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New BHSc arriving online

Starting in September, Queen’s University will be offering an innovative new online Bachelor of Health Sciences (BHSc Honours and General) to provide students with the skills and knowledge they need to pursue further education in a health professional program or graduate studies.

Approval from the Ontario Universities Council on Quality Assurance was received in February and final approval of student funding from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MCTU) was given in early May. These milestones marked the approval of the online program after years of conceptualization, planning and design.

Simply knowing what the content is will not be enough. The program will be about how you use that knowledge.
— Michael Adams, Co-Director of the Bachelor of Health Sciences Program

At the core of the BHSc is the development of the skills that students require to become health professionals while offering the “anytime, anywhere” flexibility for them to pursue their studies at a pace that suits them. Combine this with the Queen’s quality and there is plenty of reason for excitement.

“We examined other health science programs across Canada and then purpose-built this program specifically for students who would like to consider a career in health science or as a health-care professional,” says Michael Adams, Professor and Co-Director of the Bachelor of Health Sciences Program as well as Head of the Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences. “Feedback to date tells us that the courses we are building as part of this program are of extremely high quality.”

Thus, the BHSc online program offers a range of courses to prepare students for further studies in a variety of health professional programs. Students successfully completing the program will develop the tools and knowledge they will need to succeed in programs such as occupational therapy, nursing, medicine, dentistry, physical therapy and pharmacy. In addition, a series of unique learning tracks offer further specialization in specific health science fields ranging from health and disease to global and population health.

Competency framework for new program

Similar to the new residency programs being developed in the Queen’s School of Medicine, the BHSc online will be built upon a competency framework. Students will demonstrate the extent to which they have become competent in core areas such as communication, advocacy, leadership, scholarship, professionalism and collaboration.  

“Simply knowing what the content is will not be enough,” Dr. Adams explains. “The program will be about how you use that knowledge.”

By using an innovative online format, students will be able to see how they are progressing with continuous feedback from their instructors on where they are successfully meeting course goals and what needs improvement.

“This program is purpose-built with the competencies embedded in elements of each course,” Dr. Laura Kinderman, Associate Director of the Bachelor of Health Sciences Program and the Office of Health Sciences Education says. “Students will be able to log in and see how they are progressing, not only in terms of whether they got an A+ or A- on the course, but also that they got that A+ because they are really good at competency X, Y and/or Z. Alternatively, it could also indicate to a student that he or she needs to improve as a communicator, or a collaborator, or as an advocate.” 

Moving forward the student can then work on improving these areas, becoming more competent overall. 

This tracking isn’t only about competencies and keeping students engaged with the material and their instructors. “While scheduling flexibility is key, progress is also closely monitored,” says Dr. Nikki Philbrook, Program Development Associate and Faculty Member, Bachelor of Health Sciences. And that can have other beneficial effects. “We can tell if a student hasn’t signed in for three weeks and can follow up to check on their status, well-being, see if they need help, or wish to have a chat.”

“We ask ourselves a key question before designing courses: ‘What will students be able to do that they could not do when they started the course… and how will we know?’” says Dr. Rylan Egan, Co-Director, Bachelor of Health Sciences and Director of the Office of Health Sciences Education. “We have found that assessments formed from contemplating such a question lend themselves to being more applied – rubric-driven – and specific. Our instructional methods are then developed to support student success on these assessments.”

Positive feedback early on

Already, the Faculty of Health Sciences has offered several courses using this online model and the response has been overwhelmingly positive, both from the students and the instructors.

“There’s a lot of work for the professors at the beginning, but once the course is running they have the opportunity to focus on the students and focus on their learning, how they are learning, and whether they need extra help,” says Dr. Philbrook.

Communication continues throughout the modules, through discussion boards and email systems. To get to this point it has taken a lot of effort; however, while team members are very satisfied with the way the program is developing, they know the work will continue even after the BHSc is launched in September 2016.

“We meet regularly,” says Dr. Adams. “We review and assess and tweak and adjust to refine our processes because we’re all learning how to improve program and course development. Fortunately, we have a number of exceptional faculty members who are enthusiastic about being a part of this extraordinary program.”

More information is available online