Learning through Osmosis

skull illustration as part of Osmosis online learning tool

John Hobbs MA '14


08 Jun 20

Students talked, we listened, providing them a one-year subscription to a popular online medical learning service.

EARLY IN THEIR DENTAL SCHOOL DAYS, while preparing for exams, Ashley Mach DDS ’21 and Aimi Nguyen DDS ’20 would often find themselves scouring YouTube for videos to supplement what they had been learning in their problem-based learning (PBL) sessions. 

“As a very visual person, I would turn to YouTube for a quick synopsis of various topics,” Mach said. More often than not, those videos were free samples offered by Osmosis, a popular online learning service.

“Osmosis creates a lot of highly visual biomedical content such as videos, flash cards and quizzes that appeal to preclinical students — especially PBL students — as well as students reviewing concepts for board exams,” said Holly Thompson, acting head of the Wilson Dental Library. “It tracks the individual user’s progress as they take quizzes and use flashcards, so a student can see how they are improving over time.”

Give the people what they want


Limited by the number of free Osmosis videos available on YouTube and knowing how many of her classmates used Osmosis content, DDS Class of 2020 President Aimi Nguyen conducted a survey asking students which library resources they would like to have added to support their PBL learning. 

More than 90 percent responded they wanted access to Osmosis. 

The class brought up the idea at a meeting with school leadership. 

“Dr. Navazesh is the person we normally bombard with all of our curriculum-related questions, and she was very receptive to the idea,” Nguyen said. The next step was to run the idea past the librarians with the Wilson Dental Library. 

“The library is always open to recommendations from students and faculty, especially since sometimes resources are often promoted directly to them and not to librarians,” Holly Thompson said. 

After an initial demonstration, the product was reviewed by Chair of the Division of Biomedical Sciences Malcolm Snead and several other faculty, many from Biomedical Sciences — all of whom were impressed with the product. 

It was then that Academic Program Manager Anna Chen was charged with leading the effort to provide Ostrow students a subscription to the learning service. 

Delivering for our students


The endeavor began before the months-long shelter in place effort to curb the spread of coronavirus, which, in a way, proved fortuitous. 

“This online learning tool became more valuable for students during the Covid-19 situation since they can’t currently access our clinics or labs,” said Chen, who also pointed out the software would be helpful for students preparing for the new integrated National Board Dental Examination, set to launch in August 2020. 

Chen worked alongside Ostrow leadership, Osmosis representatives and USC Procurement Services to get access to the resource. 

In early May, Holly Thompson announced that the school had secured one-year Osmosis subscriptions for all Ostrow faculty and students, thanks to the student-led effort. 

“Being able to get Osmosis has been such a great feeling,” Mach said. “It really showed that when students voiced their opinions and wanted some change to help our education, the school really listened.” 

Though Nguyen has finished her studies at Ostrow, she hopes the tool proves helpful for current students. “I’m truly grateful for a school that is so keen on evolving and hope Osmosis is a resource that serves to enrich the leaning experience for many students for years to come.”

Chen added, “The best part of this project was that we came together to deliver for our students and support each other’s work. I could not have done this, though, without the support of Dr. Navazesh, Annie Thompson and Holly Thompson of the Wilson Dental Library, and Dr. Snead, who was very supportive.”

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