Annual survey also suggests improvements

With 137 OUM students, or 61 percent of the student body, voicing their opinions of the University in the seventh annual student survey, satisfaction levels remain high, and many students offered frank assessments and suggestions for improvement.

On a scale of one to ten, with one being poor and ten being excellent, overall student experience was rated “good” at 7.4. Also ranking high were the University’s responsiveness, instructors, administrators, academic advisors, and physician mentors.

“Our students always have provided some of the best ideas for making OUM better,” says Taffy Gould, Chairman of the OUM Council and Founder of the University. “The annual student survey is a wonderful source of feedback and ideas for improvement.  I thank everyone who participated in the survey.”

Year-by-Year Comparison of Average Scores2011201220132014201520162017
Overall experience7.
Confidence in meeting your goals7.
OUM’s responsiveness7.
Academic advising7.
Physician mentor programN.A.
OUM’s administrators8.

The physician mentor question was dropped this year. Many respondents previously attempted to rank this item even though they had yet to work with a physician mentor (pre-SBM). Survey comments throughout the years have typically ranked satisfaction with the physician mentor program quite high.

Likes, Dislikes, Suggestions

All respondents were asked to tell OUM what they like and dislike about the program and to provide suggestions for improvement.

By far, the most commonly used “like” of OUM was “flexibility” with 73 mentions (53 percent). In many cases, it was a one-word response. When adding similar terms such as “online, allows me to keep working, and convenient,” the percentage increases to two-thirds. The second most cited “like” was institutional appreciation (faculty, curriculum, academic advisors, administration) with 32 mentions. The word “supportive” was used 12 times. Several observed the international environment and their student colleagues as their greatest “like.”

The “liked least” and “suggestions for improvement” questions of years past were combined in the 2017 survey, as there was much duplication between the two. Dislikes were as diverse as the student body itself.  While a few may be discounted as not constructive, most are quite constructive and instructive.  The most-cited “liked least” characteristic of OUM has to do with concerns about the clinical phase, especially lack of clinical placements in Australia (18 percent). Thankfully, the second highest response, with 11 percent, was “none” or “NA,” which is consistent with years past. The third most frequent response had to do with exam-related issues, whether to do with difficulty, scheduling, relevance, or feedback.

It should be noted that in the 2015 survey, 13 percent of students mentioned “feelings of isolation” as a dislike. That number dropped to five percent in 2016 and to two percent in 2017, possibly because of the Student Conferences and the Student Information Sessions that were introduced in 2017.

Similar to the previous survey, other issues (registering 2-3 percent each) included not enough time to complete assignments, bias toward American students, technology difficulties, costs and financial issues, logistics of navigating OUM administration, and constant change.

Interestingly, the mini-case discussions were marked as a “most liked” feature by three students and as a “liked least” feature by three students. There is a significant section below that examines the mini-case discussions more fully. The reaction is generally positive with some opportunities for improvement.

“Generally, there are a lot of realistic and creative suggestions for improvement,” says Chris Dudley, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Administration & Student Affairs who designed and conducted the survey.  “The University’s Steering Committee has been asked to carefully read and consider each comment, especially the ‘dislikes,’ because each one represents an individual student’s reality. And we take that very seriously.”

Technology and the Library

Support for the University’s various technology platforms such as eOUM, Moodle, Blackboard, and Proctortrack received good reviews, with 79 percent ranking the support as “excellent” or “adequate.”  Twenty percent of respondents said that they did not contact tech support in 2016.

Satisfaction with ClinicalKey is mixed—many love it, while others say that they purchase books as they must hold a book in their hands. Some students reported difficulties using ClinicalKey while others reported no problems. Usage ranges from “daily” to “never.” There were multiple complaints about the ClinicalKey fee, mostly from those who choose to purchase hard copies of their texts. Note:  OUM is able to offer ClinicalKey to students at a discounted annual rate that is 25 percent of Elsevier’s retail price per year.

Seventy-six percent of students use ClinicalKey for their online reading assignments, 41 percent download pdfs of the readings for later reading, and 28 percent print hard copies of the reading assignments. One-third of respondents use ClinicalKey to read journal articles, one-quarter use it to find images and view videos online, and one-fifth use it to access practice guidelines or patient or drug information.

Half of OUM students are either “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with OUM’s library, while another 20 percent said that they haven’t used the library or did not know that OUM has a library. Fifty-five percent of the students say that they also use another library either at their workplace or at their clinical rotation sites. Students also provided feedback on what types of services they would like from the library.

“The feedback and suggestions made by students will be used by our librarian to improve services,” says Dudley.

Live Discussion Sessions & Recorded Lectures

OUM introduced mini-cases and other live discussions in 2017, and the reaction was mixed.  Students seem to like the less structured discussions that are led by a faculty member rather than those led by students covering specific questions.

Though there were a few complaints of the offering times not being convenient to all students, holding them in Australia/New Zealand and American evenings seemed to work. Students were quite clear about their preference for recorded discussions, as some who could not make those times relied on the recordings.

There were comments about some discussion leaders being better than others, and as a result the more effective faculty members are sharing information and tactics with others in order to develop their talents.

When asked if students would support a move to recorded lectures, supplemented by live discussion sessions, one-third welcomed the change; another third rejected it, saying they prefer live lectures. Sixteen percent say they prefer to keep things as they are, which is live lectures and live discussions.  Only four percent said that they do not like live case discussions. Students offered an array of suggestions for improvement of the lectures and discussion sessions.

When told that content from the live discussions would be reflected on exams, 15 percent said that their impression was “more favorable,” 41 percent said it was “less favorable,” and 44 percent said that their impression “did not change.” Those whose opinions did not change were fairly equally divided between “favorable” and “unfavorable” toward the live discussions being part of student assessment.

Samoa:  Here we come!

Students, especially those from Australia, are planning to spend significant time in Samoa for their clinical clerkships. Fifty-four percent of the students responding to the survey plan to be in Samoa for 12 weeks or longer. Two-thirds expect to complete the 12-week Internal Medicine clerkships there, 44 percent Obstetrics & Gynecology, 36 percent plan to go to Samoa for Surgery, and 26 percent for Emergency Medicine. It is interesting that 6.5 percent of the students say that they do not plan to go to Samoa for rotations, when it is an OUM graduation requirement.

Most of the 36 percent saying they plan to go to Samoa for the minimum of four weeks of rotations and the 47 percent who do not plan to go to Samoa for an internship are Americans.

Most Australian students responding to the survey expect to go to Samoa for their post-graduate internship.

Student Support

OUM students provided the University with a great deal of insight into their personal obligations and potential stressors. The conclusion is that they need more support and their families need more support.  Both are under a lot of pressure during a time when everyone is stretched so thin. In extreme cases over the years, divorces and illness have resulted from the stress of attending medical school.

There are no magic solutions, but there are likely several things that the school may be able to do to support the students and their families. Dr. Mari Brodersen, an OUM psychiatry professor and an advisor to students, reviewed the data and made several recommendations:

  • Orientation should include spouses/significant family members. This could accomplish three things: 1) If spouses sit in on some of the student orientation sessions, they may have a clearer picture of what medical school Is all about, 2) there could be an orientation specifically for spouses/family members, and 3) spouses/family members can meet each other.
  • A Facebook page or Moodle page might be set up for spouses and families. The page could be a private place for them to talk, connect, and exchange ideas.

 Clinical Student Needs

Though Clinical Student Advisors were introduced in 2017, clinical students have been generally slow to adopt the program. Most of the students who have a Clinical Student Advisor have reported good results, while some reported disappointing results mostly related to the scheduling of meeting times and the meeting outcomes.

“We will follow up with  additional training for the Clinical Student Advisors,” says Paula Diamante, MD, Director of Faculty Affairs and Lead Clinical Course Director.

Fourteen percent of those in clinical rotations report that they work to earn money during their rotations, though students are discouraged from doing so. Most cite the necessity of funding the rotations and supporting their families.

“Generally, clinical rotations are 40-plus hours per week in clinic, plus readings and exams, which is why students are discouraged from working,” says Sarmad Ghazi, MBChB, Dean for North America.

Clinical students also shared difficulties and issues they are encountering with clinical rotations. Most have to do with access to quality rotations (in both Australia and the US). Other concerns include lack of structure (which the clinical course being inaugurated in 2018 will address), different treatment from students of the “host” institution, complaints about the required readings and exams, financial stresses, and time management.

Student Affairs Committee

The Student Affairs Committee continued to perform reasonably well in 2017, though the leadership of the committee changed hands to Joe Korac, General Manager for Australia/New Zealand.  There was no trend in comments, other than some confusion when leadership changed and how to initiate the process. Additional comments involved  issues that had little to do with the functioning of this committee.

Year-by-Year Comparison of Average Scores 2011201220132014201520162017
Time taken to decide case6.
Usefulness of decision9.
Fairness of decision9.
Timeliness vs. earlier experience7.
Usefulness vs. earlier experience7.

The OUM Student Survey is administered annually in November/December to the entire student body.  While participation is not mandatory, it is highly encouraged. Participation in early years was 45-50 percent, but it has been above 60 percent the past four years. Results typically are tabulated and analyzed in January. The University’s Steering Committee, as well as several faculty and administrative committees, review the 60-page report and are incorporating student input and ideas into their future policy and procedure  development and into University-wide strategic planning. The results also are shared with PAASCU, OUM’s accrediting agency.