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What makes a good (or bad) educational experience?

By IHI Open School | Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Sometimes, jet lag is worth it.
Last week, a few of the Open School team returned home from London after attending the 20th Annual International Forum on Quality and Safety in Healthcare. We connected with more than 100 students, attended some dynamic presentations, and even found a little time to check out some sights. (Note: Harrods — the 5-acre store famous for selling all things to all people — was both wonderful and intimidating.)

All those things were worth the jet lag.
We also had an opportunity to lead a session about the future of education with approximately 125 participants — a mix of students, faculty, and professionals. We talked about how the Open School was created as a disruptive innovation, how excited we are that 266,000 people have completed an Open School course (but still is only the tip of the tip of the iceberg), and how education will look much different in 2020. To set the stage for the discussion, we posed two questions: 1. Think of your last good educational experience. What made it good? 2.  Think of your last bad educational experience. What made it bad? 

We got some excellent answers that we thought were worth sharing beyond the room of Forum attendees. And since we’re all teachers at one time or another, here are two top 10 lists of do’s and don’ts we hope you find useful as you design your next educational experience.


1.       Make sure the learning is active AND interactive.

2.       Bring energy: An energized presenter means an energized audience.

3.       Provide education that is relevant, practical, and applicable.

4.       Combine the head and the heart by using emotions and stories.

5.       Include an experiential component in your teaching whenever possible.

6.       Integrate new technology (e.g., simulation) and new methodologies (e.g., flipped classroom).

7.       Embrace the power of one-on-one coaching.

8.       Interprofessional learning helps highlight different backgrounds and perspectives.

9.       Teach in a “no-blame” culture; ensure your environment is safe and respectful.

10.   Be sure to build in time for reflection, feedback, and evaluation.


1.       Be overly didactic or read from your slides.

2.       End an educational experience without clear next steps.

3.       Think that technical has to mean boring.

4.       Forget to bring energy as an instructor.

5.       Subject learners to death by PowerPoint.

6.       Forget about stories when you’re teaching theory.

7.       Include too much information in a session.

8.       Create isolation, fear, or shame.

9.       Assume everyone learns the same way.

10.   Forget to put yourself in your learners’ shoes. 

What would you add? What made your last educational experience good or bad? We’d love to hear your thoughts. 

-- Mike Briddon, Senior Managing Editor

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