William Matcham - Audio Reflection

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William Matcham - Audio Reflection


William Matcham







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Hello, I'm Dr. William Matcham, an Assistant Professor of Nursing at Cleveland State University.

What are the most challenging parts of the transition?

For me, one of the most challenging parts of the transition was that it occurred very quickly and in the middle of the semester. Instructors spent a lot of time creating courses, creating content, planning their lessons, and planning what they're going to do in order to teach students. To have a very short amount of time to redo all that, is very difficult to maintain quality education, ensure that you're still meeting the course objectives, but adapting to the learning needs of the student. This was especially acute in the nursing program.

Nurses use mostly experiential learning. Nursing is a very social program that has many soft skills that teaches students how to interact with patients and families. There are parts of the nursing job that cannot be done without physical touch or interaction with others, such as doing physical assessments, psychological assessments and treating wounds. Much of what I teach in my nursing class is about how to be professional, how to communicate effectively. I use a lot of role modeling in my class and some roleplay. And that's very difficult to do at a distance or virtually. Even with a camera and synchronous sessions it's very difficult to help students learn the small and detailed parts of effective communication. In addition, the nursing simulation lab allows students to do hands-on skills in a safe environment, before they go and practice on real people. The clinical practice portion allows students to go into the local hospitals and communities, interact with patients and families, and practice the skills on live people under the supervision of instructors. This helps prepare them through their professional role. The classroom content in nursing is very complex and it's a mix of physiological, pharmacological, and social concepts that get mixed all together because the human being is a very, very complex organism.

So, in nursing you have to learn the holistic treatment of your patient. Many of my classrooms used flipped classrooms, so having the content on videos was not very difficult to transition at this point. However, the in-classroom activities that we do, which are very much active learning, have been difficult to do at a distance. In addition, with students having to be home and assuming their other roles, such as parents, or spouses, or children during a time of fear and chaos in our country, has really altered the way that they interact with the class.

It has been difficult to have synchronous sessions with students. Because of their altered work schedules, they may be unemployed or if they're working in the healthcare field they may actually be over-employed right now trying to meet the social demands on the healthcare system. Many of the active learning, synchronous sessions have been poorly attended and actually ended up, I switched them to be asynchronous to meet the needs of the students.

In addition, the campus closure has been very detrimental to the way that we teach in the clinical and laboratory settings. The challenge is not just for classes at the university because much of the clinical teaching is done in the community and the local hospitals, which due to the infection risk have closed their doors to our students and to other learning partners.

So, it's not only campus that's affecting it, but it's the local hospitals. This has affected both my undergraduate and graduate students, because they all have different clinical or precepted experience that take place in the community and really focus on interaction treatment of people. When you're no longer allowed to be around people or in the facilities where care is given, it's very difficult to achieve the objectives of the program.

What are the most common needs expressed by your students?

The first one is that their role as a student has changed during this time, as I mentioned earlier, students are having to step out of their role. They've been kicked off of campus, they have been sent back to their homes. So, now they're assuming roles of caregivers, spouses, children, parents. They might now have children at home all the time that they need to take care of. Schooling is not the number one priority anymore, which makes it very difficult for them to find the time and to really stay engaged in the student role. Many of them are expressing feeling very, very, overwhelmed with all the additional responsibilities. They previously have been able to say, “I'm going to campus. I'm kind of turning off the rest of my life and I'm a student while I'm on campus.” Being in the home with the spouse, parents, children, they can no longer kind of turn off the other responsibilities and concentrate, which has been very difficult for them.

Some of the needs expressed by them is they want more social interaction with the instructors and peers, to discuss and explain content. They're used to having peer study groups, and getting together, and talking and explaining, and learning as a group. Now that they're isolated they feel very, very alone and feel that their learning is not as effective. They have asked the instructors for lots of diagrams and extensive explanations. My students have also been very used to having a very busy, inset schedule, where they are kind of forced to be in the classroom during a certain time, go to clinical a certain time, and it helps them progress through the program very quickly and easily.

Now that much of the learning is being done at home and at a distance this takes much more self-discipline to set aside the time, and divide their learning role from their other roles in life. Some of them have done this well, but some of them are having a lot of difficulty self-regulating their learning and the distance format, and have really fallen behind in the classes, are turning things in late, are not completing the assignments, because their other life roles have taken a priority.

My students are also expressing a lot of fear that they will not be able to get their clinical time and simulation time completed, in order to meet the state licensing requirements and graduate on time and get their job. They have spent so much time and energy to get into the nursing program to get where they are now. They feel that all of a sudden there's a possibility they will not be able to accomplish their goals. And it's not because of their lack of trying, it's an external force. And thus, it’s very scary for them because they can't control it.

What new teaching techniques or tools are you trying as a result of the switch to remote teaching?

So, some of the new tools I'm using is Zoom which I absolutely love. I've used this to conduct synchronous class sessions to help connect the students with the instructor. I also use Zoom for my office hours, which has worked out quite well because students can call in either off a phone or jump on the computer. They can share their screen and show me what they're working on, especially helpful when we're looking at papers and trying to help the students look at diagrams and explaining concepts. So, Zoom has been very, very helpful.

For the laboratory simulations, the School of Nursing has an online software called vSim, Virtual Simulation, that has been purchased to help supplement the instruction until labs can be open again. However, vSim cannot totally replace the in-person experience in the labs and it's incredibly expensive. So, the School of Nursing purchased vSim just to help fill this gap in the spring semester. Especially, to help our seniors get their experience, so that they could graduate on time. However, this is not going to be a long-term viable solution, just from the expense and that it doesn't really fill all the needs that we have.

So, as this situation gets extended further and further, it's going to be very difficult and we're going to have to find some new techniques and tools to address the need for that simulation and clinical experience.

Other new teaching techniques and tools that I've used are some of the ones that are built into Blackboard, that have been there for a long time. I just haven't really had the time to go through and explore them and this situation kind of forced me to.

So, I'm using the VoiceThreads, which has been very helpful in allowing students to voice, and talk about, and conversate about some of the topics that are currently going on in topics in the class. It also allows them to have more of a social presence with their peers, because they can actually share thoughts and ideas in their real voice. You can hear the voice inflection. You can hear them thinking. Some of them you can actually kind of hear the cogs in their head going as they're talking. So, it's been a very, very good platform because it can be done asynchronously, but it's still the voice exchange of the peers.

I also have used Blackboard Collaborate some, for doing some of the classroom work and breakouts, but I've used that very little. However, other people in the School of Nursing have found that to be extremely helpful, especially with some of the clinical and lab groups and breaking them into smaller groups, being able to work with them at a distance.

What new insights are you gaining about teaching in general?

In general, the situation has forced me as an instructor to really expand my thinking about what is important to achieve the goals of the courses. This has been a great exercise to explore new teaching strategies and really think about how I'm teaching and why. Many of the classes you are just desperate to get them set up as a new faculty, then you teach them a few times, you make a few modifications and then in a couple years you become comfortable with the content, the teaching strategies and the delivery.

While it's good to be comfortable with that, sometimes you're not meeting the needs of the course. You may not be using the best teaching strategy for the content, and you may not be addressing all of the student needs. So, this has really forced me as an instructor to look critically at my classes and say, “What do I really need to do to effectively reach my students?” And this has also forced me to look at, why am I teaching the same things, the same way? Is it just because I'm comfortable or is that actually the best way to do it?

So, I've moved into some areas that are a little less comfortable for me but have provided better options and strategies to reach my students and to meet the goals of my courses.

How might this experience change your teaching when you return to face-to-face instruction?

The biggest thing that has come out of this experience is that, not all classes need to be face-to-face. Many of our classes have students sitting in a classroom for three to

four hours learning the material, mostly lecture. And I found that much of that can be delivered in a distance format, and then the classroom time can be used for more meaningful activities to really reflect, enhance, and actively engage the students when the sessions are held live.

Also, this experience has shown that there are lots of resources that are on campus that can help expand how I teach, that are available. Such as this podcasting, that I just haven't used before, and didn't really know about. So, exploring more in depth the resources that are available, that can make the learning more meaningful, is something I'm going to look at when I return to face-to-face instruction.

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13 minutes, 49. seconds