March 16th, 2020 was to be a week, like nothing I have ever experienced, in my world of educating men and women to become nurses. This was to be non-instructional week, where faculty prepare lectures and content for students for the usual face to face classroom and clinical settings. That all changed, due to Covid, Monday morning at the faculty meeting. The announcement was made to change the classroom and clinical education to online instruction. The uncertainty, fear, stress, and anxiety were palpable. We were face to face educators not virtual educators. What ensued was a week full of, “How the heck do we do this?” There were lots of meetings, literature review on evidence-based practice, and some disagreements among faculty. By the end of the week, we had plans in place. While it may not have been perfect it was a good start.
Fast forward 10 months and I can say we have learned much along this journey. Something that was a surprise is how much I need live student engagement to understand and adapt my lectures, which are based on students’ needs and understanding. It was decided Zoom would be used for our lectures and discussions. As many of you know, the video camera can be left off and just listen, or not listen, to the content presentation. For me, I found it difficult to engage students with their cameras off. I like to use humor and give practical examples of concepts in action. I gauge my teaching effectiveness based on the body language and facial expressions of students. Without being able to see their faces how was I going to do this? Through trial and error, we ultimately decided if students left their cameras on they would receive participation points, if their cameras were off they would not receive participation points. I knew this may not be a decision that all students would like, but I believed it would improve learning and would certainly improve my teaching presentations. In the end, exam scores did improve, and students were more engaged as evidenced by them asking questions, providing input, and of course laughing at my jokes.
While this has been an extremely stressful experience, we have learned much about student engagement, teaching/learning styles, and the virtual classroom experience. The Zoom classroom can still be fun for students and faculty alike. For those of you who are returning to school or have children/teens that are involved in virtual learning, remember as a student you need to be engaged in your learning, for learning to take place. Also remember, by turning on your camera during Zoom, you will help your instructor/teacher to do a better job. It holds them accountable for truly engaging the student and hopefully, not just read from a PowerPoint.
In conclusion, the stress on our educational system, students and faculty is real. We need to have patience during these unprecedented times for all involved, especially the interactions between students and educators. Education whether teaching or learning is an interactive process and whether in person or online we all need to engage for it to work. Try and reframe from negative criticism of your instructor/teacher as it is a stressful time for them as well. We are truly trying to do and be the best we can, given the circumstances of the pandemic. Let us all try and live with more grace, love, and acceptance of one another.