Learning environments are effective when students engage with the course content while having both direct and individualized faculty support. Faculty are the vital link that can increase the human presence in a course and student engagement with the course content. Human presence is the element in a course that lets students know the course is being taught by a real person and not a computer program (Whiteside et al., 2014). This can be achieved by providing opportunities for faculty and students to share information about themselves. For instance, an instructor can produce a course introduction video or a class discussion board that includes student and faculty introductions, and the sharing of personal information about special interests and hobbies. It is important to make these connections early in the course and build on them as the course progresses.
It can be challenging for faculty to increase the human element in their courses and help students feel connected. This is especially true in large, in-seat or online courses. One way to increase connectedness within a course is to deliver course materials and individual student feedback using methods that resonate with today's learners. The methods described in this article were implemented into the graduate nursing programs at two universities. They were first implemented in two courses at a moderate-sized hybrid program at a public research university (in 2017), and then in two courses at a very large online program at a private research university (in 2019). Both programs use a web-based learning management system (LMS) to deliver course content. The methods described are easily implemented and they can be useful for both undergraduate and graduate courses that use a web-based LMS for part or all of the course content. These methods received favorable reviews by students, and increased connectedness and human presence within the triad of students, course content, and faculty.
One method is screen capture recordings (SCRs). SCRs are audiovisual recordings (AVRs) that are easy to produce and offer an effective way to communicate with students. An AVR tool may be embedded in the LMS platform. If not, there are several commercially available web-based programs that are designed to produce SCRs (e.g., Snagit and Kaltura). In their simplest format, SCRs are an AVR of what is visible on a computer screen. This might be a page from an eBook, a student paper, or the homepage of a course in the LMS. The SCR can capture an electronic book (eBook) while faculty scroll through different course pages, and open and close instructional modules on the LMS. Faculty can learn more about producing SCRs by visiting the site of the SCR software program that they plan to use in their class. If there is a SCR software program embedded within the LMS, it is likely that there will also be tutorials embedded within the LMS. The ability of SCRs to capture the spoken voice, along with multiple scrolling pages, or side-by-side documents in one recording adds to the richness of the technique.
In general terms, the tone of the written or spoken voice conveys an emotion or attitude about a topic (Harnish & Bridges, 2011). It can be difficult to convey a supportive tone when giving written student feedback, and students may misinterpret written faculty tone when their work is being evaluated. However, when the spoken voice is recorded, faculty tone can convey a sense of caring, engagement, and even humor. Although the communications do not occur in real-time, the SCRs can be used to deliver course content and individual student feedback in a format that helps students to engage with the course materials. The recordings also allow faculty to convey their authentic human presence given that the SCRs can communicate tone, personality, and caring.
SCR for Sharing General Course Information
It is important for faculty to engage with students on the first day of class. One way to facilitate this engagement is to use screen capture tools to record the structure of the course and the syllabus. These SCRs can be named the “Course Walk-Through” (CoWT), and the “Syllabus Walk-Through” (SWT). Once a student opens the course in the LMS, the CoWT and the SWT should be the first components on the home page of the course, and students should be instructed to view these SCRs before engaging with the course content. When the student opens one of these SCRs, they are provided with detailed and specific information for each recorded screen. Because the SCRs are permanently housed in the course and students watch them asynchronously, they are able revisit the recordings as needed for the duration of the course.
The CoWT SCR is the first component of the course (Figure 1). In this SCR, students are provided with detailed information about the location of specific components of the course, including the syllabus, faculty contact information, weekly modules, assignments, and examination links.
Screen capture of course walk through.
The SWT is the second component of the course. The SWT is a SCR of a page-by-page overview of the syllabus (Figure 2). In this SCR, course details about the schedule, due dates, assignments, and associated assignment rubrics are shared in the recording. It also includes information on student expectations and how students can access resources such as disability support services, mental health services, university policies, and the academic integrity code.
Screen capture of syllabus walk through.
SCR for Course Content
A common complaint from students is that there is a large amount of content to cover every week, and they have difficulty knowing how to ascertain the critical knowledge points. This is a valid student concern that resulted in the production of SCRs of assigned chapters in an eBook. In the Chapter Walk-Through (ChWR) SCRs, the instructor scrolls through the eBook chapter and directs students to the content they need to know today and identifies content that can be revisited later in the program or that can serve as reference material. These chapter recordings are typically approximately 20 minutes long. The ChWTs are a useful technique for sharing information about course content. In addition to being an effective technique for sharing information about specific course content, the ChWT is a rich platform for faculty to share clinical pearls and experiences related to the material in the chapter. Initially, only a few of the required chapters were recorded. Additional ChWTs were produced after faculty received favorable student feedback on the instructive value of both the content overview and the shared clinical experiences in the recordings. Over three semesters, all the required readings from the eBook were recorded as ChWTs.
Providing Student Feedback: Screen Capture of Student Work and Associated Rubrics
Constructive feedback with examples, when given appropriately, can be the vehicle that results in significant academic growth for students. Individual student feedback should be provided using methods that resonate with today's students, imparts a sense of caring, and provides meaningful guidance and suggestions (Borup et al., 2014; Kilgore, 2016). Even “in-seat” class assignments are submitted and graded electronically. Lengthy notes, tips, and edits written in red ink on student assignments are no longer efficient or relevant for electronically submitted work (Thompson & Lee, 2012). One method that has been used successfully is the SCR of the student submitted assignment and the associated assignment rubric. It is most effective when both the student assignment and the rubric are open on the screen and enlarged so that each document is easily visible (Thompson & Lee, 2012). Faculty give detailed verbal feedback while the rubric is marked, all while being recorded. The faculty's tone, caring, and humor are communicated to the student in these 3- to 5-minute long recordings (Borup et al., 2014; Kilgore, 2016). Figure 3 is an example of a student submitted assignment on the left side of the screen, with the associated assignment rubric on the right side of the screen. The comments that can be seen in the comment box are included as an example of feedback that would be shared with the student in the student feedback video recording.
Example of written faculty comments.
Providing Student Feedback: Audio Recorded Feedback
Within most LMSs, faculty can produce both audiovisual SCRs and audio recordings. Once a student has accessed the first SCR for a course requirement, faculty can use audio recorded feedback on assignments that are repeated throughout the course (e.g., journals, soap notes, and discussion boards) (Borup et al., 2014; Kilgore, 2016; Thompson, & Lee, 2012). These recordings are typically 60 to 90 seconds long and are designed to give general feedback on an individual student's assignment.
Challenges of Using SCR for Providing Student Feedback
SCRs can be useful for providing course materials and giving student feedback, but there can be challenges associated with using SCRs. Faculty must become proficient in producing SCRs before they can begin to use them in the classroom. SCR programs are relatively easy to use and there are tutorials on SCR websites, but it can take approximately 1 to 2 hours to become proficient in producing SCRs and uploading them to the LMS gradebook. Faculty might find it challenging to limit the amount of time spent on each SCR. Most SCR recordings can be completed in 3 to 5 minutes, but sometimes they take much longer if a student assignment requires significant faculty feedback. After a recording is complete, students can refer to the SCR repeatedly during the course to review faculty comments and feedback.
Outcomes and Student Response to SCR Feedback
The SCR methods were introduced into an Advanced Health Assessment course at a moderate-sized, hybrid graduate nurse practitioner program at a public research university in the spring semester of 2017. The course consisted of two sections of 25 students each that received course materials through SCRs of the CoWT, SWT, and multiple ChWTs. This same student cohort also received video and/or audio recorded feedback on most of the course assignments throughout the semester. The student response to both the CoWT and ChWTs was positive, and the response to the use of SCRs for faculty feedback on individual student course assignments was overwhelmingly positive.
The CoWT, SWT, and SCR of course assignments to give feedback to students was implemented at a large online graduate nurse practitioner program at a private research university in the spring semester of 2019. The methods were initially implemented in a single section (25 students) of a multisection Advanced Pharmacology course. Since then, these methods have been used in two additional courses: Advanced Pharmacology (25 students), and Nursing Leadership (25 students). Approximately 75 students have received audiovisual and/or audio feedback on different assignments in their courses. The student response to SCR feedback at this private university has been overwhelmingly positive and has mirrored the student response to SCR feedback at the public university.
Students at both universities have shared that the CoWT and SWT are very helpful, and they appreciate the detailed information about the course layout and materials. However, the positive student response related to SCRs of course materials pales in comparison to the positive response students have shared about the SCRs of faculty feedback on student assignments. Students at both universities have stated that when they receive personalized and specific feedback on their work, it feels as though the faculty member is invested in and cares about their academic success. Students shared that the recorded faculty feedback on individual student course assignments is especially valuable to their academic success and professional growth mastering the nursing curricular outcomes.
The SCRs described in this article have been very well received by students enrolled in two different university settings. These recordings increase the human presence in the course by helping students connect with the course faculty and engage with the course content. The CoWT, SWT, and ChWT lay the foundation for student success in the course. Students appreciate receiving individualized feedback along with an explanation of the rationale that was used to assess their assignment using the assignment rubric. The SCR student feedback on course assignments provides direct, detailed, and individualized guidance to students as they advance in the course and in their academic programs.
It is vital that educators adopt new methods that enhance connectedness with our students throughout the learning process. This includes exploring new ways of building the human presence into courses and developing a sense of community and engagement among students. Although this can be challenging in today's learning environment, several methods that can be used to build and reinforce connectedness within the triad of students, course content, and faculty.