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  1. #1
    SitePoint Zealot Mitochondrion's Avatar
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    Brainstorming new ideas...

    I'm interested in making interactive teaching applications for healthcare sciences students, especially nursing students.

    Let me introduce myself very quickly. I'm a double-degree guy. I graduated from an interactive multimedia program in 1999 worked as a website designer for just under 3 years. Then I went to nursing school for my 2nd degree (never mind how and why, bottom line is it was worth it) and am graduating in May 2008 and taking nursing boards. My interactive media skills have gotten rusty due to preoccupation with nursing school but since starvation is no longer an issue (hehe) it's not such a big deal as it used to be. I will be able to resume my design work at a pace I'm comfortable with, building prototypes, doing research & development and so on; bottom line I'm still brainstorming interactive media ideas.

    You see, nursing classes are pretty tough and the very expensive nursing textbooks come with CDROMs that have various teaching applications that are supposed to help the students master the material. Most are made in Director. It's pretty primitive stuff though, usually just a bunch of 10 multiple choice questions. Also, they have things like audio dictionaries where you click on a word and an audio voice pronounces the word. Sometimes they have a slideshow where a voice is talking and still images are appearing. Now and then an embedded video showing some scene in a hospital. Simple stuff, any interactive design senior could put that together in Flash.

    Those applications are very crude and uninspiring and of very limited value to the students which is something I learned the hard way cramming for exams...back in 1998 I could already code better presentations in Director.

    The CDROM applications the books come with are for learning theory which is hard (a lot of memorization) but hands on-nursing skills such as dressing changes are hard to master too, especially when the students are completely new and shy. In theory, it would be possible to have a highly interactive (but not necessarily expensive) simulation done in Flash or Director where the greenhorn nursing student can use simulated nursing instruments to conduct assessments on simulated patients, apply simulated dressings and so on. This stuff would be dynamite and nothing like that is currently bundled with those textbooks. Students try to learn by reading text in the book and they hate it, hate it. Nursing schools have laboratories where dummies, tools and supplies are available to play with but don't count on that place being open just because you need it before an exam. Also, some students live far away from the campus. Simulations that can be played at home are needed urgently and they should be good interactive simulations because time and again I've seen procedures like injections being botched on real humans. A simulation might have prevented that. As you can imagine, stakes are extremely high...and it's a noble cause too (as opposed to designing porn sites your mom doesn't even know about) because a successful simulation and good teaching tools will protect real people from harm and give self-confidence to the students who are struggling in the very difficult nursing programs.

    The nursing industry is exploding and it's a goldmine of projects that need designers. Nursing textbook publishers like Elsevier are orgasmic because of the avalanche of new students who are abandoning their old careers and flocking into nursing. Those publishers are sniffing student wallets and many fortunes will be made on the explosion of the nursing education in this country. Sooner or later the students will demand better products. And oh, by the way, the prices of textbooks have pretty much doubled when those CDROMs made their appearance as part of the textbooks. If only that lame software were worth the increased cost...The addition of the CDROMs basically gave the publishers and excuse to rip off the students yet again.

    Now, if I want to make a teaching application that would really blow the students away, get them hooked on the software and help them succeed with their exams and especially hands-on skills, should that be online or CDROMs bundled with the textbooks? (CDROM may be more dependable because not every student will have high speed Internet) What technologies should I be looking at in addition to Flash and Director? I know half a dozen imaging and authoring programs are needed to create a solid interactive product but if you could at least tell me what the foundation would be that would be helpful.

    Your ideas will be appreciated.
    P.S. Feedback on the selection of this particular market niche is welcome too but it seems that specialization is the name of the day in today's industry. A few years ago I was interviewed by a design agency in Chicago. Back then those guys were designing websites for just about anybody who hired them. A couple years later I checked their website again and they were now promoting themselves as specialists in the medical insurance industry software. How and why they went after that niche is a mystery but I suspect had they stayed with the old business model their future could have been in jeopardy.
    Last edited by Mitochondrion; Dec 9, 2007 at 11:28.

  2. #2
    King of Paralysis by Analysis bronze trophy
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mitochondrion View Post
    Now, if I want to make a teaching application that would really blow the students away, get them hooked on the software and help them succeed with their exams and especially hands-on skills, should that be online or CDROMs bundled with the textbooks? (CDROM may be more dependable because not every student will have high speed Internet) What technologies should I be looking at in addition to Flash and Director? I know half a dozen imaging and authoring programs are needed to create a solid interactive product but if you could at least tell me what the foundation would be that would be helpful.
    CD-ROM vs Online delivery

    If you plan on bundling your CD-ROMs with textbooks you're going to need agreements with all the textbook publishers to have them place your CD in their books. Is that likely? Will you sell them the rights to do so? Will the rights be exclusive? Will it be cheaper for them just to do it themselves? There's a lot of issues with delivering with CD-ROMs in textbooks.

    If you go strictly online then you avoid that issue but then you'll need to spend additional funds on marketing so that people hear about your products, how long until the book publishers catch wind of this and decide to go after your market with CD-ROMs in their books?

    It's a tough call to be honest, the big problem with web publishing and the such in general is the low barriers to entry. Personally I think you may be on to something here so I hope you see it through either way. You should be able to develop regardless of delivery method at the moment and work on the delivery mechanisms at a later date.

  3. #3
    SitePoint Zealot Mitochondrion's Avatar
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    tke, thanks for the feedback. The situation with the publishers needs to be investigated but Mosby Elsevier seems to be a monopoly of sorts in the United States. It's a giant publisher whose position on the market is invincible. So in a hypothetical situation where a designer hooks up with Mosby and starts working on software for them it is unlikely competitors who make their own Flash applications will make a dent in them. I think state nursing boards are much more of a problem. You see, nursing teaching varies from state to state. If you publish some kind of an interactive lesson authorities in various states might have objections because in their state the practice guidelines are somewhat different. All kinds of people with a PhD after their last name will jump you just because they feel they have the expertise to challenge. It's a complex issue, I don't deny that.

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    King of Paralysis by Analysis bronze trophy
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mitochondrion View Post
    You see, nursing teaching varies from state to state. If you publish some kind of an interactive lesson authorities in various states might have objections because in their state the practice guidelines are somewhat different. All kinds of people with a PhD after their last name will jump you just because they feel they have the expertise to challenge. It's a complex issue, I don't deny that.
    That was the other thought that came to me after I had finished posting. You'll also need to bring in subject matter experts to vet all your content and get a damned good lawyer to cover your *** should you make a mistake in the content that results in injury down the road.


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