Innovative Teaching through Community Pharmacy Simulation (MyDispense)

Clark Kebodeaux, University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy
Marcus Ferrone, University of California, San Francisco, School of Pharmacy
Jill Fitzgerald, University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy
Lisa Holle, University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy
Tina Brock, Monash University, Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences
Keith Sewell, Monash University, Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences

In 2011, MyDispense, a web-based community pharmacy simulation program that promotes active, person-centered learning and allows students repetitive opportunities to achieve established learning objectives related to dispensing skills critical to the medication-use process, was introduced by the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.1This innovative, simulated learning environment allows students to practice the necessary skills to accurately and safely dispense medications in the community pharmacy setting. Although initially designed for students seeking licensure to practice pharmacy in Australia, MyDispense has been expanded to mimic pharmacy practice around the world. For example, there are currently 16 schools and colleges of pharmacy in the United States and 6 schools in the United Kingdom who have an instance of MyDispense to help students in their curriculum. To date, over 300,000 exercises have been completed globally.  Many schools of pharmacy are focusing their efforts on students without prior pharmacy experience and use MyDispense to help simulate the medication use process in the community pharmacy setting.

The adaption of the Australian MyDispense software has been successfully incorporated internationally with instances in Australia, United States, and the United Kingdom. In addition, MyDispense is used in other countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa, though some instances are still under development. The ability to create various exercises using similar or repeated patient names, addresses, and multiple products provides faculty significant creativity in implementation while providing multiple opportunities for the student to make errors and learn the process.

The various configurations to MyDispense have led to successful adoption by schools of pharmacy worldwide. Despite different medications, legal standards, and even dispensing processes amongst countries, the MyDispense platform has proved viable for its end users. Its adaptability to contrasting practices of pharmacy on different continents further demonstrates the potential rollout to any interested school of pharmacy and is a further testament to its novel design and continual maintenance by Monash University.  Monash University has always been committed to building communities to support pharmacy education worldwide and this value is ultimately demonstrated by its offering of the MyDispense program free-of-charge to any university wishing to implement the software into its academic curriculum.

Individual school and collaborative research projects among several schools are aimed at understanding the implementation of this educational technology on educational outcomes.2  When implementing any new technology into the classroom, faculty are faced with multiple challenges.  Published research on implementation has highlighted the need for appropriate student orientation and appropriate tutorials provided to the students.  Successful implementation was noted when the tool was aggressively promoted and showcased allowing students to see the value of longitudinal, curricular implementation.2

Faculty continue with this model of collaboration by using PharmAcademy (, a global, collaborative website developed by Monash University to allow the sharing of resources to facilitate adoption of this new technology. Users of PharmAcademy can download and use or adapt existing MyDispense exercises for their curriculum as well as share their own. 

Interested in adapting MyDispense for your University?  Please contact for more information!


1) Mcdowell J, Styles K, Sewell K, et al. A Simulated Learning Environment for Teaching Medicine Dispensing Skills. Am J Pharm Educ. 2016;80(1):11.

2) Ferrone M, Kebodeaux C, Fitzgerald J, Holle L. Implementation of a virtual dispensing simulator to support US pharmacy education. Curr Pharm Teaching Learning; published online March 23, 2017. DOI:


Literature Evaluation via Online Group Quiz


Sharon K. Park, Pharm.D., BCPS                                                          Notre Dame of Maryland University

Courses designed to teach how to appropriately evaluate biomedical literature are absolutely necessary in pharmacy education. However, one of the most challenging parts of teaching it in a large classroom setting and assessing the skills in literature evaluation is that the instructors have a hard time determining how much the students actually learned vs. they seem to know. The true level of students’ knowledge and skills does not become apparent until they are on their clinical rotations, attempting to do a journal club alone for the first time.

As with any other educational movements, an effective method of teaching this skill set is increasing the amount of time that the students actively verbalize their thought processes. However, unless the course is tied to a skills lab, it is time-consuming and resource-intensive to exercise journal-club-like activity in the didactic setting. One way to solve this problem is to have the students talk to one another and share their knowledge, and do this against time and in a competition with other students, in a small group.

In a literature evaluation course with about 54 students, 13 groups were formed, based on the students’ preference. Each week for 5 consecutive weeks, the students were assigned a clinical trial to read and prepare for a group quiz which consisted of 10 multiple-choice, 4-option based questions using either Quizizz ( There are a few free online-based quiz platforms available including Kahoot! (, Quizlet Live (, and Quizalize (, just to name a few. A few reviews comparing these platforms exist on the Internet and each has its own advantageous and unique features. Instructors now have a variety of platforms to choose for a small survey or a full-scale assessment on these sites. An example screenshot of one of the quizzes is shown here via Quizizz.

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Student groups were asked to sit as a group and register with the quiz number to begin the quiz on one student’s computer. As they enter their answers, the Quizizz platform registers the progress including correct and incorrect response, ranking, and speed. The allowed time can be controlled for each question based on the difficulty. However, the groups are ranked also based on the time spent on answering the questions, and a majority of them spent less than 10 minutes to answer 10 questions, with the study articles available to them during the quiz.

Based on a short survey to determine if the students’ perceived the group quiz was more helpful at improving their skills and if the group quiz should continue to be offered, an overwhelming majority agreed that the activity was helpful and should continue in the future. 

When using these online platforms for either a group or individual assessment, it is important to ensure that the questions are simple enough to be answered with a reasonable amount of time. In addition, the amount of time given to each group and each quiz should be consistent to deliver a fair assessment; some of the platforms (including Quizizz) do not limit or cut off the activity when the allotted time is gone. The number of students in each group should also be no more than three in order to increase meaningful participation among all group members.

Teaching tools to accommodate varied student learning styles

Amber Cann, PharmD

As pharmacy schools transition to a competency-based format, it becomes essential that teaching styles match the varied learning styles of students. Pharmacy education is no longer one-size-fits-all. Studies of pharmacy students’ learning styles have been published, but little has been written about application of corresponding teaching styles.

Teaching tools have been implemented successfully in other graduate-level programs at Sullivan University. A recording studio on the main campus is available for faculty to record lectures and supplemental tutorials.  These tools—such as screencasts and interactive topic discussions—are used both in our classrooms and in online courses. Surprisingly, similar approaches have not been reported in pharmacy education journals. This type of enhanced teaching has only recently been started at Sullivan’s College of Pharmacy.

Although different learning assessment tools have been developed in recent years, studies on the subject show that learning styles vary significantly among pharmacy students.  The current literature concludes that varied learning styles require varied and innovative teaching approaches to meet students’ needs.

To find the learning styles of our students, we administer the H-PILS (Health Professionals Inventory of Learning Styles) upon matriculation.  (This inventory places students in one of four categories—accommodator, assimilator, converger, or diverger based on 17 questions.) We now have 5 years of data to compare.  We discovered year over year, the majority of our students profess the “assimilator” style.  That is, they prefer to work alone, at their own pace, and tend to value organization and attention to detail.  This type of student tends to learn on his own, and not in the traditional lecture-style format.

To address the needs of these “assimilators,” we began creating short (3-5 minute) video tutorials to supplement lectures. In this way, students can study on their own, in short bursts, when they’re ready to learn.  Our investigation of assessment results show the topics we identified had significant improvement once tutorials were available for students.

We are now working with other schools to compare learning styles results in a different student population. We anticipate a similar pattern among pharmacy students at other schools as we see in our own at Sullivan University.  Our students have reported high satisfaction with the videos we’ve made to date. We continue to fine-tune and broaden the type and format of our tutorials. 

Using Poll Everywhere for Active Learning Engagement

Michelle Musser, PharmD

Active learning….sounds great until you try to get a discussion going and all you hear is crickets and the entire audience tries to avoid your gaze. Student engagement in lecture is a challenge, but technology can offer a creative approach to active learning. Online polling programs, like Poll Everywhere, are one method to increase active student participation during lecture.

If you have ever used or seen clickers in the classroom, online polling is the same concept. Ask a question and the audience can respond. But with online polling, instead of pressing a button and answering a multiple choice question, you can ask students to type in a short response, vote on others’ responses (called a brainstorm question), or click on an image to answer a question. Plus, there is no clickers to reserve or lose. Students can respond using any electronic device and we know they have about four on them all the time. Online polling works in real-time so you can see the responses as they come in. Options on online polling are endless too from moderating responses to setting timers and display options. Moreover, when you use a paid plan, you get access to downloadable poll reports. You know what that means? Assessment potential too! Online polling can be integrated into the classroom in a number of ways, from asking questions at key points in the lecture to gauge understanding to soliciting feedback at the end of a lecture; the potential is really vast. And, yes, it is easy to use. Poll Everywhere easily integrates into Powerpoint slides, allowing it to seamlessly become a part of a lecture. 

So what are the drawbacks? Well, first you do need an internet connection to make it work. May be an issue if your institution is prone to WiFi issues. Also, the free plan has limited capabilities; no reports, limited responses allowed, etc. You need a paid plan to get all the bells and whistles. Finally, I have heard the concern that having students use technology in the classroom is not true “active learning,” as the student engages with the device and not the material. In my experience, polling is a way to get conversation started, for the students to see what others think and to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts or answers. From there, it is much easier to have a discussion and to facilitate learning. Student feedback has been very positive and I have been pleased by the engagement using this tool.

So what are your next steps if you find this tool intriguing? Try it out! Login to the Poll Everywhere website ( and you can instantly create a poll. Download the add-on for Powerpoint at and, bam, you are ready to try it out in the classroom! If you still need more information, explore the website or listen to the webinars to learn more. HAPPY POLLING!

Use of Twitter as a Backchannel in a Large Lecture-based Required Pharmacy Course

By Lana Dvorkin Camiel and Jennifer Goldman


Twitter is a popular free social media platform where communication is achieved through 140-character long posts. We have utilized Twitter as a backchannel in our large lecture-based self-care course (200+ students). In addition to hand raising students were able to use Twitter during the lectures to post their comments and questions made visible on a large screen.  The participation was optional.  Early in the course, coordinators collected students’ usernames and created a Twitter list to track comments. Course coordinators monitored posts and shared them with lecturing faculty.  Questions were addressed in class, or if the volume of questions was too large, unanswered questions were addressed on learning management system discussion board.   

So what?

After the course completion, 266 students were surveyed about the usefulness of Twitter as a backchannel. Close to 70% felt that backchannel was not distracting, and 75% reported that it was easy to follow tweets and questions. About half liked to use backchannel during live sessions and thought it should be used in other large classes, and 93% appreciated that it was not mandatory.  Based on our experience, students were significantly more engaged and asked many more questions than they typically do in a lecture without a backchannel.

Now what?

Our course is team-taught, so the buy-in from all faculty was essential.  That ultimately meant our faculty consistently paused in their delivery to check the questions that came in via Twitter.  Reminding the students that backchannel is utilized was also important. Course coordinators’ presence and monitoring of the Twitter feed during the class and posting unanswered questions on the learning management system were essential to make this a success. Based on our experience, we would highly recommend using a hashtag and making sure that students utilize it in their tweets instead of creating a list.  It simulates more closely what happens in the real world, and also diminishes significant initial workload on the faculty of entering each student into a designated list. If faculty decided to make this a mandatory activity, in order for it to be successful each student must have an access to Internet during the class – as a result hardware and connectivity become important aspects of insuring successful delivery.  The majority of students utilized Twitter via smartphones. Our overall experience with Twitter as a backchannel was positive, but many students do not have Twitter accounts and are hesitant to create one.  As a result we have been exploring other tools like  Paid versions typically offer additional benefits of keeping the backchannel available over the duration of the entire semester. Students should be reminded that all tweets should be professional in content.

Questions: What tools have you experimented in your lecture-based classes to increase engagement?  If you have tried backchannel, what are some of the tools you recommend?

Please feel free to comment below!

Welcome to TiPEL!


Welcome to the new website for the Technology in Pharmacy Education and Learning SIG. The goal of this relaunched website is to help not only pharmacists, but hopefully other healthcare academics looking to use technology in their daily lives for education and learning purposes.

What we are setting out to accomplish:

  • News and Blog Posts - It is our hope to present and curate articles related to new technologies or areas for readers to use in their daily practice. We will gladly take any recommendations.
  • Resources - This section will include not only 'how-to' guides by fellow academics, but also links to recent webinars from TiPEL or available online for your use, and a rundown of interesting websites  and latest research you may find of use.
  • Meeting Information - Last but not least, we hope to use this website to broadcast upcoming meeting information, workshops, and relevant posters/abstracts and presentations at related meetings. Currently this section will be closed off until we get closer to the AACP Annual Meeting.

We look forward to the success of this website, and as always, feel free to comment and make recommendations! 

If you would like to contribute, please see the Contact Page!