SHRS Team Shares Flex@Pitt Experience With South American Universities

A rack of dumbbells next to a red exercise ballTeaching and learning during a pandemic raise serious challenges, but they’re ones that Rae Mancilla and Andrea Hergenroeder embraced while supporting the Flex @ Pitt teaching model.

The colleagues from Pitt's School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS) recently presented at a three-day virtual conference hosted by colleagues in Chile, addressing telehealth and virtual instruction. The two shared what they’ve learned during the process of helping faculty implement Flex @ Pitt. Flex @ Pitt, introduced in the fall 2020 term, is a reinvention of the teaching model that offers in-person classes when conditions allow but provides faculty with tools and support to deliver remote teaching when necessary, giving students and faculty a choice of how to engage.

A woman in a black jacket and red shirt underneath“It was exciting for us to talk about the timeline of transitions and the different phases of instruction (from in-person, to fully remote, to Flex @ Pitt),” said Hergenroeder, director of the school’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Program and associate professor of physical therapy. “We were able to present things we thought they would encounter in the future and how Flex @ Pitt has been implemented in our physical therapy program. The nuances of instruction are different for every program, and given that physical therapy is a hands-on profession, our training isn’t one that lends itself to a fully remote instructional model.”

She and Mancilla, a senior instructional designer with SHRS’ Office of Online Learning, addressed a three-day conference on telehealth and virtual instruction at La Universidad Andrés Bello, Santiago, Chile. It was attended by representatives from schools of health sciences from across South America and was shared on the Emol.com network in Chile, a broadcasting network, and had over 88,000 views. 

The two presented an overview of SHRS and its doctor of physical therapy program, focusing on how the Department of Physical Therapy has responded to COVID-19 instruction. They presented the Flex @ Pitt model and explored specific teaching strategies used by the department for remote instruction, showcasing lessons learned from using the model this term.

“I think it’s wonderful that we were invited to present on a world platform,” said Mancilla. “It’s very substantial and it reflects the vision our team has and what the school is doing for online learning.”

A woman in a striped shirtMancilla and Hergenroeder were invited to present by Christian Campos Jara, dean of the School of Rehabilitation Sciences at La Universidad Andrés Bello.

Jara said, “This event was a great success due to the high quality of the invited speakers and presenters.”

Mancilla said connecting faculty with the technology and support they need has been a highlight since Flex @ Pitt’s implementation.

“People are working hard to make resources available throughout the pandemic,” said Mancilla. “The collaboration between staff and faculty has been much greater around the pandemic. We’re able to come together and support one another. It has been a great success.”

Hergenroeder said she hopes to share her experiences with Flex @ Pitt with other parts of the world in the near future.

“I try to think about the silver lining in this situation, and I believe that the transition to the Flex @ Pitt model will benefit our physical therapy program in the long run. We will continue to utilize parts of this model for instruction in the future, and other people around the globe will too,” Hergenroeder said.