Creating Community in Online Education
“We don’t heal in isolation, but in community.” –S. Kelley Harrell
Spring is a season of rebirth, and the chorus of excited birds outside my window is a reminder that change is a constant in life. As America braces for a pandemic, homes become our safe havens, and we all will be looking for ways to continue to socialize with those we love. Happy hour via Skype? Why not? At least we do not have to touch any surfaces where the virus might linger.
Coronavirus will impact each of us in some way, and it is all in our attitude toward change where the living happens. Being nervous about our health is a human reality. We all have many examples from the people we love to remind us that both physical and mental health is vital to happiness. Times like these force us to acknowledge our tenuous control over all elements of life, of our essential human frailty.
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Community is essential to feeling safe. Online teaching requires community building, and that happens one relationship at a time. Being a member of an online community requires action. For me that means that I am reaching out and checking in with all of my students via email today, it also means that I will continue to use virtual conference systems to set up regular virtual meetings. Getting into communication via technology builds community among online students.
When it comes to building community, emerging technologies are your friend. To keep things simple, I use Microsoft Teams or Zoom on a weekly basis to connect with the nurse educators who I support online. It is basically like being in the same room, yet my students live in Hawaii and Canada. Getting comfortable with technology ensures that I can appropriately support their growth as scholars. If you are supporting nurses in online settings like I am, please be mindful that they may be extra busy and overwhelmed with new protocols right now. To help foster a sense of community, I have been in ongoing communication with all of my students (who serve as nurses and nurse educators) to let them know that I can be flexible with assignment deadlines. All of us in online education can build a sense of community through regular contact and encouraging email notes to students.
If you teach EMTs, nurses, or police officers, I’ve provided links to additional resources for you here. If you are teaching nurses online, please let us know if there are other excellent nursing blogs that we can feature or online spaces we should be aware of to support educators. A few years back, I was spending an inordinate amount of time in hospice visiting my mother-in-law, I came to treasure healthcare professionals in an intense manner. Being able to support nurses online is a joy!
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Nurses who are reading this blog, I personally want to thank every single one of you and a dollop of extra thanks on top for all you nurse educators. Your selfless dedication, attention to detail, and care and concern that you have to show in times of crisis goes far beyond what any job could ask of a person.
Be well, and as we leave the classrooms on the ground to avoid contagion and other urgent concerns, please continue to share resources and tips in the comment area of the blog for others. Education and collaboration has to continue through this difficult period, and we can get through anything if people who care about quality educational experiences get together and work towards health for all. Thank you healthcare experts for all you do!