In 2015, a small team from the University of Melbourne came together with the goal of creating a resource for a large first year postgraduate Medicine class focusing on the “Principles of Envenomation [Snakebite]”. The aim was to “flip the classroom”, providing more time in the face-to-face session for discussion with students around topic specific prior learning. The team consisted of Dr Ken Winkel, a leading Australian Toxinologist, who teaches into the Medical Program at the University of Melbourne, in addition to conducting research into venoms, antivenoms and envenomation. Supporting Ken were Dr Kristine Elliott, the pedagogy expert of the project, and Huw Llewellyn, an instructional designer.


With the initial goal being to create a resource for the class by simply transferring the slides and audio from previous year’s presentation into an online resource, the project quickly transformed into something much more valuable for the students. After sharpening and deconstructing the learning objectives, the resource that emerged is visually engaging and interactive, playing off the strengths of the Smart Sparrow platform and the challenges in diagnosing and treating snakebite to create a learning activity that includes some non-linear elements.


Huw’s five years of experience with the Smart Sparrow platform were invaluable to Ken as they put together the tutorial. After their brainstorming sessions, Huw was able to configure the platform to deliver the required functionality. One of the stand out screens of the tutorial is an elegant timeline where students can explore, at their own pace, the developments that went towards the creation of the first antivenoms.

Screenshots from the “Principles of Envenomation” tutorial

Ken’s favourite feature is the inclusion of media reports throughout the tutorial to provide students with real world examples of what they are studying.


The module is focused on the challenges of diagnosing and managing snakebites with consideration of the signs and symptoms of other Australian terrestrial envenomations. It begins with an even broader consideration of other important medical problems that may be confused with some aspects of snakebite. Users are guided through the key aspects of the presenting features and investigations that may distinguish between the key differential diagnoses. The major organ toxicities of snakebite are then reviewed and the similarities and distinctions between the syndromes of various Australian snakes considered. The key treatment modalities and their complications are also examined.


The benefit of using the Smart Sparrow platform was that the lesson could be used to better evaluate student understanding. By adding similar questions to the start of the tutorial and the end, the project team could evaluate what the students knew before starting and how much knowledge they gained from it. Students also completed a user experience survey with a few volunteering for more in depth interviews. Ken, Kristine and Huw presented their findings at the 2016 Ascilite Conference (full paper below) and are in the process of preparing another journal article on their approach. Based on the positive feedback from students, the module was re-used in classes in 2016 and is available on the BEST Network for members to use and modify for their requirements. Click here for step-by-step instructions for taking a copy of this or other modules.