Journal of Nursing Education

Syllabus Selections: Innovative Learning Activities Free

Seven Specific Diseases: Increasing Engagement With a Collaborative Interactive Approach

S. Danielle Baker, DNP, RN, CNE; Michael Mosley, MSN, ANP-BC; Cathy Roche, PhD, RN

Learning about disease processes in a traditional lecture format can be challenging and disengaging for prelicensure nursing students. Didactic nursing courses are often 3 to 4 hours in length, making it difficult for students to pay attention. Getting students involved in active learning classroom activities is a methodology that may enhance learning and contribute to examination outcomes (Shatto et al., 2019). This collaborative interactive teaching activity was designed to engage students in a prelicensure, Accelerated Masters in Nursing Pathway (AMNP) pathophysiology course about seven specific infectious diseases.

Prior to class, students received disease-specific and directed instructor notes through the learning management system on the following common bacterial and viral infectious diseases: methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection, Mycoplasma pneumonia, bacterial meningitis, Salmonella, influenza, and varicella zoster. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease also was chosen as an uncommon infectious disease exemplar.

Students were asked to review the information for the collaborative learning activity prior to coming to class. After students arrived in class, they received a brief lecture presentation on the basic concepts of pathophysiology related to these infectious diseases and their impact in the health care setting.

The classroom at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing facilitates collaborative learning. The design of the classroom includes 14 pods with screens at each pod and a connection for laptops. Each pod seats up to five students comfortably. For this assignment, 63 students were divided into 14 self-selected, collaborative learning groups of approximately equal size. Groups were assigned one of the seven infectious diseases; thus, each of the infectious diseases was assigned to two different groups.

Students were instructed to design a presentation of succinct and relevant nursing concerns using only the front of a 4 × 6-inch index card. They were encouraged to use their textbook (Capriotti & Frizzell, 2015), personal computers, library access, and the instructor-supplied notes. Groups also were asked to formulate one multiple-choice question and provide the answers with a detailed rationale related to the disease on the back of the index card.

Each learning group had 20 minutes to prepare their presentation and multiple-choice question. Students were required to include the causative organism, transmission, clinical manifestations, significance of clinical manifestations, treatment, and prevention. Representatives from each collaborative learning group were given 5 minutes to present their findings. Representatives presenting the same disease information collaborated briefly prior to presenting to ensure accurate information.

Using Solstice software, the handwritten index card presentations were displayed on the individual pod monitors and on the screen in the front of the classroom. Students who were not presenting were instructed to listen and only take notes on information they did not understand so that faculty could identify and clarify gaps in content. At the end of the 5-minute presentation, student representatives engaged their peers by asking multiple-choice questions. Students answered the questions verbally, and faculty facilitated discussion.

After class, faculty compiled all of the student-created note cards and added important information. The annotated note cards were posted in the learning management system and made available for student review. Faculty identified and corrected misinformation before posting the annotated cards. This requires time to critically evaluate each group submission.

Overall, student response to the activity was positive. Students reported the question-writing activity helped them prepare for the unit examination, and writing the information on an index card helped them focus on and study the “need to know” information. This student-centered methodology engages students and can be implemented for a variety of nursing topics.

S. Danielle Baker, DNP, RN, CNE

Michael Mosley, MSN, ANP-BC
Cathy Roche, PhD, RN
University of Alabama at Birmingham
School of Nursing


  • Capriotti, T. & Frizzell, J.P. (2015). Pathophysiology: Introductory concepts and clinical perspectives. F.A. Davis.
  • Shatto, B., Shagavah, A., Krieger, M., Lutz, L., Duncan, C.E. & Wagner, E.K. (2019). Active learning outcomes on NCLEX-RN or standardized predictor examinations: An integrative review. Journal of Nursing Education, 58(1), 42–46. doi:10.3928/01484834-20190103-07 [CrossRef]

The authors have disclosed no potential conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise.


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