Written by Dr Lee Chooi Yeng, School of Pharmacy

‘HeARtbeat’ is an educational tool developed by researchers from 3 countries on 3 different continents – Malaysia, the United Kingdom and Australia. The development was initiated by Monash University Malaysia (MUM), and collaboration extended to the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom and Monash University Australia. Dr Lee Chooi Yeng, senior lecturer at the School of Pharmacy, MUM, together with Prof Kevin Moffat of the School of Life Sciences, University of Warwick lead the research.

‘HeARtbeat’ is an augmented reality (AR) application (App) that realistically portrays a beating heart in its normal state and abnormal state known as atrial fibrillation. The latter refers to irregular heartbeats and heart rhythms. The App can be easily installed on smart phone and tablet, allowing users to observe a beating heart through the camera view of the device. Users are able to interact with the heart model in real-time while navigating through the content of the App that presents information spanning from basic sciences including anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology, and pharmacology to clinical application.

The App

Why was the tool developed? What has brought the researchers together?

“The answer to the above questions is fairly straightforward – our dedication to continuously improving the teaching effectiveness and students’ learning experiences,” noted Lee.

Both Pharmacy (MUM) and Biomedical Science (Warwick) students consistently commented that the underlying causes of atrial fibrillation and its treatments as compared to other heart diseases, are the most difficult to comprehend.

”The complexity of atrial fibrillation, which requires more than just reading and imagination to understand, is likely the cause of the challenges faced by students. That also shows we need novel and creative way to teach complex subjects,” acknowledged Lee.

Technology matters

Academics are encouraged to innovate in their teaching. Resulting at least in part from that, more technologies have been used now than before as a means to complement existing teaching and learning activities.

“It is pivotal that we thoughtfully consider what learning aspects we want to achieve with a specific technology, and how a technology is relevant in that sense before we start implementing it. It is only when the purposes of use are clear that a technology can be fully utilised to address the educational needs,” Lee stressed.

AR, given its unique features of integrating digital information with the user’s environment, provides an opportunity to convert complex knowledge into engaging, interactive, and immersive learning content. Lee and Moffat proposed their project to the Monash Warwick Alliance and have their research proposal funded by the Alliance Education Fund.

As Pharmacy is a health professional degree program, the interest of healthcare providers and patients was taken into account during the development of the App. Accordingly HeARtbeat also contained information that meets patient education needs.

Testimony speaks

The initial surveys conducted by Lee and Moffat showed that HeARtbeat, developed with specific aims, was well received by students. Monash Pharmacy students noted that the novelty, the realistic heart model, and the easy to understand content have improved their learning. Warwick Biomedical Science students on the other hand thought that the visualisation and the learning design of the App would encourage its use.

The App has drawn interest from cardiologists and patients. The former acknowledged that HeARtbeat will be able to help patients by improving patients’ adherence to medications and treatment outcomes, and they welcome approach that contributes to the education and patient awareness of a disease and disease treatments.

Evidenced above, HeARtbeat is useful in supporting interdisciplinary teaching and learning, and could well serve various industries and stakeholders.

Next steps?

Lee says “Expand the scope of the work and secure sustainable funding. We welcome researchers, educators as well as those in the healthcare sectors who are interested in exploring this exciting learning space to get in touch with us.”

‘HeARtbeat’ was awarded Gold medal in the 31st International Invention, Innovation & Technology Exhibition (ITEX’2020) held in Kuala Lumpur recently. Lee was awarded the Best Women Inventor Award in the same event. These awards are the latest recognitions of Lee’s contribution to teaching and education. She has previously received the 2017 Pro-Vice Chancellor Award for Excellence in Education, the 2018 Vice Chancellor Award for Teaching Excellence, and the 2018 Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences Dean’s Teaching Excellence Award.