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Poster Conferencing as a Teaching Strategy for an Online Course
Leading an online graduate nursing education course requires faculty to plan activities that combine concepts to optimize learning. This article presents an example of a learning activity that required group collaboration and individual effort while combining three themes from a nurse education course into one assignment. Specifically, the assignment was participation in a Web-based poster conference within the course. There were 3 main goals for students:
- To become familiar with trends in nursing education.
- To experience nursing scholarship in the faculty role.
- To be exposed to a unique online teaching strategy.
The first part of the assignment was the development of the posters. Each learning group (5 to 6 students) was asked to create a poster (similar to posters presented at nursing conferences) describing one change that has occurred in nursing education during the past decade, the forces driving that change, and the effect the change has had on nursing education. Because most of the students lacked experience in making this kind of poster, a Microsoft PowerPoint® poster template was made available as a general guide. The groups were given 2 weeks to research their topics and develop the posters.
The second part of the assignment was to virtually attend the poster conference. Posters were placed in a public viewing area within the Web-based course for 1 week, during which each participant individually viewed each poster and submitted a comment to the group about their poster. The learning groups were not expected to reply to every comment, but online dialogue was encouraged. The posters reflected a variety of topics, including Web-based learning, simulation learning, and multigenerational learners.
The final part of the assignment was poster judging. All participants submitted their votes for the best poster at the conference to the instructor. Students were unable to cast a vote for their own group poster. Members of the group with the most votes were awarded extra-credit points as additional incentive.
This student-centered learning activity requires application of multiple concepts in one assignment and exemplifies a constructivist pedagogical approach. Constructivism embraces the belief that learning occurs when individuals construct their own understanding and knowledge through a personal interpretation of experience. Learners link previous knowledge to learning experiences to create a new level of understanding and knowledge. A key component is that knowledge and understanding is open to change (Vandeveer & Norton, 2004).
One of the goals of the assignment was to become familiar with trends in nursing education. Students learned about multiple trends through the process of developing a poster within their respective groups and participation and dialogue with other groups at the poster conference. The second goal was to fulfill the function of nursing scholarship in the faculty role. Although discussion of faculty roles—teaching, scholarship, service, and practice—was included in a previous unit, this learning activity gave students hands-on experience in presenting scholarly work in a poster session format. The third goal was to expose students to a unique online teaching strategy. Faculty teaching in graduate nursing education courses must provide examples of various teaching approaches in classroom and Web-based learning; the importance of this cannot be overemphasized.
Student feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Students felt they learned a great deal about nursing education trends through researching their topics and reviewing the posters developed by other groups. Prior to completing this assignment, many students were unaware that conference poster presentations were a form of faculty scholarship. For this reason, students enjoyed the assignment and felt it was purposeful; many commented on the benefit of knowing how to do this kind of work. Finally, this process encouraged a level of communication among group members different from what many have experienced in online courses. In each of the groups, a high level of participation among members occurred from choosing a topic; negotiating information to include and exclude on the poster; and agreeing on colors, layout, and design. The level of participation, as observed by the course instructor, appeared to surpass typical group assignments. On the basis of student feedback and success directly observed, this assignment is worth repeating and adapting to other applications.
- Vandeveer, M & Norton, B. 2004. From teaching to learning: Theoretical foundations In Billings, DM & Halstead, JA (Eds.), Teaching in nursing (2nd ed., pp. 231–282). St. Louis: Elsevier Saunders.