In the process of teaching, one of the key goals that educators strive to achieve is student engagement (Diochon, 2001). Engagement is an essential component in the process of learning since it determines the relationship that the students will have with their teachers and among themselves. Therefore, a high level of engagement is desirable to ensure that the learning goals and objectives are achieved. However, teachers usually face a lot of challenges in trying to engage their students in the learning process regardless of the learning environment. Overcoming these challenges is even more difficult when learning is conducted on an online platform like in the case of Nursing 534, a course that is offered online through distance learning. When learning is conducted directly, a teacher is in a better position to determine the behavior of his/her students, their attitudes towards the content that is being taught, and most importantly, the motivational strategies that can be used to engage the students in the learning process. In an online situation, however, it is difficult to observe the students since they are learning from different geographical locations, hence they are exposed to a lot of distractions as compared to students in a classroom setting. Therefore, for instructors to engage their students under this platform, they need to use creative and innovative strategies that mainly incorporate the use of information technology to ensure that the learning objectives are achieved by the end of the course. It is these creative and innovative strategies that this paper advocate for to enhance student engagement, assessment, and critical thinking for the Nursing 534 course.
Online Learning and Engagement
The design of the current course entails a variety of learning and engagement activities. First, the students have specific goals and objectives that they have to achieve by the end of the course that will enable them to design and develop curricula that can be used to implement specific learning objectives and to evaluate computer-based technologies that can be used to enhance education. Increased use of discussion boards can be used to realize this goal. In online learning, discussion boards can be compared to open discussion forums where students debate or discuss a specific topic and come up with solutions to the problem at hand (Bastable, 2008). Currently, each student is expected to participate at least twice a week in the discussion board and give clear and concise answers to the questions that have been posted. However, I would suggest that the students should be assigned questions or topics that are outside the learning curriculum but within the context of the course. This will enable them to come up with recommendations that are beyond the normal learning but within the context of the course. Even though such discussions will increase student engagement as they work together to come up with solutions, they will also play a significant role in enhancing their cognitive development, hence enhancing their critical thinking skills.
Interactive presentations can also be used to enhance the learning process and student engagement for this course. As Bastable (2008) stated, the use of animations in presentations plays a significant role in capturing the attention of the students and in retaining the learning instructions. In this course, therefore, I suggest that in addition to the case studies and other print materials that will be issued, PowerPoint presentations should be used to summarize the topics that have been covered. Consequently, podcasts and videos from YouTube and other websites should be used as tools for additional information on the course. This strategy will therefore meet the specific needs of the learning audience. At the same time, it will meet the learning objectives and the rules and regulations that have been set for Nursing 534.
Nursing 534 can also be enhanced through active learning. The learning activities should be designed in a manner that enables the students to meet their learning needs. At the same time, the instructor should be in a position to evaluate the learning outcome of the course. In this regard, therefore, the instructor can use integrative teaching strategies such as thread discussions that will allow the students to actively participate in the learning activities. This avenue will act as a platform through which the students will present their personal experiences in the online class in the process of coming up with the solutions to the questions at hand.
Finally, to ensure that this course is successful, the instructor should develop activities that enhance personal connection between the students and the instructors who will be teaching the course as well as among the students themselves. This can be achieved by using short introductory videos or PowerPoint presentations that are narrated by the instructor. This strategy is essential as it will bring about the human factor in the online class (Barkley, 2009). Thus, the students will become free with the instructor and seek his/her help when in need.
Assessment and Critical Thinking
In the process of learning, the instructor must determine the level of development within a student (Holt, 2005). Various assessment strategies can be used to achieve this goal. The assessment tools that are used in Nursing 534 are weekly assignments, student participation, and the final project. To enhance the overall outcome of this course, other assessment tools can be incorporated into this learning activity. Online grade books can be used as grading tools for this course. Online grade books have a quick feedback mechanism that allows the students to access their grades at any time. In addition to numerical grades, this tool gives the students detailed feedback that will enable them to improve on their future assignments.
Online quizzes can also be effective for this course. These tests are offered on an online platform where the students are expected to take them at specific times. In most cases, they consist of true or false questions or questions that have multiple answers. Given their nature, therefore, they can be efficient assessment tools for graded and non-graded assignments for this course. These tests give out instant results, are more secure since exam papers cannot be lost (they are stored securely online in the university’s servers) and most importantly, they can be used to evaluate the validity and reliability of the examination questions with regards to the course content.
These assessment tools can be supported by other online evaluation strategies such as online group activities, discussion boards, and online projects. It has been determined that these activities exhibit higher levels of engagement as compared to classroom learning. Consequently, they are more flexible to the curriculum and the students. However, for online assessment tools to be effective and efficient, they need to be simple, clear, and consistent.
This course can also benefit a lot from the e-learning strategies that can be used to support and enhance critical thinking. The application of active learning principles in this course can be effective in supporting and enhancing critical thinking. Also known as learning by doing, active learning strategies use student-centered activities to ensure that a student takes over the learning process by reflecting on the learning goals and objectives in addition to his personal needs hence transforming him/her from a passive receiver to an active component of the learning process (Diochon, 2001).
The application of constrictive learning principles can also be used to enhance critical thinking in this course. These principles aim at encouraging the student to take control of the learning process. As a result, a student learns and interprets information based on his/her judgment before concluding. For instance, the use of animation in presentations enables students to analyze the information and interpret it to their understanding, hence enabling them to retain this information.
Reflection also supports and enhances critical thinking in students. Through intuitive and rational processes, reflective learning enables the students to differentiate between beliefs and empirical evidence. This leads to positive development (Lee, 2003). To support reflective learning in Nursing 534, this course should be designed in a manner that enables the students to review the learning materials on their own time. Consequently, the students should be able to present their contributions and personal experiences in the process of learning.
Being an online course, Nursing 534 can be enhanced with the use of the activities, tools, and strategies that have been suggested in this paper. The incorporation and application of these tools and strategies will ensure that the learning goals and objectives of this course are realized. Through increased engagement and enhanced critical thinking and assessment, the faculty and the students will be satisfied with the overall outcome of the course.
Barkley, E. (2009). Student Engagement Techniques: A Focus on College Faculty. The Australian Educational Researcher, 2(3), 24-30.
Bastable, S.B. (2008). Nurse As Educator: Principles of Teaching and Learning for Nursing Practice. JSTOR, 4(1), 122-141.
Diochon, M. (2001). Technology Based Interactive Learning. Active Learning in Higher Education, 2(1), 114–27.
Holt, L. (2005). Instructional Patterns: Strategies for Maximizing Student Learning. International Learning Perspectives, 9(1), 75-84.
Lee, D. (2003). New Technologies in the Politics classroom: Using Internet Classrooms to Support Teaching and Learning. Politics, 23(1), 66–73.