics of Diabetes. Dr. Jackson also teaches an Infectious Disease Point of Care Testing Lab. As a component of her clinical position, Dr. Jackson provides Diabetes Medication Management at the Family Doctor’s Clinic at West Jefferson Medical Center where she serves as a preceptor for both Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience and Introductory Pharmacy Practice Experience.

After graduating from Xavier’s College of Pharmacy in 2014, Dr. Jackson went on to complete her Post Graduate Year 1 (PGY-1) training at Purdue University, in partnership with Walgreens where she obtained skills in Medication Therapy Management, Point of Care Testing, Diabetes Care, Precepting, and Pharmacy Management. During this time, she also successfully completed the Indiana Pharmacy Teaching Certificate Program (IPTeC). After completion of her residency, Dr. Jackson obtained a position as Pharmacy Manager of a Walgreens location in Texas where she remained for one year prior to accepting her current role at Xavier University.

Dr. Maestri is currently a board certified psychiatric clinical pharmacy specialist (BCPP) serving as a Clinical Assistant Professor at the Xavier University of Louisiana College of Pharmacy. His area of expertise is the pharmacologic treatment of mental health and substance use disorders. In his role, he provides both experiential and didactic learning opportunities to Xavier Pharmacy students in psychopharmacology, substance use, and ethical principles of pharmacy.

As part of his practice, he works in collaboration with the LSUHSC psychiatry department at University Medical Center (UMC) to provide optimized care to patients with acute episodes of psychotic, mood, and substance use disorders. This work is performed in the settings of the inpatient psychiatry units, the behavioral health emergency department, and the psychiatry consult liaison service.

Dr. KiTani Parker Lemieux is an Associate Professor in the Division of Basic Pharmaceutical Sciences, where she also serves as the Director of the Center of Excellence (COE ) Scholars Program. She received her B.A. degree in Biology from Fisk University, her M.S. degree in Biology, from Tennessee State University, and her Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Biology from Clark Atlanta University.

Dr. Lemieux completed her Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Stanley S. Scott Cancer Center at LSU Health Sciences Center. She has served as faculty at Dillard University and the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Since joining the faculty at Xavier in 2007, Dr. Lemieux has focused her research to better understand the role of the noncancerous microenvironment in breast cancer metastasis, especially in triple negative breast cancer, which disproportionately impacts African American women. She has published in the field and is a member of the American Association for Cancer Research, the American Society for Cell Biology, and the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Elizabeth Yost HammerElizabeth Yost Hammer is the Director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development and a Kellogg Professor in Teaching in the Psychology Department. She received her Ph.D. in experimental social psychology from Tulane University.


Jay Todd studied writing with Frederick and Steven Barthelme and Mary Robison at the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi. He teaches English and serves as Associate Director of CAT+FD.

Links for this episode


Jay Todd: I'm joined today by my co-host, Dr. Elizabeth Yost Hammer, Director of the Center and three guests from Xavier's College of Pharmacy, Dr. Raven Jackson and Dr. Thomas Maestri, both clinical assistant professors in the Division of Clinical and Administrative Sciences and Dr. KiTani Parker Lemieux, associate professor in the Division of Basic Pharmaceutical Sciences. Xavier's College of Pharmacy has a unique curriculum and pedagogical structure, so we thought it important to hear from some of the college's faculty for our third installment of Keep Teaching XULA. As you'll hear, the pharmacy faculty have, despite the isolation, used their strong sense of compassion for their colleagues and their students as they transition to emergency remote teaching, even as they juggle large lecture classes and the need to ensure clinical experience for their students.

Elizabeth Yost-Hammer: Hi, I'm Elizabeth Yost Hammer, and I'm the Director for the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development at Xavier University of Louisiana and I am here today with the associate director, Dr. Jay Todd, and we are with some of our pharmacy colleagues, we are very grateful to do a pharmacy edition of this conversation. Jay?

JT: Yeah, thank you. And thank you all for being here today and taking some time with us. And we've been starting most of these conversations off just by asking you all to give us a sense of what's been kind of one of your greatest successes over these last, now, as we're recording this, we've been through three full weeks, I think of this remote teaching. So KiTani, if you want to start us off, let us know a little bit of what's been going well for you.

KPL: Sure, I'm KiTani Parker Lemieux. I'm an associate professor in the Division of Basic Pharmaceutical Sciences in the College of Pharmacy. And so what has worked for us, I figured out I think, early on what did not work. And what did not work was for the very first lecture. So I had the very first lecture for 148 students, so management of the platform, one of the things I've failed to recognize was, by head setting up a waiting room, you had to actually allow students in one at a time, I didn't realize that until I realized a lot of students could not hear. So recognizing how to set up a platform properly when you're first posting, or establishing the meeting to begin with to make it as easy as possible for students to get in class. That was one thing, which leads to that was learning that it was better if you had a colleague or a student that you had primed prior to the setting up the class, to actually join you to help manage either letting students in the class or managing the chatbox. Just the overall management and flow of the class because those were things I had not anticipated and did not plan for. But I learned early on that those were areas that I had an opportunity to improve on.

EYH: So a quick follow up question. That's KiTani, so are most of the pharmacy classes, I know our pharmacy classes, for people who are listening, our pharmacy classes tend to be large. So most classes doing that where you have a partner and teacher who's conscious helping manage the behind the scenes online or is that unusual?

KPL: I think the short answer to that is typically when we are in our lecture courses, or didactic courses, we do not. It's one professor to 150 to 165 students, so it ranges in number and we typically manage the class on our own. So it's an independent type of thing, so for us to invite another colleague to join us in class to help manage that piece; that was different. And I really don't think any of us had anticipated that. But after that experience, right away, my colleagues who teach in the course as well, I immediately shared with them what I observed and said this is something we might want to think about. And so that helped us to then pair. Right away, we then began to self assign, we all volunteered to go in each other's class, and to help each other navigate that aspect of the Zoom platform teaching.

JT: That's great. Thank you. That's one thing we've been talking to folks about is asking students to maybe serve as what we call the voice of the chat sometimes. But to hear kind of even a little bit more, especially for these larger classes, to really maybe ask a colleague or another student to kind of help manage some of those more mundane tasks of teaching online like letting people in and keeping track of chat and things like that. I think it's an early approach. So thank you for that. Tommy, you want to go? And let us know your biggest success so far?

TM:  Absolutely. So, I'm Thomas Maestri, Tommy, you can call me. I'm a clinical assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy. Pharmacy is my specialty in psychiatric pharmacy. And I'm going to add to a little bit about the previous conversation shortly. But I think for me, it was kind of unique and kind of fortunate for me, because I started teaching about two weeks after all this kind of came out. So I had a little bit of time to prepare and my colleagues did such an excellent job, I think of really communicating to everybody and letting us know what worked and what hasn't worked. And so I was able to kind of use that time and really figure things out, which I think is very important advice for everybody watching. Now that we've kind of had a little bit of time to see things through and kind of learn from things, as people are picking up on this, because there's a lot of little details in Zoom, in online learning that are very minor, but can take the class to a very to the next level. And I think some of those things are kind of is Dr. Lemieux said, having somebody to kind of be a moderator of sorts, has been helpful. In my psych block right now, I have actually a resident, who is a pharmacy resident that's with me, she's in her academia rotation right now. And she has been absolutely invaluable to the whole process. The reason for that is she is able to manage the chat room. And so we have everybody on mute, which is very helpful in minimizing disruptions as well, definitely when there's 150 people, it's really hard because you can't see everybody too, so communication through that route is difficult. So she manages the chat and about every two slides or so it's difficult slide, one slide, I'll kind of pop in and ask her if there's any questions. And she'll repeat them. The chat room, I found to be one of the coolest things about Zoom, because the students are more open and willing to ask questions on the chat. And they can ask them privately or they can ask them publicly. And sometimes when they ask things publicly, the students will respond to the other students to kind of help them out, which is really cool. They're kind of facilitating, but my resident repeats everything. And if things are, if they don't want to say it to everyone, they can do it privately and so repeat it that way as well. So it's anonymous, and then I'll go ahead and address the questions that way. And it's a really helpful way to influence and enhance conversation. But then also, it's helpful to have a moderator for things like breakout rooms, the breakout rooms are really cool, because again, we have very large classrooms, and we try to do a lot of activity based learning and team based learning. And that can be very difficult. If we just try to do it in one group meeting with 150 students. So with the breakout rooms, we're able to assign them to their already pre-assigned groups and when it's time for it, we break them off, and they go into their rooms, they can raise their hand, they can request to ask for us if we need to, so you can kind of pop in and out of each room, which is a really cool thing But also, you know, there's, I think we've seen some barriers with them. But we've been able to smooth out some of those barriers with the breakout rooms. You can assign them beforehand, but then they go directly into it, which makes it a little bit difficult coming in and out. But with having a moderator, of sorts, they can get everybody into the groups while the other person's talking, have it good to go. And then when it's time we can get them into their groups. But yeah, I think there's certainly been some great things. I don't think for the most part, the students seem to be responding well to it and getting the most out of it. There's been some challenges with lab as well, which I can talk about shortly. But yeah, I mean, overall, I think there's definitely been some successes. I think practicing ahead of time is the key. If you try to do it on the fly, it's going to be very difficult. And for all my colleagues, Dr. Lemieux, you had to kind of be the scapegoat. I feel for it because I know how difficult it is to try to figure it out. And so that would be my advice is don't try to figure it out on the fly. Get together, practice it, learn from your colleagues and iron out the details before you go in there.

JT:  That's great, thank you. It sounds like you've got some good experience with some of the Zoom tools. Raven, how about you? What's kind of been your greatest success so far?

RJ: I'm Raven Jackson, clinical assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy, and pretty much mirroring what these guys have said, I manage three different courses right now and also teaching two other courses, where I will pop in and teach like a lecture. So I'm managing 70 plus students in a couple of my classes, and wasn't really sure how it was going to work with the multiple Zoom links and everything. But kind of like what Tommy said, just setting everything up on the front end, and you guys did an awesome job blasting out all of the support links. And I mean, we had everything we needed to be successful going into this. Yeah. So I mean, much, much credit to you guys, because I would have been completely lost. But I think just planning ahead, like Tommy said, and organizing this is, I've never had to be so organized in my teaching, because I'm having to send multiple links to multiple students, sometimes three different classes a day, and I'm like, "oh my God, did I send the right link to the right class," pick the right announcements. But it's just a matter of kind of being on and, and, planning your weeks ahead. And I mean, this is just what we have to do right now to make it work, I have used the polling function that Tommy talks about, I use it frequently, in a couple of my classes, and the students love it, I always have about an 80% to 85% engagement. And this is even in like in classes of 72 students. So I really appreciate the polling function, and the students love it, they like that they can see the results. Um, I don't really do it for right or wrong, I do it just to kind of gauge and see what their view or their opinion is on a large topic. So I'm actually teaching in a couple experiential courses right now we're doing. So that's another different topic where we're having to do some unique things for our experiential component of our curriculum. So I'm managing some aspects of that and just to see the students viewpoints on certain large pharmacy topics, it's been interesting. Like Tommy said, the chat has been amazing. And all of the courses that I've taught in this, since we've gone on Zoom, I've had many more questions that come up in Zoom in the chat, and not just like the day before the test, emailing me, you know, it's, the students are asking questions, then in there. And not to say that I'm not saying everybody is 100% engaged, I can't see them. But I do know that those people who are engaged, they're truly engaged. They're asking questions, and like the students are commenting, they're helping each other out. It's not pulling teeth to get someone to respond, even in a group that large, they'll respond to everyone. So I've appreciated seeing that. Another thing that I've also thought was pretty great is that the students have been so understanding, I know, I had a lot of computer tech issues when I first started. And I've had to like switch computers in the middle of a two hour lecture. And I came back and I still got 70 people in class. I'm like, you know, they'll wait for 10 minutes for me to get myself together. And I've appreciated that and I think that goes to the type of students that we build here at Xavier and the type of people that we are fostering. And so I think that's been great. And I think just giving the students direction always helps. Even though it's something that you know, they're doing Zoom and all of their classes, we can assume that, we can assume that they all have the same level of understanding. So they may not have done breakout groups in a class before. So giving them a little bit of guidance on “Hey, this is what's going to happen when I push you on a breakout group." I had one student who was like, "Oh, no, I don't want to be further isolated. I'm already in quarantine." We're not further isolating you by putting you in a group. Everyone's in the group. But they didn't understand, they just knew they weren't in the larger group anymore. So that's been helpful and again, just as much context as you can give them and just being reassuring and being patient and all of that it's really I think helped with the relationship that we can't see them. So all in all, I will say it's been a plus from the didactic side, the experiential side. I think we still got some work to do on that in that piece.

EYH:  If you don't mind. stepping in here. I just wanted to say one thing and then do a little bit of a plug there. I think you're right, I think our students have just rocked it. Like, I'm just so proud of my students when this first started going down, you know, before even remote teaching. And this was just the first thing I just told everybody, I don't want you to come sick because I have a pretty strict attendance policy and teaching advanced research on this pretty strict attendance policy in there and I said I am suspending this attendance policy. If you're sick, I don't want you to come, we'll work this out. And I've had students now, luckily they haven't been sick. But I haven't had students miss anything. And they're, you know, they are showing up and yeah, so I'm really glad you said that. I also want to do a quick like shameless plug, and say that last week we did an interactive lecturing workshop that is recorded. So anybody who's listening to this and heard these cool ideas about like breakout rooms or polling, we mentioned a couple of other things you can do to do interactive lecturing online. So we'll put it at the bottom of this podcast, we'll put a link to that workshop.

JT: Absolutely. And just to continue this shameless plug, we've also been doing some kind of how-to videos with Zoom. So if you want a little help, kind of just figuring out how to use polls, we'll have a quick little video for that, or quick little video on how to set up breakout rooms to begin with.

EYH: Now I have a follow up question for Raven. [inaudible] So you mentioned didactic and experiential learning. And so I know most of our listeners probably are not in pharmacy school. So I wonder if you will just say what you mean by experiential learning and you say.

RJ: So, in the College of Pharmacy, students have to obtain a certain amount of hours in clinical practice. And they, whether their first year, second year, third year, fourth year, they have certain amounts of experience, they have to get outside of the classroom where they're in some type of pharmacy setting under the tutelage of a pharmacist. And they are learning about a certain skill set, whether they be in a hospital or clinic or community pharmacy. And as they progress in their years, by the time they are their fourth year, they should really be getting, that's the majority of their time in the colleges, they're completely on their experiential rotations, which is what we call them their rotations. So we have several students right now where we're just trying to make sure they can still get that experience. Our accrediting body has been very supportive and has been giving us guidance on what we can do and, and being very lenient on what we're allowing our students to do. But we still want to make sure that they graduate with the experience that they need to be successful. We also have students who are going to pursue postgraduate training via a residency program. So we will make sure that those students have what they need. And for all of us wanting to community pharmacy, you want to make sure that they are supported as well. So we're just trying to as a division, make sure that we are using this time effectively to prepare the students being that a lot of them are displaced from going to their sites, because they are not, so much not seen as essential. But the sites are just being very responsible and decreasing excess personnel. So we appreciate them for considering the health and wellness of our students. And we're just trying to ensure that with that time, until they can be placed back safely at their sites that they're getting what they need, which is again caused us as a division to do some quick planning.

EYH: I just can't imagine, it is a different pedagogical consideration. And then other classes. Thank you for answering.

KPL: Prior to COVID-19, in the biotechnology and pharmacogenomics scores, we'd actually use Top Hat. So that is an app students had to subscribe to in the first year. And they have it throughout their time in the College of Pharmacy. And so one of the things you find that students are very comfortable with, and so they, it's almost like they expect they know that Top Hat is coming. And so we were able to even to facilitate the use of external types of active engagement resources to assess student learning or see where students are and my colleagues who contribute to this course as well. They also use Top Hat and this is a part of their grade. So it's part of their activity grade. And so one of the things I also realized the students, as much as we can maintain normal, whatever normal was, whatever the trend, what they were they were accustomed to, and what they were comfortable with, maintaining as much of that as possible has been a big piece to that. And although we are at our remote sites, and they're doing distance learning, engaging them with Top Hat we have, on most days, we have about 95% attendance of 148 students, which is pretty significant. And those students are actively engaged and you're able to monitor their engagement and at least for us, we're able to see outcomes and their performance based upon their how they're responding with top hat because we check in with attendance first, and then we engage them with a question of the day or pertaining to the content they just heard about. So we're able to see okay, what are they learning? The clear somebody is point is essentially what that winds up being, for us to be able to say, Okay, well we need to go back and revisit these contents. Another thing that allowed us to do was to break up some of the monotony. So I'm not a great joke teller, but I would put up a joke. I called it a commercial. So let me give you a commercial. We would have a really kind of super silly biological sciences type of joke and the students really seem to find my corny jokes kind of funny just to kind of lighten the mood for a moment. And I know that Dr. Maestri kind of sent that tip out to faculty as well to just kind of lighten the mood and just kind of help students get re-centered and kind of refocused, kind of based off our, you know, kind of had become glossy-eyed. But nonetheless, I must applaud my colleagues in that those that have we have reached out to we had a thread going in the College of Pharmacy, and we would send out an email, hey, here's what I did, here's what worked, here's what didn't work, you might want to think about this. And then someone else will chime in and say, hey, I did this in this class and this worked and this didn't work. So we really, there was a real, purposeful effort to share. We had a number of colleagues from the most junior to the most senior who would chime in and say, I really appreciate the comment, I did what you said, this thing really works. Thanks so much. So it really is a collaborative type time of learning for between and amongst my colleagues, both basic science, and clinical. And I'll also say this, we had our new program with the PA program, we had a faculty to hop on and say, hey, I tried this, this is what works and this is what didn't work. So we really now have just sharing between amongst pharmacy, but also our newest clinical program. So I think it's important that we mentioned that the needs of our students are different. I will say if there is an advantage for the PA program is that they're solely the courses at this time. So we don't have any cohort yet, who's moved into the experiential component of the program. So and then it's been a plethora of sharing between and amongst faculty. And then I have really appreciate it because I know that I've walked around a walk away from each of those threads, having learned something I didn't know before.

JT: That is great. I mean, it's great to hear from all of you about how, in this time of social isolation and distancing, there's so much collaboration going on and just kind of meaningful interaction and helping each other out. It's really great to hear. In that spirit, as we just kind of start to wind things down a little bit. If maybe we could hear from each of you maybe one piece of advice you'd offer another colleague in pharmacy or non pharmacy who's maybe struggling a little bit with running their classes remotely. What would that one specific piece of advice be?

KP: I would say take this as a time where you can maybe use notes. I will oftentimes know and when I'm giving my lecture when I might get to a tough slide. So just I usually make a star, make a note and just say, okay, hey, you know, is everybody doing okay? Everybody understood what I said there. So even if I don't see anything in the chat, if I know that it's a difficult topic, I might just every 15 minutes or so every time something comes up, that's a little challenging, I might just make a little star note that says to stop in and just check in on them. And just take a minute a breather, just so they can take the information. And that's hard to do, I think sometimes when I'm lecturing in person, I'm naturally a fast talker. But this allows me to self pace and to check in on the students.

EYH: Oh, I love that Raven. I was just gonna say that's good advice to take to do when you have a face to face class to right. Allow students to catch up with us in processing a little bit. I think it'll be interesting on the other side of this, you know, when that happens to see the improvements we make to all of our teaching, whether it is online teaching, whether it's using these different apps, or whether it's just the face to face stuff. And that's a really good lesson, I think.

KPL: I would say, the first time that I would teach on a Zoom platform to invite a colleague in, I would definitely not walk into that space, by myself. Just to help manage. The management piece is just as much of, you have to plan for the management piece as much as you do for the delivery of content. I don't think you can do one without the other in order to do this platform. Well, especially if it's your first or second time, I would definitely have someone and if you're teaching in a large classroom, it is absolutely essential. Because I didn't have an opportunity to teach at a smaller class where there were only 22 students. That is a totally different landscape. It's very manageable. It was very collegial. I could see the faces and engage the students. That is very different from then teaching with 148 students. And so walking into the classroom with a colleague in hand, who will actually help manage the movement if you will, like the feet facilitating the class while you're delivering the content. It is absolutely essential. So that would be the part and then I would ask that colleagues for constructive feedback, after we got off of that call, or after out of that class, I would then say, Hey, what did you see working or not working so we can improve upon, because in my mind, that's how we get better.

TM: Yeah. And I just like to say, yeah, both of your points are excellent points. And I really can't emphasize enough how much to follow that advice. Also, as Raven said, you guys and CAT are just absolutely invaluable. You guys have been there to help throughout. And so definitely use these guys as a resource. Because, you know, it's great that we actually even have this to use. So I'm, you know, work with him to iron out all the details. The last thing I'd say is to use this as a time for creativity, and then flexibility and understanding to, so I think, creativity, I mean, it's a time we have to, you know, explore  what can work in and, you know, one of my older colleagues said, you can take your body, but you can't take your mind, you know, so I think this is the time to really use your mind. And, even though we're kind of behind a computer screen, you know, you can still do a lot with it. And there's a lot to be done. But I think also at that same time, you know, knowing that the students are going through this process with us in that we don't want them to suffer, we want them to benefit from this process. And I think we certainly can, and I think we're all doing excellent work and getting to that. But you know, we try something and it doesn't necessarily if it doesn't work, you know, have understanding with the students don't make the burden on them. Well, it's you guys fault that this didn't work out, you know. It takes a little extra flexibility and a little extra understanding in ways that maybe we normally wouldn't on things in a lot of trust, as well. As they're doing a lot of things on their own away from us. We can't see them, we can't monitor them. So I think it is important to have trust in our students, and that they're not doing the wrong things, that they are doing the right things, because I think so far they've shown us that they're absolutely doing the right things. So with that in mind, you know, just have that understanding and work with the students in any way possible.

JT: I think that's some great advice from all of you. It's some great advice to end on as well. We'd like to thank you all for taking the time to speak with us today. Elizabeth any parting words?

EYH: Thank you so much I really love, I think it's very indicative of our university's mission, that we would end it thinking about the compassion and well being of our students and the compassion we can show to our students. So I like that we've covered the range from the highly, you know, the technical aspects of Zoom and Top Hat all the way to the kind of the more socio-emotional components of you know, these are people we're working with who are going through some stuff and we should be doing the best we can by them and each other. So, love it.

JT:  We hope you've enjoyed our discussion with Dr. Raven Jackson, Dr. Thomas Maestri and Dr. KiTani Parker, MBA of Xavier's College of Pharmacy. If you liked what you heard, please consider subscribing to this podcast so you never miss an episode. And if you really liked today's episode, please give us a five star rating on iTunes, Google Play or whatever podcast platform you use. Thanks for listening.

Transcript by Darrielle Robertson

About Bart Everson

Creative Generalist in the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development at Xavier University of Louisiana

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