Taking hands-on learning online: Professional Nursing

Screenshot from ACC's Professional Nursing virtual triage simulation

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic forced Austin Community College (ACC) faculty to adapt their classrooms, labs, and simulations to a virtual environment. We are sharing the innovative ways our faculty are taking hands-on learning online.

In this month's Fac/Staff Digest, we explore how Danica MacRae, Associate Degree Nursing associate professor and clinical simulation coordinator, simulated the clinical nursing experience virtually.

The transition to online learning was a challenge for ACC's Professional Nursing program.

"Since many of our courses have a skills or clinical component, we have had to make several changes to the course delivery and program processes," says Dr. Nina Almasy, Professional Nursing department chair. "Thankfully, we have great faculty expertise and simulation technology. This allowed us to develop high-quality virtual simulation and online clinical activities."

As one of the department's two clinical simulation coordinators, MacRae was used to creating simulations in which students come to campus and interact with each other and mannequins.

When that was no longer an option, MacRae had to speed up the creation and adoption of two virtual, interactive simulations that were started prior to the pandemic.

"It was a big learning curve," says MacRae. "We used two different products to make the interactive story piece and had different people help with filming. For both simulations, we used Adobe Premier for video editing."

Creating the virtual simulations was time-consuming. Fortunately, the story outlines already existed because they were based off simulations that the nursing program ran in traditional classrooms. MacRae estimates it took approximately 40 hours to storyboard the first one and about 20 hours for the second, two to three days of practice runs for each, and a full day to film each one. The editing and formatting was completed over the course of many days.

"I expect my future ones to not only get better but to happen faster now that I have some lessons learned under my belt," says MacRae.

To view the Nursing program simulations, visit https://simfirmary.itch.io/bender and https://simfirmary.itch.io/mci-triage using password ACC (all caps).

The Nursing program also used an open educational resource simulation game that places students in a virtual emergency room where they can make decisions about how to best care for patients.

"As devastating as these times have been for our community and our students, it is inspiring to hear about all the positive outcomes, the stories of resilience, and the reshaped approaches to teaching and learning," says Almasy. "I continue to hear from faculty about the great work that our students are doing in this new learning environment. We are so proud of their persistence during these difficult times. The community depends on them as the future nurses and frontline heroes."

Most courses will remain online through the summer semester. Those that require a significant hands-on component that cannot be converted to online may begin after July 6. For more information about the college's response to COVID, visit austincc.edu/coronavirus.