There are many words that have been used to describe the last year and a half, unprecedented being one of many, that yes while it describes perfectly the situation, is now an extremely galling word which is overused and we are so over it. Jackson et al. (2020) description is of extraordinary times, and this sits better, perhaps as it is less negative too. Undoubtedly the arrival of COVID-19 shifted us out of the ordinary on so many levels. And let’s be honest, it has not all been negative, as Síona Cahill so eloquently wrote about in the Irish Examiner recently (Cahill 2021). Síona is a campaigner, activist, and was the President of Student Union of Ireland, who I got to know very well when we were pushing to have Sexual Consent become a normal part of student orientation for all incoming students- something that is really working well, which is great. I concur with what she wrote that as we attempt to get back to ‘normal’ “ we can do so much better than normal. Now’s our chance”. When we look back we will reflect on what worked well and what we learned as a result, and focus on making things better in the future- for all.
As an educator and facilitator, my colleagues and I faced the challenge of ‘flipping’ the classroom to online. As someone who loves technology I embraced the opportunity to change the way I delivered a module. I still had to overcome lots of learning hurdles, but apparently you can teach an old dog new tricks- but that requires lots of support, and that was very forthcoming from our wonderful team in the Digital Learning Design Unit & Learning and the Teaching Enhancement Unit of Dublin City University. When it was obvious that we were required to provide online lectures I enrolled on the #Openteach: professional development for open online educators, which is a National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education funded project. Teaching online is very different and to be effective you need to understand and appreciate online pedagogy as well as the underlying technology used to facilitate online education (Farrell et al., 2021). You cannot merely present over powerpoint presentations, you will lose the students interest rapidly. Despite loving technology (I was the first lecturer in my department with a smartphone!) I avoid ‘Face-timing’ as I am old school- i.e. a phone call is just that, a call, but our students are a wonderful new, energised generation that do use this form of communication and I had to overcome camera shyness and do things such as be present visually during both synchronous and asynchronous classes. Coker (2018) stresses the importance of creating a social presence, and so I knew I had to adapt. The module I was facilitating, ‘Caring and Communication’ requires me to demonstrate my caring skills (of my students) by ensuring I was a good communicator. Lecturers have a key role supporting students’ participation in the online setting (Park, 2015; Stott, 2016) and being visible promotes student engagement (Arbaugh, 2014). Similarly to the classroom setting, online students’ value teaching presence and lecturer-student interaction (Kyei-Blankson, Ntuli, & Donnelly, 2016). I tried to employ as many ideas and suggestions as possible from the #OpenTeach course, and lots of ideas are available for free for all in the recent publication of the Ebook (Farrell et al., 2021). The class and I created a digital book, called the ‘ Story of Us’, so that the students could write their own story about themselves, their backgrounds and their reasons for wanting to become a nurse, and which pathway they chose. This was a way for students to get to know each other, as they were able to meet face to face. We had guest speakers from all walks of life, discussing topics such as sexuality, race, mental health, issues around stigma, such as obesity, Alzheimer’s and much much more. Using software such as Vevox, to ask students what topics they were interested in and what additional support they felt they needed. I also started using Padlet, which enabled students to post questions anonymously- meaning that even the students who are normally afraid to speak up in class now had an opportunity to do so. Hopefully this has shown how technology can help improve communication.
I recognise that my commentary is one-sided, and I am hoping to conduct a survey to really establish the students’ opinions, review the evidence from their perspective. It would appear that online lectures appear to be an additional stressor to students. Nursing students in Nepal were impacted by accessibility issues such as electricity disturbances and internet access (Subedi et al. 2020), but this may not just be an issue for the Nepalise student nurses. We must be cognisant of our own students, as not all have their own laptops- many relied on their smartphone to access lectures- and not everyone will have wifi, depending on their living situation, many relied on the mobile phone data to watch recordings or live stream sessions. Hence the importance of initiatives such as Dublin City University (DCU) Covid-19 Student Emergency Fund (DCU n.d.) which had many objectives, one of which was to provide technology to ensure that students could pursue much of their learning online. Student nurses have really had a lot to deal with, and it is vital we support them and provide safe spaces for them to discuss issues, worries and concerns. For example, class discussions boards online allows students not only to ask questions but gives them the opportunity to answer each other’s queries, and provide their own peer support. We all remember the days when the best person to ask was someone at the same level as you!
More and more nurses are required to deliver time sensitive and effective and precise decisions and so we need our future nurses to be highly adaptable and proficient in the latest technologies (Atkey et al 2020). Future nursing graduates will not only be required to skillfully navigate information systems and social media, but also be required to consolidate their research findings into a superior point-of-care practice (McKenzie & Murray, 2010). This will require development of technological skills and digital identities as part of the undergraduate education process to enable them to become competent and capable nurses of the future (Atkey et al 2020) and it needs to start with us, their educators and learning facilitators.
Arbaugh, J. B. (2014). System, scholar or students? Which most influences online MBA course effectiveness?JournalofComputerAssistedLearning,30(4),349-362. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcal.12048
Atkey et al (2020) What do Nursing Students’ Stories Reveal about the Development of their Technological Skills and Digital Identity? A Narrative Inquiry, CJNI V15N2 2020 – http://cjni.net/journal/?p=6831
Cahill Síona (2021) August 4. https://www.irishexaminer.com/opinion/commentanalysis/arid-40354202.html
Coker, H. (2018). Purpose, Pedagogy and Philosophy: “Being” an Online Lecturer. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 19(5). https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v19i5.3312
DCU Covid-19 Student Emergency Fund https://shapingthefuture.dcu.ie/support-dcu/covid-19-student-emergency-fund/
Farrell, O., Brunton, J., Ní Shé, C., Costello, E., (2021). #Openteach: Professional Development for Open Online Educators. Dublin: #Openteach Project. 10.5281/zenodo.4599620
Jackson, D., Bradbury‐Jones, C., Baptiste, D., Gelling, L., Morin, K., Neville, S. and Smith, G.D., 2020. Life in the pandemic: Some reflections on nursing in the context of COVID‐19. Journal of clinical nursing.
Kyei-Blankson, L., Ntuli, E.,& Donnelly, H.(2016). Establishing the importance of interaction and presence to student learning in online environments.World Journal of Educational Research, 3(1), 48-65. https://doi.org/10.22158/wjer.v3n1p48
McKenzie K, Murray A. E-learning benefits nurse education and helps shape students’ professional identity. Nurs Times. 2010 Feb 9-15;106(5):17-9. PMID: 20222485.
Park, J. Y. (2015). Student interactivity and teacher participation: An application of legitimate peripheral participation in higher education online learning environments.Technology, Pedagogy and Education,24(3), 389-406. https://doi.org/10.1080/1475939X.2014.935743
Stott, P. (2016). The perils of a lack of student engagement: Reflections of a “lonely, brave, and rather exposed” online instructor. British Journal of Educational Technology, 47(1), 51-64.http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/bjet.12215
Subedi, S., Nayaju, S., Subedi, S., Shah, S.K. and Shah, J.M., 2020. Impact of E-learning during COVID-19 pandemic among nursing students and teachers of Nepal. International Journal of Science and Healthcare Research, 5(3), pp.68-76.
Topping, A., Butler P., (2020) Fri 23 Oct