During these past few weeks, many of us have benefitted from participation in several webinars hosted by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and Lippincott Wolters Kluwer. Each webinar drew a number of participants, ranging from 200 to more than 500 individuals, typically consisting of nursing administration and faculty. The targeted focus of the presentations centered on:

  1. Transitioning courses from on-ground to online
  2. Utilizing virtual simulation to “substitute” for the required on-ground clinical practicum

It’s a busy time for us all and sometimes it’s helpful to review the state of things, to remind ourselves we’re not alone and to remember issues that may sometimes get obscured by the immediate demands we face.

The following are some takeaways from these webinars:

  1. Transitioning courses from on-ground to online
    • There has been a rapid response to the need to transition to an online delivery of courses—the obvious consequence of the need to practice social distancing related to COVID-19.
    • Nursing faculty nationwide worked diligently to ensure that courses were transitioned within a two- to three-week timeframe.
    • The rapid migration to a new delivery modality poses challenges in terms of quality. Additional redesign may be required to ensure meeting the objectives of the on-ground curriculum.
    • As a result, there is a great need for immediate support to enhance these courses, since most colleges and universities are now planning for online summer programs. In addition, uncertainty regarding the pandemic may require the use of online instruction beyond summer 2020.
    • There is interest in the possibility of accrediting organizations, e.g. CCNE, engaging in reporting/authorization “waivers” for curricular changes, since these changes are now becoming more than “temporary” and begin requiring substantive change documentation under current regulations.
    • A strong need exists for faculty development to support successful transition. an “instant” online survey of the webinar participants revealed that:
      • 45.6% either “never” or “rarely” have experience teaching online
      • 23.1% have “occasionally” experienced teaching online
      • 23.3% have “moderately” experienced teaching online
      • Only 8.0% had “a great deal” of online teaching experience
    • While there are some “free” resources related to the transition, the need is for instructional designers with expertise in online curriculum development to work directly with nursing faculty to prepare the actual courses.
    • A second “instant” online survey of the webinar participants revealed that of those faculty who are delivering online courses, the majority, 60.2%, use Zoom as their platform; 32.3% use other platforms like BlueJeans, Adobe Connect, GoToMeeting, and Livestream.
  2. Utilizing virtual simulation to “substitute” for the required on-ground clinical practicum
    • The short-term focus was for nursing students planning to graduate at the end of the current semester.
      • Sitting for the NCLEX-RN is an issue, as Pearson VUE has only a limited number of testing sites open.
    • The majority of those participating in the webinar were not familiar with the virtual clinical simulation resources available today.
    • Many were unaware of the need to reach out to their respective Boards of Nursing to confirm the percentage of virtual simulation hours that could be substituted for required clinical hours.
    • Many were unaware as to whether or not their respective Boards of Nursing have instituted any waiver of the percentage of required clinical hours during the pandemic.
    • Faculty/Staff development is urgently needed. These issues were highlighted:
      • Clinical instructors/faculty need to learn how to hold virtual pre- and post-conferences.
      • Faculty need to know how to facilitate effective synchronous debrief sessions from virtual simulation experiences which maintain the clinical ratio of 1:6–8 (keeping the clinical groups intact).
      • How to engage in anecdotal documentation that meets regulatory requirements.
      • Consider changing clinical grades to S/U or P/F in lieu of letter grades.
      • Balance “excessive screen time” to support effective pedagogy with a focus on maintaining student engagement.
      • The need to understand how telehealth works and how this practice can be included in nursing courses for various-level students.
      • Preparing faculty to be “the nurse” in the virtual simulation as a learning experience for the student to engage in “thinking like a nurse,” moving from “flawed practice” (students in practice) to “flawless practice” (nursing faculty demonstrating to students).

The Synergis Academic Services team is working to support our partner institutions through these challenging times and are assisting with many of these critical issues. We’re gratified that our expertise in instructional design and instructional technologies can help our partners strengthen their programs, meet current needs, and plan for the future.