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Anatomy for the Dancer:
Web-based Course

By Judith Steel
Dance and Choreography


The purpose of this project was to design and implement a collaborative project between the Department of Dance and Department of Physical Therapy. This project would develop a one credit, web-based, self-study course designed for dance students, to enhance their study of Anatomy and to prepare them with the appropriate scientific information that is necessary for a well-grounded career in dance. The project is unique at VCU, as it was the first time that a collaboration between a science-based and an arts-based department was created by co-designing and teaching a web-based course.

The project was originally supported with a Faculty Mentoring Grant in Spring 2000, that provided a laptop computer, a digital camera, and appropriate software with which to develop the course.

Numbers of Students/Users:

The course will be offered for the first time in Fall 2001. It now has 16 enrolled students, all dance majors, who will also provide us with feedback about the ease and clarity of using the web course. Additional dance department faculty will also be taking the course for personal use. The course will be offered on an ongoing basis, eventually becoming a requirement in the major curriculum. It's impact has yet to be measured, but it will certainly affect student learning and have a developmental impact on the curriculum as more users are involved.

Impact on faculty development:

The project, for us, has been invaluable towards setting in motion a larger involvement in planning and facilitating a core area of study in dance science and somatics. The collaborative process, the common ground, the process of communication between two disciplines, and the resources that were utilized, provided a huge learning process that evolved into a link that will anchor future development of professional projects and scholarship included in teaching and research in both Departments.

Impact on the department:

  • Importance to the curriculum -It is anticipated that the outcome of the project will greatly enhance the knowledge of dance students. It will provide foundational science preparation about structures of the human body and important muscle functions that are basic to efficient and qualitative movement patterns. This course will serve as a creative solution to a curricular issue (see below), while being an active learning tool for the dancer within a student-centered approach to teaching.
  • Improvement of pedagogy - An area of weakness in the curriculum had been identified by a self-study completed in 1999 for the National Association of Schools of Dance (NASD). The area of weakness identified by students, alumni, and faculty in the Dance Department was that of somatic education/scientific background in Anatomy and Kinesiology for the dance major. The availability of an on-line self-study course would greatly enhance the students' preparation for taking the required Kinesiology course later in the Junior year. It would also integrate with information students gain in other courses in the major; emphasizing an education in refined and efficient physical movement coupled with knowledge of how the body works.
  • Increased efficiency in the use of faculty time; and the relationship to the strategic planning priorities of the Department, the School, and the University - The strategic plan in place across the entire University, is for departments to find innovative uses of technology in instruction. It is also a priority in the school and university to streamline resources, and to implement innovative cross-disciplinary courses that utilize talents beyond an individual department. It was recommended by NASD, that the Dance Department seek and make use of expertise in the Physical Therapy department to enhance the Dance curriculum. The use of web-based technology allows more faculty time to be devoted to developing and enhancing other courses in the curriculum, while maintaining contact with students enrolled in the web course as more of a resource and mentor.
  • The area of somatic science and kinesiology continues to be an area of career interest of students surveyed for the NASD accreditation (1998-99) by the Department of Dance and Choreography. Alumni and current students indicated that more and consistent training in injury prevention and conditioning as well as more grounding in somatic science was needed. Students have generally indicated that the current Kinesiology course was insufficient by itself, in providing adequate time and study for an introduction to movement and anatomical principles relevant to dance. The introduction of the Anatomy for the Dancer web course will be the linchpin from which other somatic and dance science course will revolve. Students have indicated interest in careers that require more in-depth course work in Anatomy. Such careers would include Physical Therapy, Movement Therapy, Dance Medicine, Massage Therapy, Health Sciences and Education.

Future plans/publications:

The experience of moving through a complex process of using new technology for teaching includes plans to act as mentors for faculty in other departments who could benefit from our experiences. This will be organized by the Instructional Development Center at VCU; offered as an example of a web-based independent study course that could increase efficiency in faculty use of time, as well as a means to capitalize upon expertise and information obtainable in other departments and schools within the university.

A long-range goal could also include the inclusion of this course on distance learning offerings through the University, as well as development and publication of a CD-ROM that could be available for purchase by other programs and individuals for educational purposes. The potential for this project would require another grant and request for funding, which could be pursued at a future point in time.

In-house articles about the course may be forthcoming in the Fall of 2001.

Financial Report

Grant money received for web course = $2530

Items purchased for the development of image and text content and storage of information
for the web course:

  1. JAZ card PCMCia to TAST SCSI-2 adapter $99.95
  2. 10 Pack Zip disks - Fuji $85.00
  3. 20 Pack floppy disks IBM format $7.00
  4. Purchased Life Art software from Lippincott, Williams, and Wilkins Super Anatomy series (included copyright permission) $724.00

Items purchased for the development and storage of visual imagery:

  1. 1 Sony memory stick floppy disk adapter $79.99
  2. 1 VCT R610 tripod for Sony Mavica camera $30.00
  3. 1 lithium battery NP F550 $49.00
  4. Memory stick for Mavica camera 64 mg $129.00

Summer stipend for 9 month faculty salary:

  1. May - August 2001 - summer hours for Judith Steel $1000.00

Miscellaneous supplies for use by students in course self-study

Storage boxes for bones donated by the Physical Therapy Dept.: gives students an opportunity to view 3-dimensional models of bones that are covered in the Anatomy course. This opportunity for a "hands-on review of materials" is an enrichment tool that allows students to gain access to course materials at their own study pace. The Dance Department will set up a check-out system for these items. $39.92

Total money spent: $2243.86

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