Innovations in Online Accelerated BSN Coursework

By: Jason Thorne, Instructional Designer

Having the flexibility to study coursework from anywhere with internet access is only one reason students are flocking to online education. As shocking as it may be, online education is out-performing classroom education (according to Babson Survey Research Group). Students can engage with content in interactive ways online, similar to how they would in a classroom.

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As a blended curriculum, Concordia University-Portland’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program’s online coursework must complement the on-site labs and in-hospital clinical rotations.  As an Instructional Designer for Concordia’s ABSN program, I am well aware of this. That is why I’m eager to explain how my team is innovating online accelerated BSN content for students.

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As part of this online learning activity, students must drag and drop each organ into its proper location within the human body.

The structure of online coursework has truly evolved from the text-heavy documents and dated PowerPoint presentations. In Concordia’s ABSN program, students will be taught and assessed through activities created with 3D animations, simulated scenarios, and advanced graphic design. As demonstrated in the activity below, an assignment might include 3D images of the human body to help students learn about human anatomy.

Each class in our ABSN program consists of these five sections:

  • Learning Outcomes – a preview of what you’ll learn in the course
  • Read and Study Materials – a list of the necessary textbooks or resources you will need
  • Learning Activities – a detailed list of projects/tasks you will be required to submit
  • Assessment – where discussion forums or other assignments live
  • Review – a lesson summary and optional self-assessments on what you’ve learned

We find this structure to be helpful for students. Once students learn how everything works, they will be prepared for any other courses they take… well before they even enroll.

Helping Students Retain What They Learn

Throughout their time in the program (in both online and on-site courses), our students will work with the same simulated case studies to practice different nursing techniques. This will help students stay engaged and retain what they’ve learned – which is a bit more progressive than the nursing coursework of old.

For example, students will learn the five rights of medication administration, which is taught in its basic form in the Pathophysiology and Pharmacology course. That same concept will then be reinforced in the Fundamentals of Nursing and Chronic Illness course– only, it won’t be retaught in each course; it will be seen in a new application.

With a lot of planning on the faculty’s part, students are able to see how the content they learn is tied to many areas of nursing. When students see how their learnings are applied to various areas of nursing, they will begin to see that the course content is not only something they need to know for class, but something they need to become a nurse.

The students then get the opportunity to see how it all works together and why every core concept is so important.

Pushing the Envelope with Creative Design

Developing an online course or learning activity starts with extensive research. My team stays innovative by staying on top of modern technology, reading journal articles, and attending conferences on course design. They also look at current trends and research to see how they can be used in the classroom. We are willing to try new learning activities and modify their methods in order to give nursing students the best experience possible.

As an Instructional Designer, I follow the evidence. Research is always going on. We want to take advantage of whatever is great out there and bring it into our courses. The latest innovation might be a flashy new activity that helps nursing students learn the content quicker, or it might be a way to organize old ideas.

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As part of this online learning activity, nursing students must drag and drop each term to the correct vein location for the IV start.

The relationship instructional designers have with instructors is integral in the successful development of a course. Instructors provide us with feedback, course evaluations, and grades from students to help pinpoint the struggle areas within the curriculum. That information provides a framework for the course design and creates content that nursing students will remember.

I work with the faculty through an organized process. We start with the big picture of what we want to do, down to the fine details of exactly what students will do.

Storyboarding is my favorite part of designing a course. It’s the process of sketching out what happens (or what students experience) on each page or section of an activity. It’s the blueprint for what will bring the course curriculum to life.

You write down what content goes where and what the screen will look like – it looks similar to what a cartoon or movie storyboard looks like.

Instead of requiring students to rely on memorization, these new course additions will make it easier for nursing students to recall the information in class and in the field. While the team at Concordia likes using video, images, and animations to revamp the curriculum, they agree that traditional education resources are equally important. As a result, we use innovative activities in tandem with lectures and textbooks.

Creating User-Friendly Courses

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As part of this online learning case study, students follow a teen through her pregnancy, performing her exams and assisting in her labor and delivery.

Students will not only appreciate the creative bells and whistles of Concordia’s coursework; they will also enjoy how user-friendly it is. Every course is delivered in the same way and activities can be accessed in the same places online. Here’s an easy way to look at it:

Students use the learning management system to access course content or activities, but the format and information is organized the same way for each class. With all the things (both in and outside of school) that our students deal with, the last thing they should have to do is re-learn how to navigate an online class.

The faculty gets so excited when something that may have been complicated or confusing will be delivered in a smooth and interesting way.

Try Nursing School the Concordia Way

We take pride in our online course development because it will help produce some of the nation’s brightest nurses. With more engaging content that can be easily understood, students can excel in this nursing program and be prepared to sit for the NCLEX exam upon graduation.

If you’re ready to take on the nursing field, consider Concordia University-Portland’s ABSN program. You could graduate in as few as 16 months. Contact an enrollment specialist today to find out how you can get started!

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