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Nursing professors learn to adjust to new roles with online courses

Nursing schools nationwide are training faculty to teach online students — by having them become the students. Learning from a student’s perspective rather than just focusing on being an expert on the subject matter can be effective, said several nursing school deans.

Other faculty development models used for teaching online PhD, DNP and MSN programs include mandatory or elective courses and workshops, mentoring and informal training sessions.

Differences exist between traditional and online classroom approaches, said Gigi Smith, APRN, PhD, CPNP-PC, associate dean for academics at the Medical University of South Carolina College of Nursing in Charleston.

“Traditional face-to-face [instruction] is what most of us grew up with,” Smith said. “We were fed information in the classroom … and you are tested on it, and there may have been some discussion. We believe that online is a richer environment in that it allows application of knowledge, and using that knowledge, and not just regurgitating it.”

At the University of Texas at Tyler, “when new faculty comes onboard we don’t ever throw them into an online course by themselves,” Barbara K. Haas, RN, PhD, associate dean for graduate nursing programs, said. “They usually teach with someone else so they can learn at the side of someone who is experienced in online teaching.”

Several online training courses are held year-round on the Tyler campus to help faculty teaching the PhD and MSN online programs keep up with technology. The Office of Instructional Design works on course presentation with faculty members one-on-one so the instructor can focus on content.

The Marybelle and S. Paul Musco School of Nursing & Health Professions at Brandman University, Washington, D.C., requires a three-week course focused on what works for an online teaching environment. Topics covered include best practices for moderating discussion boards, facilitating synchronous sessions and providing timely and meaningful feedback.

Online work often proves eye-opening for some instructors-turned-students. Faculty may balk at the amount of group work required just as much as many students do. Coordinating schedules so everyone is available to participate at the same time can be challenging.

“Often instructors express that group work is difficult or staying up to speed in the discussion boards is difficult,” said Jennifer Murphy, director of the Center for Instructional Innovation at Brandman University, which offers five specialty online programs.

“We use this as an opportunity to discuss how their students feel in these situations and point out the various tools that we employ to make these kinds of assignments fair and meaningful to students.”

A few instructors have said they hate the course or think it is beneath them, Murphy said. “Often these instructors don’t end up being successful at Brandman,” she said.

At Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, Nashville, Tenn., where the DNP and PhD programs are mostly online, faculty can access resources, services and workshops at a center for teaching, Linda Norman, RN, DSN, FAAN, the university’s dean, said.

“We have really focused a lot on what we need to do with helping our faculty with developing their skill set for online learning,” Norman said, adding faculty can access tools and programs online while working at their own pace.

Developing and retaining faculty is critical as nursing schools grapple with a shortage while the demand for online doctoral programs is growing. In 2007, 5.3% of PhD programs and 13.2% of DNP programs were offered completely online. By 2013, online PhD programs had climbed to 12.9% and DNP programs increased to 17.9%, Joan Stanley, senior director, education policy, American Association of Colleges of Nursing, said. In 2013, schools of nursing rejected about 78,000 applications, she said, which included 15,232 applications to graduate nursing programs. Of that number, 1,774 applications to DNP and PhD programs were not accepted from qualified applicants.

“The reasons schools cite still continue to be a shortage of faculty, shortage of clerical sites, preceptors and funding,” Stanley said.

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By | 2014-08-17T00:00:00-04:00 August 17th, 2014|Categories: National|0 Comments

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