Dr. Perkins Wins Technology Award for Developing Teaching Tool Using Amazon’s Alexa

Amazon Alexa

Dr. Jamie PerkinsDr. Jamie Perkins, clinical skills veterinarian for the Center for Innovation in Veterinary Education and Technology (CIVET) at Lincoln Memorial University-College of Veterinary Medicine (LMU-CVM), won first place in the 2018 Hyperdrive contest at the DevLearn Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, Oct. 24-26, 2018. Perkins’ presentation discussed the use of Amazon’s Alexa to teach communication and clinical reasoning to veterinary medical students.


“It was the intent of CIVET to harness technologies to innovate ways to improve student learning, and this project is a great example,” said LMU-CVM Vice President and Dean Jason Johnson.


This was Perkins first year attending DevLearn, an annual conference for technology experts in the learning and development industry. Hyperdrive is an open competition that invites individuals and organizations to share technically innovative and exciting ways to enhance learning and solve business problems. Each Hyperdrive presenter was given 10 minutes to share his or her story on stage in front of a panel of expert judges and a live audience. The winners were given 15 minutes to share their story during the Hyperdrive Winners Showcase.


Perkins has spent the last year developing various skills for Alexa devices that will be used to teach veterinary students at LMU-CVM. Thus far she has built out a skill to help students prepare to take their board exam, the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE). The NAVLE skill includes approximately 1500 questions that are currently being peer reviewed by LMU-CVM faculty. Perkins expects the NAVLE skill to be released in the spring of 2019. Perkins has also developed interactive skills to help students review anatomy and canine theriogenology with approximately 700 questions between both skills, and expects to release it in early 2019.


One of the most exciting skills she has worked on is the Clinical Reasoning Skill which she presented during the Hyperdrive competition. Clinical reasoning is used when veterinarians try to diagnose a patient or determine the treatment plan. It involves asking several questions and analyzing the answers in a fast-paced mode. It is a skill that is not easily mastered with multiple choice tests, which also makes it one of the more difficult skills to program using voice.


“This is a very different way to develop an educational resource,” Perkins said. “Everything about working with voice is vastly different. You really have to think about how to write the questions but also develop the skill to anticipate responses in a different format when working with voice recognition.”


LMU-CVM currently uses standardized patients to teach this process. Having programs such as a Clinical Reasoning Skill will allow students to prepare at their own pace prior to being in the room with a standardized patient.


“Vet students are often at different levels. For example, some students haven’t gone through as many cases as others and their experience level leads them to ask different types of questions,” Perkins said. “This is a way that students can help themselves prepare prior to lab so they get the most benefit from their time with clinicians and simulated clients.”


LMU-CVM research students have been testing the Clinical Reasoning Skill this past summer. Dozens of students have been using the software to troubleshoot problems and determine unanticipated responses. Perkins is also using the trials to look at student engagement and determine how students feel about talking to an Alexa device instead of a human. Perkins hopes to be able to release the Clinical Reasoning Skill by Spring 2019, and hopes to write a whitepaper on her experience.


“To my knowledge we are the first veterinary school in the country to use Alexa technology to teach students,” Perkins said.


A Lego build of the Amazon's Alexa products by Dr. Jamie Perkins

A Lego build of the Amazon's Alexa products by Dr. Jamie Perkins


Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) is a values-based learning community dedicated to providing educational experiences in the liberal arts and professional studies. The LMU-College of Veterinary Medicine is located on LMU’s main campus in Harrogate, Tennessee, with additional academic facilities in nearby Lee County, Virginia. LMU-CVM is an integral part of the University’s medical programs and provides real-world, community-based education in a collaborative learning environment. For more information about LMU-CVM, call 1.800.325.0900, ext. 7150 or visit us online at vetmed.LMUnet.edu.

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