MCAT Training Camp: Final Reflections

Jul 23, 2013, 8:00 AM, Posted by

Khan Academy recently held a national MCAT Video Competition, a collaboration between Khan Academy, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Of 67 submissions, 15 were selected for an all-expenses-paid weeklong training program facilitated by Khan Academy staff and scholars to create educational tutorials for concepts that will be tested by the new MCAT2015 exam, including human behavior, social sciences, inequality, and diversity. In this post, Khan Academy medical fellow and Pioneer grantee, Rishi Desai, MD, MPH, reflects on the training camp.

By Rishi Desai

The training camp ended, and I feel incredibly mixed. The only feeling of sadness comes from seeing folks head home after having gotten to know them quite well. But having this group, each focused exclusively on figuring out how to share the beauty of the biological, physical, and social sciences through videos, is a truly unique experience. To have us all hanging out together in one hotel for a week is about as intimate and organic as it gets. We started out the week as strangers, and we emerged as brothers and sisters.

Let me tell you about these siblings of mine. Though not biologically related, our family was knit together from seemingly every field of health and education…

  • One of my siblings flew back and forth from Senegal just to be a part of the week’s events.
  • Two of them had hospital experience, and offered their insights with patients to help make the content relevant to clinical practice.
  • Another two had an early start in their education, and were pursuing their respective interests in medicine and education after having had completed their undergraduate degrees by the age of 18! Yes, you read that correctly.
  • One more had done research on the use of digital media to help enhance the learning experience and was now trying her hand at actually creating the content she studies.

Don’t get me wrong—they’re a very well-rounded group with interests outside of medicine, education, and technology. Over the course of the week we talked about baby ducks, Michael Jackson, hot tubs, raising kids, toilets, caffeine, garlic ice cream, Dennis Rodman, spy museums, drunk squirrels, and toenails falling off while running. 

To think that such a goofy, silly, eclectic assortment of personalities could work together to pull off something as amazing as teaching MCAT content puts a smile on my face. Only a family of teachers could do something so cool.

Each and every one of them worked hard from morning to night, going through rounds and rounds of research, video production, and feedback. They met daily to give each other constructive feedback, and went through multiple versions of each video trying to make it as clear, smooth, engaging, authentic, well-paced, and intuitive as possible.

Going forward, one thing that I think that we can all say with confidence is that we learned something about the learning process, and how we can be more effective in making videos and writing questions. This process started out focused on the 2015 MCAT but it has developed into so much more.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Pioneering Ideas blog.