Scholarly article on topic 'A Unified Educational Platform of Multimedia Support in Education at Medical Faculties of MEFANET Project'

A Unified Educational Platform of Multimedia Support in Education at Medical Faculties of MEFANET Project Academic research paper on "Educational sciences"

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{E-publication / multimedia / "education technologies" / "distance education"}

Abstract of research paper on Educational sciences, author of scientific article — Jaroslav Majernik, Daniel Schwarz, Martin Komenda, Ladislav Dušek

Abstract The paper presents an educational network of medical faculties in Czech Republic and Slovakia. Its activities started within the project Medical faculties educational network in 2007 and the main role is to support modern multimedia information technologies usage in clinical and health care study programs. The network is based on open cooperation among faculties with respect to effective medical teaching and learning. To achieve this goal, an original and uniform platform for educational web portals was developed and it is used, together with central gateway, to offer and share digital educational content. The fundamental principles of this innovative solution are described. Both the authors and the users may utilize a wide range of sophisticated functionalities that make the processes of publication and accessibility more intuitive than ever.

Academic research paper on topic "A Unified Educational Platform of Multimedia Support in Education at Medical Faculties of MEFANET Project"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 55 (2012) 476 - 484



A Unified Educational Platform ofMultimedia Support in Education at Medical Faculties ofMEFANET Project

Jaroslav Majernika*, Daniel Schwarzb, Martin Komendab, Ladislav Dusekb

a Department of Medical Informatics, Faculty of Medicine, Pavol JozefSafarik University, Kosice, Slovakia b Institute of Biostatistics and Analyses, Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic


The paper presents an educational network of medical faculties in Czech Republic and Slovakia. Its activities started within the project Medical faculties educational network in 2007 and the main role is to support modern multimedia information technologies usage in clinical and health care study programs. The network is based on open cooperation among faculties with respect to effective medical teaching and learning. To achieve this goal, an original and uniform platform for educational web portals was developed and it is used, together with central gateway, to offer and share digital educational content. The fundamental principles of this innovative solution are described. Both the authors and the users may utilize a wide range of sophisticated functionalities that make the processes of publication and accessibility more intuitive than ever.

©2012PublishedbyElsevierLtd.Selectionand/orpeer-reviewunderresponsibilityofTheAssociationofScience, EducationandTechnology

Keywords: e-publication; multimedia; education technologies; distance education

1. Introduction

Multimedia such as pictures, audio, or movies, has become an important tool in the provision of education at many levels. Teaching and learning multimedia materials are offered through the web-based systems and thanks to the recent network technologies the educators use them more trustworthy than ever. Educational potential of multimedia was explored mainly by higher education institutions as traditional leading players in this area (Schwarz, 2010; Allen, 1998). Each stage of multimedia application

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +421-55-640-4357; fax: +421-55-642-8151. E-mail address:

1877-0428 © 2012 Published by Elsevier Ltd. Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of The Association of Science, Education and Technology doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.09.527

corresponds to a certain level of computer technology as well as a certain pedagogical approach. The benefits to a learning process result from the flexibility offered by new technologies. However, an initial difficulty to apply such electronic tools into the real praxis comes from apprehensions of educators. It is also difficult to encourage the usage of new technologies when computer resources are restricted by the financial constraints. Fortunately, this becomes an unessential factor because of falling costs of personal computing. On the other hand, the principles of education based on multimedia should motivate educators to use them at least as assisted materials always when convenient. The main advantage of using multimedia in education is to convey information or knowledge quickly and effectively to all students and keep them interested in learning.

A relatively short history proved the multimedia learning materials enhance learner performance even in the form of animated cartoons, engineering laboratory exploration, complex decision-making paradigms or concept development (Remus, 2008; Austin, 2009). Various multimedia technologies were applied to specific disciplines and demonstrated the pedagogical value of multimedia in terms of learning improvement (Stelzer, 2009; Cochrane, 2007; Macura, 2011). The visual presentation of ideas has been proven to be particularly important as it helps the educational process in a critical way (Dalacosta, 2009).

Using multimedia in on-line systems allows teachers to prepare attractive courses that can be easily accessed and organized as real-time two-ways interactions between remote teacher and students, but also more popularly as simpler lecture-on-demand learning models (Chen, 2008; Shi, 2003). The students often use them rather than those two-ways as they can review online materials several times without restrictions. Teachers also fill advantages as they can easily revise individual materials to offer students the most actual information. Other advantages of the web-based systems include increased students' learning efficacy through dynamic media presentation of lectures, abilities to measure students' performance by on-line self-assessment tools or possibilities to create own courseware and questions. Moreover, education using computer-based instruction appears to be associated with consistent time savings, in some cases students learned with it in more than 70% less time than students in traditional classrooms (Parlangeli, 1999). Research in the multimedia learning field assume that after applying the optimization principles such as cognitive load theory principles and multimedia learning theory principles the web-based learning will be beneficial for both younger and older learners (Pachman, 2012).

The use of multimedia presentations was accepted by physicians in education of students of medicine too. Individual multimedia education outputs can be utilized also for patients' education and counseling (Ihring, 2012; Levett-Jones, 2011; Kodama, 2000; Penhaker, 2011). Here, the successful clinical implementation of multimedia support necessarily depends on high acceptance and appreciation by the physicians in charge. It is because of their everyday clinical practice and/or relevant pressure to realize clinical examinations and interventions. The purpose of this paper is to present an original approach to the collaboration of professionals from different medical faculties and countries.

2. Medical faculties educational network

The very first idea to create the MEdical FAculties educational NET work (MEFANET, project has arisen as initiative of cooperation between the Faculty of Medicine at Masaryk University Brno and the 1st Faculty of Medicine at Charles University in Prague in 2006 (Schwarz, 2009). The pilot results of this cooperation that was primarily oriented on sharing of electronic and multimedia educational materials convinced other medical faculties to join this perspective project. Therefore, all seven medical faculties in Czech Republic and all three medical faculties in Slovakia have expressed the interest to be the members of the MEFANET. They were accepted by the MEFANET council and formally joined the network in 2007. Thereafter, the project MEFANET got new dimensions and represents the brand of academic cooperation between individual partners.

The main role of MEFANET is to support improvement in education of medical and health care disciplines using modern information and communication technologies (ICT). It represents an optimal platform to meet experts from different faculties who may join their forces to create qualitative better teaching materials. These materials can be accessible across the network for both the teachers and the students. To do this, several supporting activities have been initiated by the MEFANET. On the other hand, the MEFANET is voluntary network where the independence of the faculties is fully respected and where no restrictions in organization of teaching activities are stated. The activities are supported only by the grants and no expenses are required from individual faculties to cumulate certain central budget. Nowadays, the network covers teachers and medical and health care students at all medical faculties in Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Benefits of this academic cooperation include:

• horizontal cooperation and sharing the results of work from authors of multimedia teaching tools and on-line educational resources,

• unification of methods to create and publish multimedia teaching tools and on-line educational resources, in order to assure availability of these materials to the students of all involved medical faculties,

• putting together human resources and potential to develop complex technological solutions in an effective manner, and to solve possible problems with creation and/or publication of multimedia teaching tools and on-line educational resources,

• more effective usage of acquired financial resources, possibility of inter-university cooperation on awarded grants.

All the activities realized within the project are managed by the coordination council where each medical faculty has its two or three representatives. The council establishes the priorities of MEFANET activities, decides on generally acceptable standards for individual types of outputs, and helps to define and solve common projects. One of the most important outputs of the MEFANET is standardized web publication platform that was accepted and implemented by each participating medical faculty.

3. Web-based portal platform

Electronic pedagogical works that are created at individual faculties are collected and published at faculties' web portals. All faculties decided to operate unified standalone portals rather than one centralized system, hosted for the whole network. However, a central gateway was built to integrate all the information presented on the portal instances into one common place on the web. Thus, the independence of the faculties is ensured and the users are still allowed to find education materials on one place. Interconnection of all these faculties' portals and the central gateway compose the MEFANET e-publishing platform. The list of faculties and their portals is summarized in the table 1.

Unified web portal for multimedia support of education at medical faculties represents universal solution supporting education of medical disciplines. Each portal has its own ISSN code as well as editorial board to make sure the needs and the requirements of particular faculty are fulfilled and no restrictions are given by the MEFANET and/or by other members of the network. Web portals are installed in two language versions. It is Czech and English language combination at medical faculties in the Czech Republic and Slovak and English at medical faculties in Slovakia. Education materials prepared in Czech/Slovak language and materials prepared in English are published independently and there is no equality between the content of these versions. It is fully up to the authors' decision whether they prepare the material in one or in both languages. Each published work may be associated to the particular course/subject taught at the faculty assigning it in the body of education material. This may be used by the users to filter the content of the portal according to the materials intended for specific course/subject.

Table 1. List of medical faculties connected to the MEFANET and their portals.

Faculty Portal

Faculty of Medicine at Masaryk University in Brno

1st Faculty ofMedicine at Charles University in Prague http://portal.lfl

2nd Faculty of Medicine at Charles University in Prague

3rd Faculty ofMedicine at Charles University in Prague

Faculty of Medicine in Hradec Kralove at Charles University in Prague

Faculty of Medicine in Pilsen at Charles University in Prague http ://mefanet. lfp.

Faculty of Medicine at Palacky University in Olomouc

Faculty of Medicine at Comenius University in Bratislava

Jessenius Faculty ofMedicine in Martin at Comenius University in Bratislava

Faculty of Medicine at Pavol Jozef Safarik University in Kosice http://portal.lf.upjs. sk

3.1. Filter ofmedical disciplines

To ensure better orientation at the portals a systematic map of medical disciplines was created. Each published work must be assigned to the one of these disciplines so the map categorizes the content of the portals and is also used as the main filter. This is one of three directives that are unchangeable across the faculties and is used to export information to the central gateway. Other two rigid directives include authentication/authorization framework and multidimensional quality assessment. The other features, properties and functionalities of the unified portal platform can be adapted or localized to meet all the needs of particular medical faculty connected to this cooperation. Figure 1 shows the map of specified medical disciplines.

Anaesthesiotogy and Intensive Care Medicine

□ Anatomy [rjBWogy [3 Biophysics jr Cardiology. Angiology

Dentistry ^ Dermatology

Diabetology, Dietetics Emergency Medicine 0 Endocrinology, Metabolism L Epidemiology, Preventive Medicine. Hygiene E Gastroenterology and Hepatology

□ General Practice Medicine

Fig. 1. Medical disciplines map used to categorize and filter published education materials.

At the beginning of the project the single-level or multilevel list of medical specializations were considered as well as the possibility to adapt an existing scheme from the National library of the Czech republic, which is based on the standard Conspectus method. However, the medical disciplines mapping according to the Conspectus method showed to be inapplicable for MEFANET purposes. Thus, an own medical disciplines map was composed, based on various taxonomies adapted from significant medical publishing organizations. Since first release of the portal it has been reedited several times. The change in

□ Genetics PH Geriatrics [r] Waematology

0 Keattti Care and Nursing PI Histology, Embryology IM Immwwtogy, Alergology 0 Infectology pH Internal Medicine [PI Laboratory Diagnostics 0 Medic* Ethics and Law

□ Medical Chemistry and Biochemistry Medical Informatics and Information Science

[r] Microbiology

□ Nephrology

□ Neurology

□ Neurosurgery

□ Nuclear Medicine

! Obstetrics, Gynaecology Fl Occupational Medicine and Toxicology

□ Oncology, Radiation Therapy

□ Ophthalmology and Optometry

□ Other

□ OtorhinoUryngology

□ Paediatrics, Neonatology

□ Pathology and Forensic Medicine

□ Pharmacology

□ Physiology and Pathophysiology n Psychiatry, Psychology, Sexology

□ Public Health Care, Social Medicine

□ Radiology and Imaging

□ Rehabilitation. Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy

: I Respiratory Medicine

□ Rheumatology Sports medicine

Surgery, Traumatology and Orthopaedics

□ Urology

this filter has to be approved by MEFANET Coordination Council as it must be applied on all faculties' portals as well as on the MEFANET Central Gateway (

3.2. Authorization and the users' groups

The access to the faculty portals is not restricted and is opened to everybody. All pages, sections and education contributions published at the portals are accessible for anyone who searches the content of the portals. Therefore, everyone interested can get an overview of educational materials available on the particular medical faculty. The content of the portal is presented as a list of articles described by the title, annotation picture and short annotation. The educational content of the article is included in attachments and/or hypertext links that contain also information about the group of users who have access to these materials. This is specified solely by the authors of published educational content who can choose one of the user groups to permit/deny access to their materials. Web portals specify several groups of users that are listed in the table 2.

Table 2. Groups of user specified at web portals.

User Description

non registered user anonymous and not registered user

registered user usually anonymous user, who accepts the terms of use within his


MEFANET user user of the MEFANET network, i.e. student or teacher from any Czech

or Slovak medical faculty

university member user, whose affiliation to the university has been verified at the portal

via the local information system of that university

faculty member user of local medical faculty, whose affiliation to that faculty has been

verified at the portal via the local information system of the respective

university or faculty

Table 3. Roles of users registered at the portals.

Role Description

dummy registered user who may access and use education materials according to his/her users group affiliation, dummy is able to create articles and to communicate with redaction

editor administrator of assigned part of the educational content at the particular faculty, the

role allows basic editing of articles but has no rights to publish it, communicates with authors and guides the publication process

guarantee expert of associated medical discipline, checks the materials to be published and

organizes review process to verify quality according to the local rules of the faculty

reviewer user who reviews particular article and recommends or refuse its publication as reviewed material on the portal and the central gate

master main administrator of the portal responsible for all functionalities, master also publishes individual articles on the portal

Once the users are registered they may be assigned to the one of the users roles. The basic role is role "dummy" that is added automatically to all newly registered users. This role also allows users to send and

article into the redaction of educational portal. Other higher-level roles relate to the management of particular portal instance and are specified according to the list presented in the table 3.

3.3. Structure of published education materials

To make the process of publication easier the portal offers an intuitive article submission form. The authors may use it as one of the features of the main menu under the name Submit contribution. A unified structure was adopted to present all articles in the same way and to be ensured that all compulsory parts are filled in. The submission form consists of three steps in which the author offers information about his/her topic. The field like title, annotation, authors and the text are required in the first step. The second step consists of information that classifies the article to be submitted. The attachments, links and other electronic materials as well as keywords and comments for portal redaction are entered in the last step. Individual parts of published contributions are described in the table 4.

Table 2. Fields of the contributions published at the MEFANET web portals.

Field name Compulsory Description

title Y the title of the contribution, the length should be 10 or more characters

language Y specification of the language of the contribution as well as the language version of the portal in which the contribution will be published

annotation Y brief characteristics of the contribution in the size of at least 300 characters

first author Y name of the first author, it is also used to filter content of the portal according to the first author

other authors N other authors of the contribution separated by commas

participating department N information about affiliation of author/authors, the field is also used to filter content of the portal according to the authors' workplaces

text N the body of the contribution with more detailed information about the work

medical disciplines Y assignment of the contribution to one or more medical disciplines, it is also used to filter content of the portal

courses N information about course/courses taught at the faculty in which the contribution can be used, it is also used to filter content of the portal

associated contributions N associated contributions already published at the portal, used as links to move on contributions with similar topics

portal category N assignment to one of the portal categories (may vary across faculties)

section of portal N assignment to one of the portal sections (may vary across faculties)

4-D assessment N specification of the type and the level of contribution for review process

attachments N files with education content

links N hyperlinks to education materials

annotation image N picture related to the content of the contribution

creative commons N information about copyright

keywords N comma separated keywords of the contribution

comments N additional information for redaction and editors

After the contribution is send to the redaction it can be published as non-reviewed material (but not send to the central gate) or the review process will be opened. Depending on the author's decision all the

attached materials and the links can be offered to the appropriate group of users. The network prefers quality of contribution rather than the quantity and therefore the quality of all published education materials is controlled.

3.4. Quality assessment

Several control mechanisms were designed and applied within the portal instances to assess the quality of published materials. The current version of quality assessment is based on multidimensional processes as shown on figure 2.





Fig. 2. The principle scheme of four-dimensional quality assessment of the contributions published at the portals of medical faculties in the MEFANET network.

According to the scheme shown on figure 2 the quality assessment methodology consist of four different dimensions. These are labeled as review, level, type and self-study score.

The first dimension of the system is an expert review. This ensures that only the contributions with positive conclusion from reviewers can be published on the central gateway. The contributions with no review can be published only on local portal instances and users are informed about this when using such unreviewed study materials. The review procedure includes both the binary questions as well as the open questions. The structure of the review-form can be localized by modifying an XML template file.

The second dimension is represented by the educational level of the target group (undergraduate, graduate, advanced and/or complex level) of the teaching material, which is a useful piece of information for users as well as for reviewers.

The third dimension specifies a multiple-choice classification according to the types (textbooks and manuals, websites and atlases, digital video, presentations and animations, image casuistry, e-learning courses) of used attachments. Here, the enumerated scale includes static files for web-based learning as well as interactive e-learning courses encapsulated in the learning management systems (LMS).

The last dimension of the quality assessment system represents a self-study scoring mechanisms. This is the users' feedback and shows what the users think about the usability of particular contribution for their self-studies.

There is also an open discussion of users available on the portals. It is located at the end of contributions and using it, the users can response to the presented information. This functionality of the

MEFFANET web portals is moderated by the user with the role masters, but it can be disabled if there are no human resources to keep the discussion polite and presentable.

4. Conclusion

This paper presented basic ideas of the MEFANET network and main features of educational web portals which are one of the networks' fundamental outputs. Web portal is designed as e-publishing platform with the aim to share electronic and multimedia materials created across medical faculties. The unified platform is used at ten medical faculties in Czech Republic and Slovakia and involves over 4,000 potential authors (teachers), over 22,000 potential users (students) and many other interested users from all around the world. Local portals are managed independently and do not replace other existing systems established at medical faculties. Information from these portals is exported to the central gateway where all the reviewed educational contributions are summarized. Educational portal platform offers a lot of unique features and functionalities that were developed to meet the needs of all participated medical faculties. The priority is given to the quality of published materials which may be assessed by the well-defined rules. Further development will be oriented on implementation of standards that allow wider cooperation with other teaching institutions as well as with significant international repositories of reusable learning objects.


This work is supported by the project of national agency KEGA No. 005UPJS-4/2012 (70%) and KEGANo. 004UK-4/2011 (30%).


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