**Long Post Alert**
I enjoyed the readings for this week’s class as they provided clarity into what I was trying to achieve in my online classroom. Over the years, I have learned and applied different engagement strategies, however, my attempts to engage the students within an interactive online environment were not always as successful as I would like.
Completing the readings made me realize that what was missing was community. Yes! This is what I was trying to achieve…. the sense of community. Without being intentional about building a class community was a missed opportunity to properly engage the learners. Making this commitment as an educator means being mindful to who is in your class, and creating interactions that foster relationship building.
How could I have missed that!? I think the answer to that question is, that other than one year during COVID, I have always had a blended classroom environment. (For those that are surprised it was only one year, I will explain. The School of Radiation Therapy is located within a healthcare facility, so the school follows the regulations of that facility. In-class learning was allowed to take place within the provincial masking and distancing guidelines. Since our class sizes are typically quite small, it was not difficult to comply with these rules).
Since the students are in class at times, I believe I relied on these interactions as the only source of community building, leaving the online environment lacking its community structure. Perhaps, this is the missing piece that will help increase online engagement.
The course I am designing is a hybrid/blended course in that it includes in-person lab sessions. All didactic learning will take place online.
Our blog question of the week is What forms of student/student-instructor interactions do you plan to implement in your course prototype? As I plan these interactions, I will be intentional to include relationship building opportunities between the students, as well as between the students and the instructor. In addition, the learning objectives and corresponding activities are guided by Bloom’s Taxonomy learning theory as it aligns well with healthcare programs.
The interactions I have planned to include are listed below including justification for their inclusion and any guidelines or assessments attached.
Weekly synchronous class meetings – including polls and MC review questions, exit slips
Justification: students and instructors engage in real-time interaction, which offers several benefits:
Affective domain: Synchronous classes facilitate social interaction among students and between students and instructors. This interaction fosters a sense of community and belonging which can enhance the overall learning experience and reduce feelings of isolation. The instructor will aim to foster intrinsic motivation and assist in maintaining a positive attitude towards learning. The goal is to encourage students to engage in learning for the inherent satisfaction it brings, rather than relying solely on external rewards or pressure.
Guidelines: there are guidelines for the instructor as well as the participants.
1) The class instructor needs to be prepared to facilitate the meeting. The instructor will have 2 topics prepared:
a. Responses to the previous week’s exit slips
b. A topic of the week to discuss
2) The instructor must create a safe space, whatever that means for the particular class. Speaking from experience, each year brings a different set of students from the last. What one group needs, another may not. The goal is to make the learners feel valued, respected, and empowered to participate fully in the learning process. Creating a safe space:
Set clear expectations and ground rules for respectful behavior in the online classroom. Emphasize the importance of kindness, empathy, and active listening. Model respectful and inclusive behavior.
Encourage the learners to ask questions, share their thoughts and experiences, and express their opinions in a non-judgmental environment.
Acknowledge students’ contributions and efforts. Provide constructive feedback in a supportive and encouraging manner.
Include diverse perspectives and voices in the curriculum and learning materials.
Be flexible and responsive to students’ needs and concerns. Listen actively to their feedback and be willing to adapt your approach as necessary to better meet their needs.
3) The students must follow the guidelines set out by the instructor regarding respectful communication and behaviour.
4) The students are encouraged to utilize the exit slips to communicate any questions or concerns in a safe way
In-person clinical lab sessions
Justification: these sessions are important for all three learning domains:
Affective domain – Not only does patient care need to be comprehensive, and delivered by skilled staff, but it also must address the psychosocial needs of the patients. Empathy and compassion also contribute to patient outcomes. Online environments cannot transfer these lessons adequately.
Provides an additional environment for relationship building between the instructor and the learners.
This is the instructor’s opportunity to teach honesty, transparency, and integrity to the learners through role modeling.
Psychomotor domain – Adult learners do well with practical applications where the didactic knowledge can be applied and transferred to practice. labs must happen before any clinical placement so the learners can practice using the matching software (this cannot be done online as this software cannot be accessed outside of the institution).
Cognitive domain – learning the image matching software, developing troubleshooting skills
Following each biweekly lab session, each student will participate in a debrief session. Debriefs following simulations in healthcare are an evidence-based practice that:
• allows participants to reflect on their performance during the simulation. It provides an opportunity to identify what went well and what could be improved. This reflection promotes active learning and helps participants to consolidate their knowledge and skills.
• provide emotional support to participants who may have experienced stress or anxiety during the simulation. Discussing their experiences in a supportive environment can help participants process their emotions and build resilience for real-life clinical situations.
• Are used to discuss evidence-based practices and guidelines relevant to the simulated scenarios. By aligning their actions with best practices, participants can improve the quality and safety of patient care.
• provides an opportunity for facilitators to provide constructive feedback to participants. This feedback can help participants understand their strengths and weaknesses and track their progress over time. Additionally, debriefing sessions may be used for formal assessment purposes, such as evaluating participants’ clinical competencies.
Weekly student-led discussion boards – Discussion groups will be encouraged. Each week one student will be responsible for posting a new topic and moderating the discussion.
Encourages active participation
Develops critical thinking
Can provide a sense of belonging and pride of ownership
A small portion of their final grade is attached to student participation, including this activity. If the learner is having a hard time thinking of a relevant topic.
Collaborative student activities/Assignments – Students will be assigned to work together on a couple assignments, including the final assignment
Collaboration encourages students to discuss and analyze course materials, leading to a deeper understanding of the subject matter. Through collaboration, students can fill gaps in their knowledge, gain new perspectives, and reinforce their understanding of key concepts. It continues to build a sense of community. Students continue to build applicable vocabulary and learn to work with a teammate. This mimics the real world of radiation therapy where RTs are always working with partners/teams
Formative assessments for smaller assignments. However final activity is part of the summative assessment.
Phew! That’s it. In my head, it all makes sense and covers all the bases….