Building Excellence in NP Education: Teaching and Learning in the Synchronous Virtual Classroom

Friday, April 24, 2015
Key Ballroom 11-12 (Hilton Baltimore)
Kathryn K. Ellis, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, ANP-BC, Nursing, Georgetown University School of Nursing & Health Studies, Washington, DC, Melody Wilkinson, APRN, FNP-C, Nursing, Georgetown University School of Nursing and Health Studies, Washington, DC and Joyce Knestrick, PhD, CFNP, FAANP, Nursing, Georgetown University School of Nursing and Health Studies, Washington, DC
Over the last 15 years, technological developments have stimulated new modalities for delivering online education including the synchronous virtual classroom (SVC).  The SVC allows students and faculty to 1) broadcast themselves via a webcam into the virtual classroom so that all participants are visible and 2) to connect the audio of participants through an integrated phone line.  After preparing for class by viewing lectures, in the form of asynchronous webcasts, students engage with faculty and classmates in the SVC to participate in interactive case studies and group work and respond to polls in real-time with a group of 12 participants. 

Teaching in SVC environment generates different challenges from those experienced in the brick and mortar classroom environment. Lecture is rarely effective and traditional facilitation techniques fail to adequately engage the learner. Time is perceived to move differently in the SVC. Some faculty perceive inadequate time to cover course material while others feel that the synchronous time allocation is too long to hold the student’s interest. Although training was provided to faculty, technology has proven to be a stumbling block. There are multiple moving parts within the SVC and it is imperative that instructors are familiar with the use of online tools in order to prevent uncomfortable “dead space”.  Lastly, because students are visible only from the shoulders up, student engagement may be difficult to judge without the ability to read body language.

Several strategies can be implemented to ensure a positive experience for faculty and students.  Efforts to enhance technological training and provide real time support from the “invisible” tech team help faculty to build confidence within the SVC environment. Engaging students in the SVC required a tightly structured approach and the need to make purposeful connections between the asynchronous and synchronous material. Development of session roadmaps with time allocations help to assure that content is covered. Use of the polling feature, gaming and chat box prove to be valuable engagement strategies.   

SVC is innovative online tool that serves to facilitate communication among faculty and students.  Research is needed to determine “best practices” for teaching and learning in the SVC.

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