Ohio State Dental Journal

Innovative Instructors Rethinking Course Content Delivery

The changing needs of students, desire for more interactive learning, and development of new technologies are prompting some instructors to rethink how course content is delivered. The Ohio State University College of Dentistry is keeping up with the latest trends in pedagogy, while continuing to advance the educational excellence for which the college is known. The following three educators are among those leading the way in innovation.


Rebecca Henderson, BS ’01, MS ’05
Assistant Professor - Clinical
Division of Dental Hygiene

Rebecca Henderson, BS, MS

In her 12 years of teaching in the Division of Dental Hygiene, Ms. Rebecca Henderson has never stopped learning. That’s because she teaches traditional, online, and hybrid courses that blend the in-classroom experience with online delivery—necessitating she keep pace with the latest technologies to create an engaging experience for students.

“It’s one thing to take your traditional classroom teaching methods and figure out a way to put it online,” Ms. Henderson said. “But it’s a whole different thing to figure out how to best teach online. That has been a challenge.”

Ms. Henderson said there are many factors to consider— from recording and delivering content in “chunks” so the file sizes are manageable, to confirming that students can actually access the technology, to ensuring communication logistics are effective so online students can hear questions and feel included during the asynchronous viewing of a live lecture capture. “It takes a lot of time and organization to teach well with innovative technology,” she said.

She uses technology like Explain Everything™, an application that lets her annotate her presentations with voice recordings, drawings, and photos. “I can draw on the slide, telling students to look at the middle-third of the tooth where a cavity is beginning to form, just as If they were in class and I pointed to something.” Her latest find, EDpuzzle, lets her populate videos with questions that quiz students, providing instantaneous feedback that immerses students in active learning.

The impact on students? Second-year dental hygiene student Trinette Panico, who has taken several courses with Ms. Henderson, is enthusiastic about the results. “The way she approaches online teaching encourages active participation. Even the short videos she posts that introduce the week’s topic help create a more personal connection with students,” Ms. Panico said.

Ms. Henderson credits the university’s Office of Distance Education and eLearning and the College of Dentistry’s monthly teaching development program (iTeach), with exposing her to innovative ideas for enhancing instruction. “Ohio State is working very hard to facilitate this for faculty.”


Kelly Kennedy, ’04 DDS, ’08 MS
Associate Professor - Clinical
​Division of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and Dental Anesthesiology

Kelly Kennedy, DDS, MS

When Dr. Kelly Kennedy took over as director of the college’s internal medicine course six years ago, she quickly recognized that her oral surgery training, while excellent, did not prepare her to help more than 100 students learn to manage medically compromised patients in clinical emergencies.

In addition to the inherent challenge of teaching a large class, Dr. Kennedy said the timing of the course—the end of the second year, just after students have been immersed in basic science—makes for a difficult transition. “They’ve been so didactic and lab focused those first two years, and my class is a complete 180 from how they have been thinking,” Dr. Kennedy said.

While her approach to teaching continues to evolve with help from mentors at the college and ideas from the University Center for the Advancement of Teaching, she is pleased with adjustments she's made to the curriculum that promote more active learning. For example, Dr. Kennedy acts as the at-risk patient, presenting a clinical problem to students who work in small teams to figure out what questions they would ask the patient and how to respond. Students are able to apply and present their knowledge, and other groups are encouraged to chime in with their ideas.

Students, including third-year dental student Gabriel A. Quiñones, have been pleased by the changes. "Dr. Kennedy does a great job creating a collaborative thinking environment. She keeps us on our toes and thinking critically about different scenarios with the cases she presents, ” Mr. Quiñones said.

“These are really smart young professionals,” Dr. Kennedy said. “I learn something new each time I work with them.”


Susan Travers, MS, PhD
of Biosciences

Susan Travers, MS, PhD

Dr. Susan Travers knew she had big shoes to fill when she inherited the course directorship of oral histology from Emeritus Professor Rudy Melfi almost 20 years ago. Not only had Dr. Melfi led the lecture course for decades, but he had always looked for more effective ways to deliver the material—such as the interactive CD of tissue sample images he created for students when it became too cumbersome to spend time in the wet lab.

Dr. Melfi continues to be a mentor and to give lectures to the second-year dental students who take oral histology each year, along with accomplished faculty like John Bartlett, PhD; Brian Foster, PhD; and Zongyang Son, PhD who team teach with Dr. Travers. And while lectures still dominate and multiple choice tests are a must, Dr. Travers and the team have worked to increase interactivity. For example, they have integrated response technology to keep students engaged during lectures and to provide live feedback to instructors.

In addition, for a number of years Dr. Travers assigned scientific articles related to dentistry for groups of five to seven students to discuss and be quizzed on in a collaborative effort. Beginning two years ago, similar exercises culminated in groups of students making presentations to their classmates. The presenters are able to choose from a series of case studies that require them to act like detectives to figure out solutions for patients or they have the freedom to choose their own research articles to present to the class.

“We want students to become more empowered and to take charge of their own learning, so they know how to look things up and to evaluate new scientific findings and potential novel treatments,” Dr. Travers said. “That’s the goal.”