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TRANSCRIPT: Tales4Teaching ep. 73 – Bridging the gap: enhancing nursing education with Microsoft Teams

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Intro: Welcome to Tales4Teaching, a podcast where we explore stories with purpose in higher education. We will share expert insights, engaging interviews, and thought-provoking discussions that will inspire your teaching.

JOAN: On behalf of Deakin University, I would like to acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the unceded land and waterways on which you are located. I acknowledge the Wadawurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the Traditional Owners on which this podcast was recorded, and I pay my respects to Elders past, present, and future. My name is Joan Sutherland and this is Tales4Teaching brought to you by Deakin Learning Futures.

Hello and welcome to the Tales4Teaching podcast. I’m really excited today to introduce our next guest, who’s Jamie Wheelahan, who actually nearly two years ago now around her desire to integrate technology to increase engagement in the core she was teaching at the time, and I can’t believe it’s been two years. Jamie.

JAMIE: I know, it’s gone quickly, but yet it feels like I’ve been here forever. So you think two years? That doesn’t seem that long, but then it yeah, it is.

JOAN: It is, isn’t it? Jamie was the Bachelor of Nursing Course Coordinator at the NIKERI Institute. So just to get started, can you just introduce yourself, Jamie, and tell us a little bit about yourself and your context here at Deakin?

JAMIE: Yeah. Thank you again for having me, Joan. I appreciate this opportunity. By profession, I’m actually American and I migrated here around 12 years ago. I’ve got my master’s in nursing. And clinically, I practiced as a nurse practitioner within the nursing profession. I got into academia around ten years ago, found that it was just a really great fit. I had three young kids, well, two young kids at that time and then turned to three and really felt that it was a good work life balance. I’ve been here at my current role at NIKERI Institute for yeah, like you had mentioned, the last two- and a-bit years. My role here is, as you said, the Coordinator of the Bachelor of Nursing Course at the NIKERI Institute. And NIKERI is the National Indigenous Knowledges, Education, Research and Innovation Institute. And I oversee the facilitation of the course and the delivery of that course to the First Nation’s cohort. We offer this through an alternate pathway of admission to first nation students, and the course is facilitated via a community-based delivery model. So, students come from across Australia to the NIKERI Institute here at Waurn Ponds campus. And they undertake weeklong intensives where we condense the trimester, their learning into three or four weeks versus the 10 to 12 weeks that typically the School of Nursing and Midwifery students will undertake the course.

JOAN: Now, I met you two years ago as I mentioned. And it was in a workshop actually around looking at different technology that you can integrate. And I think it was MS Teams at the time. And that’s something that you were looking to integrate to enhance engagement or just have a look at different ways to integrate technology into your course. Can you tell us about what technology you’ve integrated in the course?

JAMIE: Yeah, so I started with Microsoft Teams and that’s kind of been the main platform. I would say that I integrates. I quickly identified that there was a real need, particularly because I came on right during the global pandemic, that there was this need for establishing a connection and then a means to maintain that connection was going to be a real important component of delivering the course with a real student-centered approach. Which is what we do here is NIKERI. We probably do that everywhere within the University, but that’s really something that we focused on here in this environment. And so, prior to this role, I didn’t really have much exposure to MS Teams or its capabilities. I didn’t really have any idea; I hadn’t used it in my other academic roles within the professional space. I actually found that I was getting my own connections with my colleagues and through teams and particularly, again, we were all kind of working from home, so it was just an opportunity for us to start building those relationships. I also really liked how easy it was for us to access information and store things, and we could work on things together in a virtual space. And it felt like a more social and kind of informal space for us to connect. And so I thought this is the answer to getting or establishing a digital community for the NIKERI nursing cohort.

JOAN: It’s a big thing, that connection and it’s something that we talk a lot about. So it’s good that you were able to implement it into your professional practice and actually have that experience yourself from a connection side of things. And it’s interesting that translated into your teaching practice as well. To facilitate that connection, how has that worked for you? Has it facilitated a connection between staff, and students, and peers?

JAMIE: Yeah, I believe it has. You know, we learned something every trimester. I’m always making some type of adjustment, but I feel that It is a way for us to stay connected. And again, it takes away that formality. It just, it feels more of a social space and more transparency as well. Because it’s lifting everything up, isn’t it?

JOAN: Yeah, so it’s great to hear that you use an iterative approach. So every trimester that you’re making changes based upon student feedback and staff feedback. But we know that integrating technology, although it’s widely done, it can be a really complex process, especially integrating it into a course. So could you just share how you found the process, what support you required and the challenges and also opportunities you found in implementing Microsoft Teams in this case into your course.

JAMIE: I guess it was a slow integration. And lots of education, both for myself and also for the students that were the end users of it essentially. That’s why I wanted to do it in the first place. I obviously quickly got to know you and had you on speed dial, Joan. So, your expertise on the platform was definitely helpful. And, you know, having the support within learning and teaching and within that from the academic perspective, was very grateful. I think one of the greatest challenges which I still have is this under appreciation of the digital literacy and the range of diversity that actually exists within the cohort that I teach and serve. Many of the school leavers are pretty cluey and mature students often require additional kind of upskilling. I’ve learned that you never assume everyone is starting from that same level. And I really kind of feel from a tertiary education perspective that in general, we do need to kind of improve that digital accessibility and diversity. And it can become quite overwhelming for students and that has a direct impact on their success. I know from my experience with my cohort, we’ve had students, you know, well into their, you know, 50s, early 60s, and they didn’t grow up with an iPhone in their hand. And so it’s really, it’s about taking that back. And I think for me for that to be successful, it’s really giving me a perspective that having to appreciate that we aren’t all coming from that and really not dumbing things down, but just taking the most simple way to get there. It seems to be really much more received. Students have enough to do when they come to university, the last thing I wanted to do is have them be bombarded with technology. And then that influences their own self-esteem and their own capabilities and their own confidence and success. So, what I found is give it time, it’s got to be accepted and don’t feel discouraged or deflated if not everyone accepts it, because that’s okay. We’re all different. We all have ways that we communicate and connect with their success. Even so, yeah, I would say that was probably the biggest challenge. And that I just keep you know, for example, when we first started this, it was the NIKERI Nursing community. We did a lot of things on MS Teams and then I was telling them to go back onto the cloud site and they were navigating back and forth and it’s confusing in my mind. I was like, it’s really easy. Just load it on your phone and you’re good to go you know, It’s just like texting. Just get the app, put the app on your phone, sign in, but it’s not that easy. You know, once you do that, it’s oh, do you get your notifications, oh, get that message. So there’s all these layers of complexity with technology and I think the more we can simplify that for the students, the better off we all are, you know, really. We can get pretty caught up in the enormity of it all.

JOAN: And I think you’re totally right. And I loved how you put it as in under appreciation of digital literacy because I think when we’re talking about when you’re into educational technologies all the time and you’re using the technology all the time, it’s really easy to adapt to even different user interfaces. If colors change, something like that, notifications you know where to go, system preferences. But there’s so many different layers to it. As you mentioned, what have you done to support the students in that space? Is there anything in particular that you’ve been able to see that’s successful to do that?

JAMIE: I’ve now actually integrated a link to teams within the class space. And that was just done in this last trimester, so really just trying to make it a one stop shop. Which is always beneficial. But it does get them, I guess, more focused. It’s really about that communication. And I think particularly in my cohort, that face to face interaction, that oral message carries much further than another email or another announcement posted, you know. So when the students have come down, usually in that first week of intensives, we go over the unit structure and all of those emails. And we actually, you know, talk about here’s where you’ll find your learning journey, here’s where you’ll find your timetable. This is the way you can link into teams. There’s still a lot of platforms to flow, but at least they only have to go to one place. I think that feels like it’s helpful. But again, until I get feedback from the students, I just, we’ll just keep, you know, keep joining people going.

JOAN: Yeah, well, it sounds like you explain why people are using different platforms or why they’re using the particular technology, which we know increases adoption anyway. So it’s always nice to know the why behind it versus just saying you’re using this, you’re using that and, you know, just go and be okay essentially. So, explaining that is really critical. In your experience, what are some of the most impactful ways that technology has improved the NIKERI nursing course that you’ve talked about that you’d like to share?

JAMIE: I would say aside from the connection, which is a really huge, that’s huge, particularly in the First Nations space. And I think the other thing really is probably the biggest thing is just communication in the sense that it’s much more personal. You know, I have students just just send me a chat and you know, you can be much more responsive. Just again, it’s more of that social engagement. And I think by then having that experience, then that helps kind of, you know, any of the other fears that might come along with that being at big University that that kind of dissipates a bit of steel. And because we’re dispersed across the country, you know, some are even in regional and remote areas, it’s just allowed us that ability to stay connected and communicate with one another. I think it’s also really harnessed the relationships that they have with their peers, with us as their facilitators, and even with the other supports that we have on offer here at NIKERI, It’s allowed for that formality of tertiary education to be a bit more informal and social like I said. And it provides us with a sense of belonging in a space that is really vast and often faceless and nameless.

JOAN: Faceless and nameless. It’s interesting that you say that because it can get to that space, can’t it? That it just doesn’t feel personable. So actually, maybe not making it less formal, it’s probably putting a face to a name and a voice to a face and then actually increasing that connection because you’re facilitating that communication as well in different ways. In modern ways, ways that we connect with and we’re used to connecting now on by and large. So, I think what you’re doing is fabulous. So, thank you for sharing that. You mentioned it around being more responsive in your teaching or in your communication with your students. Can you just explain how do you manage that?

JAMIE: I really don’t have your typical cohort in the sense of numbers. Like I’ve got 35 students across three years. So my cohort allows for that ability to develop relationships. Now that’s not going to be, you know, you can’t be responsive to 300 students. It’s not going to work in that type of scenario. So I think because I saw its capacity with it and then I was able to apply that within my small cohort. It’s worked well. But yeah, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t have the faintest idea of having to translate that my thought out and ask so many people ask me why, what the solution is. But I’m sure AI will come in here soon and then it’ll as you know, you’ll just have to take that.

JOAN: Isn’t that crazy? Yeah. My last question is how do you support your teaching team to effectively use and integrate this technology? Because you’re not the only one teaching. So how do you upskill people and build that capability so then they can actually feel confident in it?

JAMIE: What I’ve learned within the student setting, I can definitely translate that into the employee space as we’ve had new members come onto the team that aren’t not, they are not connected to the digital world like most of tertiary employees are. And again, it’s just taught me to never assume and to really keep things simple. Technology is really only as good as its users and its audience. So if someone’s struggling with the processes in which to work within, then breaking it down again to its simplest forms, I think it’s the best if that’s still too much. Just recognizing that going back to pen and paper is not a design of defeat or deficiency. It’s really an opportunity to improve the usability of the technology. It really just opened your eyes to the diversity and having a different perspective in how to approach it.

JOAN: I think your perspective is just wonderful how you look at the opportunities first and look at the challenges, and then change them to opportunities essentially. And talking like a true educator, breaking things down, it doesn’t matter what discipline you are in, whether are you talking about nursing or technology. It’s about bringing it back to basics and looking at the simplicity of it and how can that translate into a better experience overall. So, look, I’d love to thank you for your time today. I really appreciate it, Jamie, and you’ve really highlighted a couple of things around how technology can enhance connection and communication. Also the underappreciation of digital literacy. I’m going to use that and think about that a bit more because I do think we do make a lot of assumptions on what people do and don’t know, and that’s in different capacities. So, thank you for that. Before we go, have you got any other feedback or any tips and tricks that you’d like to share with the community?

JAMIE: No. I think the best thing is that we’re situated in a position where we have access to a lot of different resources and dibble and dabble in what works best for you, in your cohort. And you don’t be afraid to try new things and always be looking to improve because technology is changing faster than we can keep up with. There’s always something better around the corner, but yeah, I think just always keeping the end in mind and at the forefront. No matter how great you think it might be, it’s got to be beneficial to them in order for it to be beneficial for all.

JOAN: Well, thank you for those insights really appreciate it and thank you for coming on today. I’ve really enjoyed our chat.

JAMIE: Thank you very much for having me, Joan.

JOAN: You’re welcome.

21 August 2023

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