Advances in Health Sciences Education

, Volume 19, Issue 5, pp 645–659 | Cite as

Design it yourself (DIY): in-house instructional design for online pharmacology



Demand for e-learning courses has risen dramatically placing pressure on institutions to offer more online courses. Third party vendors now offer courses that can be embedded directly into learning management systems. When transitioning from in-class to e-learning formats, instructors must decide whether to use commercially available courses or design in-house. The objective of this study was to evaluate our transition from delivering introductory pharmacology via a purchased e-pack to an in-house designed course. A team that included an instructional designer, an education specialist and a content expert created an online course in pharmacology. Merrill’s first principles of instruction were used as a guide for the design of our online course. Where appropriate, multiple forms of media were introduced to reinforce concepts. We compared grades and design strategy from a previous iteration that was delivered using a commercially available e-pack. A cost analysis was conducted to determine the institutional setup and maintenance costs of in-house course design. The mean final grade from the in-house designed course was 81.9 (0.5) % compared to 76.4 (0.5) % for the e-pack course (P < 0.001). Course evaluations were significantly improved for the in-house course compared to the e-pack. Cost-analysis demonstrated that designing a course in-house has a high initial cost ($111,180.57) but can be maintained with minimal institutional cost ($500) in future offerings. Our results demonstrate that effective courses can be designed in-house and this should be a viable option for institutions that have appropriate resources to support instructional design.


Online learning Instructional design Undergraduate pharmacology Nursing education Basic health sciences education Curriculum development 



The authors are grateful to the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Teaching Technology Services, the Instructional Technology Resource Centre, Strategic Technology Commons, the Teaching Support Centre and the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at Western University for financial and technical support. The authors also wish to thank the dedication of Bear Claw Media, along with Adam Pypstra, Tanja Coso, David Creces, Sam Allen, Corey Meingarten and Shohreh Shahi for their efforts in creating animations, case studies and medical art in this course.

Supplementary material

10459_2013_9492_MOESM1_ESM.docx (66 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 67 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jay Loftus
    • 1
  • Tom Stavraky
    • 2
  • Bradley L. Urquhart
    • 2
  1. 1.Strategic Technology Commons, Schulich School of Medicine and DentistryWestern UniversityLondonCanada
  2. 2.Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Schulich School of Medicine and DentistryWestern UniversityLondonCanada

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