1. Parsh, Bridget EdD, RN, CNS
  2. Gardner, Pamela MSN, RN

Article Content

Without a doubt, online classes are popular with students. In 2013, over 7.1 million higher education students took at least one online class. As online learning becomes more prevalent, educators have to ask themselves: What are the best strategies for teaching a successful online class? How do we keep students engaged and create an inclusive atmosphere in a virtual space?


Live classroom instruction, simulation labs, and clinical experiences can't be replaced by online sessions, but they can be enhanced with synchronous online classes or asynchronous video instruction. Here are six quick tips for educators to consider when planning a live online class.


1. Provide clear directions

Students in classrooms are used to having face-to-face time with faculty before and after a class. In person, students can easily ask questions and get clarification; this opportunity isn't as easy to come by within the online classroom environment. Providing clear directions for participation helps students become engaged in the online learning process. Be sure to include assignment rubrics, detailed expectations, and due dates. Questions or confusion can frustrate students, so be concise and avoid ambiguity.


2. Engage students

In the classroom, inattention is easy to spot; online, it's more difficult. To help engage students, show your passion for the topic-and for nursing. Learn your students' names, be friendly, and, if your online learning management system offers this functionality, chat with them before class starts. Use interactive questions throughout the online lecture to promote involvement.


Online instructors can foster helping-trusting-caring relationships and address individual learning needs. Take time to interact with students and address their different learning styles in your presentation. Don't forget that cultural competency is important in all learning environments. The online environment may make it difficult to be aware of cultural clues, so using sensitive and inclusive language is a must.


3. Encourage participation

Many online classroom formats have features such as polls, breakout rooms, and whiteboards. Familiarize yourself with these tools and use them frequently. Your online dashboard may reflect usage data, allowing you to see how many students are actually participating, as well as gauge student understanding of presented concepts.


Giving homework is essential in an online environment. Keep learners engaged during the week with assignments, such as journals, readings, projects, discussions, ungraded practice quizzes, document downloads, or short papers. As discussed in the first tip, be clear about homework and talk about it during class.


Homework also gives students a shared experience outside of class. Work hard to ensure that assignments and classroom content align with course objectives and goals. Include various activities that challenge knowledge and impart critical-thinking skills. Be thoughtful when developing assignments and give timely, effective feedback.


4. Give them a break

Although it's tempting to finish class early by skipping breaks, this isn't an effective strategy. If too much information is imparted at one time, students will lose interest, walk away from the screen, and become disengaged. Students need to stand up and move around occasionally, so give them frequent breaks. Getting a drink or even stepping outside makes a world of difference to engagement. These breaks can be a good time to encourage peer-to-peer interaction through a group chat feature, which positively contributes to student learning.


5. Stress organization

Succeeding in online coursework requires self-motivation and organization. This is important not only for the student, but also for the instructor. Studies reveal that the average time spent preparing for online lectures is similar to the average time it takes to prepare for a traditional lecture, so make time to be ready for your online session.


Remind students that online classes aren't quicker or easier than traditional courses; they may actually require more discipline and focus than students expect. Offer course orientation (either before the class begins or during the first session), calendar reminders, frequent assignments, and occasional e-mails to keep students organized.


6. Offer technology support

Whether the server isn't responding or the computer has a glitch, technology challenges frustrate students and instructors alike, taking the focus off learning. Be sure that students know what level of technology is necessary to participate in and complete the online course, including specific browsers or computer programs. Enlist your campus technology office to help students get online and stay online for your course.


All together now!

Following these six simple tips can increase online student retention and ultimately encourage passion and engagement in the dynamic field of nursing.




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