When Safiya George-Dalmida was in nursing school two decades ago, all of her training was in person.
Now, the dean and professor of Christine E Lynn College of Nursing at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton is heading up a very different curriculum: one that is more akin to an in-person/online hybrid model, due, in part, to a pandemic that accelerated the shift to online learning and the advancement of new technologies overall.
This sea change comes with its perks and its challenges, George-Dalmida says.
“I think online education works best when it’s a mix between innovation and appropriate use of technology, and of course interactive teaching methods that engage our nursing staff and really get to the meat and potatoes of what our students need,” she explains.
Some current and future approaches in a virtual curriculum include:
- Online learning management platforms such as Blackboard and Canvas
- Project-based learning, which can be done online using technologies such as breakout rooms and virtual whiteboards
- Narrated PowerPoint presentations
- Virtual simulation
- Adaptive technologies
- Artificial intelligence
“We’re blending many opportunities for students to learn well and to provide them with the experiences that will help them be great future nurses,” George-Dalmida says.
More foundationally, online learning platforms need to be well-organized to be effective, she notes. This way, “students have a clear way to navigate the information,” George-Dalmida explains. It’s on students, too, to familiarize themselves with the platform and online tools in advance, and ask questions as needed. This way, they can devote their time to learning and engaging with the content, their classmates, and their teachers.
And yet in-person learning still has its value. “Virtual simulation covers a number of topics that students would need to learn to develop clinical critical thinking skills related to patients,” George-Dalmida says, “and then in-person labs give them the opportunity to practice their skills so once they do get to that clinical, in-person setting in the hospital, they feel a little more comfortable working through solving problems and applying their critical thinking.”
Those in-person rotations in hospitals and clinics are critical to enable students to grow into “caring, compassionate, and highly skilled nurses,” she says.
Nurses, and faculty to teach them, are in demand right now. In some respects, online learning has made attaining this education more feasible, whether someone is aiming to get a Bachelor of Science in nursing or a doctorate.
If someone chooses to get an online education to become a nurse, they can expect more flexibility — but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still hard work, George-Dalmida suggests.
“I think, overall, nursing school is very stressful for most students,” she explains. “It’s very intimidating. And it does require time management and organizational skills in general, whether it’s in-person or online.”