This is a guest post from Rebecca Ferriday – Learning Technology Manager – School of Healthcare Sciences
First year nursing students enrolled on The School of Healthcare Science’s Professional Values and Evidence Based Practice module are asked to produce a 3000-word assignment critically defining the role of the professional nurse by way of summative assessment. To prepare students for this assessment, taught content covers a variety of relevant aspects, including the role of the nurse within specific fields of practice, how health and social care policy, legislation, ethical issues and professional regulation influence current nursing practice, and how research and evidence-based practice can be applied to nursing care and clinical decision making.
In preparation for the assignment, students work through an online formative, enquiry-based learning activity. They are placed into groups of no more than eight members, and each group is then given a common nursing scenario which they then work to analyse as a team. To do this, they are prompted to locate information based around their given scenario.
Use of Online Platforms
The module’s teaching team were keen to use Learning Central (LC) as a platform for this activity, as it was a platform that students were already using as an integral part of their studies, and has the functionality to separate cohorts into groups. It can also track usage data, making it easy for staff to monitor students’ progress and levels of immersion at individual and group level.
The team were also cognisant that in previous years, methods of group working – specifically the use of online fora to collate and curate information – were, at best, underused and at worst ignored. They wanted to use a platform that groups would engage with, and after discussion with the school’s learning technology team, it was decided that Padlet would be used.
Padlet is a free-to-use, online, virtual “bulletin” board where students and teachers can collaborate, reflect, and collate and share links and pictures via digital ‘Post It’ notes, in a secure location. For the purposes of this activity, after the cohort had been divided into 34 groups within Learning Central, separate boards were set up for each group, and embedded into the groups’ ‘Task’ areas. A brief explainer video was made to show students how to access and use their boards, which was also uploaded to the module. Students were given their group scenarios is a taught session, and encouraged to use their boards as integral to the gathering and sharing of relevant information.
Students are often reluctant to use Learning Central as a platform for group activity, often preferring to set up their own ad hoc groups in other online spaces such as Facebook. Though this is very much in keeping with the spirit of collaborative / peer learning, teaching staff are not able to check in with their students, so cannot ‘fly in’ and assist if and when required. (Figure 1)
This was a new way of working for both staff and students, so there was no way to predict how much – if at all – groups would engage. To informally monitor use, the School’s Learning Technology Manager installed the Padlet app to her tablet, and set up notifications so that she would be notified every time any of the boards were used.
Not only did each group engage with their boards, the notifications flew in almost non-stop, and at some surprising times too (Figures 2, 3 & 4)
Each of the 35 boards contained a wealth of content, including links to relevant websites and research / journal articles, students’ own thoughts and comments, codes of conduct and useful PDFR documents. Many of the groups had made use of Padlet’s mind-mapping facility, making physical, logical links between each digital ‘Post It’ note, or had added categories as a way to delineate content (Figures 5 & 6)
Student Evaluation of Activity
With the activity having come to an end, students are currently completing evaluations which will shape the digital elements of the activity next year. Comments from the academic leading this activity are also being gathered. These evaluations will be posted here once complete.