Imprint 2021 January | Page 19

Table 1
PLA Role during Virtual A & P labs
PLA demonstrates virtual lab activities ( while explaining equivalent in-person activity )
PLA assists course instructor during breakout room group activities
PLA is co-host during virtual Zoom lab session ( and is entered as an “ alternate co-host ” when setting up recurring meetings in Zoom ): - Responds to the Chat during formal instruction - Monitors the waiting room - Relays important information to class participants with connection issues
PLA reports regularly on his / her own upper-level learning experience during COVID-19 restrictions that include limited clinical experience , medical surgical nursing simulations , etc .
PLA facilitates interaction between students and course instructor
PLAs gives feedback on lab activities to the lead instructor once the lab is completed
- Tips and resources for increased preparedness and performance on exams / quizzes - Insight into the difference between virtual and in-person experiences - Break in monotonous PowerPoint presentation by single instructor
- Decrease in waiting time when students call for help through visits to alternate breakout rooms
- Learners are less intimidated and feel more comfortable in their learning experiences - Learners who experience connectivity issues can correspond via email ( or group chat if created ) with PLAs and remain informed and included if Wi-Fi is unstable - PLA keeps the Zoom session active if the lead instructor has connectivity problems due to unforeseen circumstances
Connection between students and their nursing program increases sense of belonging
Increase of student ’ s engagement Establishment of trust between students and the teaching team
Discussion of learning outcomes help improve and / or develop new activities for future semesters
Lead Instructor on Benefits of Having PLAs on the Teaching Team Virtual labs have taught me how complex student-teacher communication can be . In the absence of physical in-person interactions and with lack of eye contact , instructors are forced to develop new means of communication with clear learning objectives . The presence of PLAs in the virtual classroom created opportunities to develop a more inclusive community where everyone is comfortable and at liberty to contribute to and benefit from the entire learning experience . For example , in Zoom , everyone “ finds a seat ” in the front row and gets access to the same lab resources published through the learning management system . In addition , everyone is able to ask questions more frequently using the chat or during lab activities in breakout rooms . Table 1 shows a list that describes the roles played by the PLAs in the virtual classroom and added benefits that derive from having an additional member on the teaching team .
Paradoxically , one of the unexpected outcomes of interacting with a PLA during virtual labs is that we were able to increase the sense of belonging and trust at a time when we were all asked to remain socially distanced . The weekly pre-lab informal interactions with my PLAs were essential from an instructor standpoint to remain grounded , connected with the school , and realistic about learning objectives and student assessment workload .
Conclusion Despite all the setbacks brought by the pandemic , one of the unseen benefits of online learning is that it reminded us to reevaluate the characteristics that define a rich community of learners . The presence of nursing student PLAs during A & P labs was conducive to best teaching practices that nurtured an inclusive classroom and fostered student success through the acquisition of community support . Therefore , our recommendations to nursing students who may feel overwhelmed due to recent COVID restrictions is to step back and look for teaching opportunities available at your institutions . Serving as role models or mentors and reaching out to the incoming cohort of first-year students interested in a nursing career can go a long way and may even result in curricular revisions and improvements in the post- COVID-19 era .
Acknowledgments This work was supported by an Improvement of Teaching grant from the Provost ’ s Office to Catherine B . Kirn-Safran . The authors thank Andrea C . Safran , ( Indiana University , Media major , Class of 2023 ) for insightful comments and peer-editing of this manuscript . n