Reflective Conversations

Edu 764 – E-learning Practicum

This course is the capstone of the Certificate program.  After the 4 core courses are complete, Dennis O’Connor assigns us as interns to work with an experienced online educator.  I was paired with Dr. Datta Kaur Khalsa in Assessment in E-learning.  What an experience it has been!

Many thanks Dennis, for your enthusiasm, dedication and guidance during the Practicum course.  It is educators like you who set the bar high for those of us aspiring to make a contribution to online education.  And then help us succeed.   I cannot thank you enough for your work in creating and supporting the Graduate certificate program.  I’m still swimming upstream but with much stronger strokes.

We were asked to create a reflective conversation midway through the Practicum course.  The reflection was written as I began the  5th week as an intern in the Assessment for E-learning course.  Time is the subject of my reflection entitled “The Time of My Life”.

This reflection begins in my fifth week as an intern in the Assessment in E-learning course.  In my current paid job, I am coordinating a curriculum redesign for our nursing school.  One of the requirements for the change is the planning and implementation of assessment measures to assure program quality.  In addition, I am attempting to guide our faculty in student assessment methods to use in the new curriculum.  So, being placed in the Assessment course as an intern was a perfect fit.

The course has been underway for four weeks.  As I  prepared for each week, I reviewed the readings and activities for the course. One insight that came to mind is the rigor of this course.  It is graduate level credit and certainly meets any required standard for advanced coursework and credit hours.  The amount of student work just to prepare for the discussions is substantial.  But with that rigor comes the topic of my reflection – time.

During the pre-course week I began to review the course materials Dr. Khalsa had posted in the course.  My first impression was – holy cow – how much time it must take to create an online course.  Eight weeks, eight modules, all of the divisions to post to—table of contents, introduction, background, readings, activities, checklist, surveys, gradebook set-up, reference links, and on and on and on.  And then, as the course is repeated, the instructor must update materials for currency, check for dead links, revise the gradebook and many other things.

Where does a novice online facilitator who wants to create her own nursing courses begin?  Our program uses a learning management system to post information and communicate with students but now I’m not even sure it has the capability to support an online course.  Nursing and healthcare best practices are changing constantly – how can I ever keep a course updated?

OK – so settle down.  Online education has so much potential and where better than in a profession that has a rapidly changing knowledge base.  The most important thing we teach our future nurses may be how to keep up with the evolution of healthcare by accessing reliable internet resources.

We are told that work-life balance is what our younger workers consider rewarding. Online courses will allow practicing nurses to advance their educational degrees or improve their knowledge and skills at times convenient to them. I’m not convinced that pre-licensure nursing education exclusively through online learning is feasible (although it is being promoted by some  groups), but certainly a hybrid or blended format could be an excellent design.  The rigor of the courses, however, must be maintained to assure that the learners learn.   And creating well-designed, rigorous course work requires education in designing for e-learning.

During the remainder of the Assessment course I will be quite busy.  I will be facilitating discussion and holding a web conference.  The students’ midterm project is due and they will begin work on the final project.  To this point much of the course has been preparatory for the final project, so there will be more student-created materials from this point on.  I plan to focus on how Dr. Khalsa has placed the activities for each week so that it is possible for her to manage the workload of both assessment and evaluation of student work.  I can see that the activities build up to the final project and believe that in the end, most of her evaluation of the projects will be complete.  It’s all in the design!

In the Collaborative Communities course, Dr. Lehmann allowed us to experience the role of facilitator when we were responsible for monitoring a week of discussion forum.  But now as an intern, where my objective is to observe my cooperating teacher and gain from her expertise, and participate as a course leader, I’m beginning to see a far greater horizon in both design and execution of online courses.

I anticipated that this course would require much of my time each day and have found that to be true.  I’m certain a more seasoned facilitator is more efficient in course management.  Practice makes perfect – or at least more time efficient.  I also don’t know how much of the course set-up is completed by technical personnel – transfer of materials, gradebooks, etc.  At our school, our Instructional Technologist creates the course shells and then enrolls students leaving only the updating of course materials and gradebook set-up to the instructors.  So maybe much of what I perceived as pre-course work for the facilitator is really done by ancillary personnel.

In the second week of the course, Dr. Khalsa asked me to enter points into the gradebook for students’ completion of the wiki assignment.  Looking at the gradebook made it seem simple enough:  go to the wiki, see if the students posted anything, go to the gradebook and insert points.  In my own practice I am always cautious when posting student grades.  Nothing seems to mean more to students than that number in a column of the gradebook.  So as I began the process I decided to look at the activity description again. It included instructions to post 2 things to the wiki. Some of the students had only posted one thing. Some had posted both. One had posted but the initials used to identify the post didn’t match any of the students on the list.  So I wasn’t sure how to award points.  There was no rubric.  I emailed Dr. Khalsa and she stated that she had not emphasized the second wiki posting so the students would receive full credit for posting one item.  Cause – novice with concrete thinking in grading an assignment that I did not create. Effect – took me 2 days to complete a simple assignment.

I submitted government grant 2 years ago requesting funds for an accelerated Licensed Vocational/Practical nurse to Registered nurse transition program.   I believe that transitioning the LVN into professional nursing is an answer to future RN nursing shortages.  By selecting appropriate LVN candidates for an accelerated program and designing the curriculum as a blended learning experience, I proposed that we could educate them in half the time it traditionally takes to qualify the LVN for RN licensure. The grant didn’t fund and I had the cart before the horse as they say since I knew nothing about designing online education.  So I enrolled in this certificate program.  Over the past 15 months of course work I have learned enough about curriculum development and online course design to again pursue my idea for an accelerated transition course.  This time, though, I will (hopefully) have the knowledge and credential to back up my idea.

The best advice I could give is to apply all activities possible to real-life situations.  If teaching already, then look at your curriculum and decide where online learning might fit in.  If you’re already teaching online, where could you improve student learning.  Then use the projects and activities assigned during the courses to develop your ideas.  The theme of time appears here again as I see yet another benefit in authentic learning.  By combining the course projects required in the certificate program with my real life responsibilities, I have ‘killed two birds with one stone”: retained the educational materials presented in classes and furthered our curriculum plan for the nursing program.

Having taken my own advice, all of the parts and pieces I’ve created throughout the courses have an application to the online courses I am about to attempt to design when I finish this practicum.  As I am helping the faculty at our school create the new curriculum, I constantly use resources and knowledge gained through this program.  And I am even more convinced that, with consistent, planned design, our new curriculum, which is divided into eight-8 week instructional modules, will succeed.

I will need help with technology.  Reading help files and viewing videos provides limited help for me.  I need to sit down and actually do the work.  I have learned that I am more persistent than I thought.  And I have come to believe David Merrill when he says that the motivation for learning is being able to do something one couldn’t do before. I hope to pass the desire to learn for the sake of learning something on to my students.  It is truly the pursuit of lifelong learning.


Merrill on Instructional Design. (n.d.). YouTube. Retrieved July 11, 2014, from

One thought on “Reflective Conversations

  1. Vicki,

    You’ve demonstrated a deep understanding of learning in general, and e-learning and online teaching in particular. I’m impressed by your thoughtfulness and appreciate your kind words about the program.

    As a veteran nurse and educator you are ready to use the powerful tools of e-learning technology to convey the professional insights and knowledge acquired during your nursing career. You have a much subject matter expertise in healthcare and the e-learning skills to both design curriculum and effectively teach nurses online. I’m proud of you!

    It’s a fine thing for me to be able to help you toward your goals. Thank you so much for your hard work and dedication.

    ~ Dennis


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