Graduate Nursing Students Improve Academic Writing Skills through Online Course

An idea that originated in 2013 among faculty in the College of Graduate Nursing finally came to fruition this fall with the release of CGN’s Scholarly Writing Course.  The course uses a combination of Captivate lessons, objective testing, and practical writing assignments to help students improve their academic writing skills, which are required not only for success in their courses but in their post-graduate professional lives as well. course-banner       The need for an online, self-study program for improving written communication skills had been under consideration for some time. Masters students enrolled in both on-campus and distance learning CGN courses are all required to complete a pre-program course on Communication and Information Management Skills where they demonstrate their academic writing ability through completion of a written paper assignment. The assignment is effective in identifying at-risk students, however, faculty resources are usually too scarce to provide the necessary remediation. written-paper-assignment         In 2013 a committee consisting of representatives from graduate nursing, LEAD, the library and IT was formed to consider the problem and propose solutions. Since CGN currently uses Blackboard as their online course management system, it was the logical place to deliver an online self-study course. However, the committee also recognized the potential utility of such a course in other colleges or even outside institutions. For this reason, it decided to use another platform for creating the self-administered tutorials that would provide the bulk of the instruction. writing-course-curriculum Before Articulate began gaining traction with faculty, Adobe Captivate was the in-house choice for interactive lesson development and was chosen as the platform for the project. Under the leadership of Dr. Rod Hicks, PhD, APRN, FAANP, FAAN for content development, and Matthew Durkin for overall project management, the committee began meeting regularly to develop the scope, organization, strategy and content for the course. As content development progressed, a variety of options were considered for engaging students. One suggestion that found support among committee members was the creation of series of characters based on the board game Clue. In addition to providing ample source material for lessons on grammar and punctuation, the characters provide opportunities for dialogue intended to keep students engaged with what has traditionally been fairly dry content. Since Clue and its characters were copyrighted products, an alternative set of characters was developed to move the storyline forward. The next challenge was to determine the visual treatment of the characters, which could appear before, during, and after the didactic instruction. Since hand-drawing the characters for each of the 14 lessons was infeasible, another solution was needed. It eventually materialized in the form of 3D characters created and converted to 2D images by the 3D Modeling and Gamification team. mixamo-characters-3d The five characters needed for the course were selected from preexisting templates provided by a game development application called Mixamo. Using settings built into the software, Educational Applications Designer Jeff Macalino aged, groomed and dressed the characters to fit the storyline. The only element missing was the range expressions that each of the characters would exhibit at different points in each lesson. Jeff explains how that particular issue was resolved. “Creating the character using Mixamo was easy in comparison to giving them unique emotions. Through some trial and error, I found software that would do what I needed. With a combination of a Webcam and a Microsoft Kinect sensor I was able use my own face and body movements and transfer those to the virtual characters in a process known as motion/facial capture.” mixamo-characters         With the character library created the content nearly finalized, Educational Technology Strategist Jerry Kellogg, MA, and Educational Support Specialist Cherishea Coats collaborated on the development and production of the Captivate lessons. Exercises were developed to help students apply and test themselves on key concepts.  As Jerry furnished the dialogue and instructional treatment for each lesson, Cherishea selected the appropriate characters and programmed the Captivate lessons to accommodate the necessary navigation and interactivity. captivate-screen                                 writing-course-menu While work continued on the lessons themselves, Jerry then created the Blackboard course shell that would deliver the course to the students. In addition to the Captivate lessons themselves, sections for key terms, reference documents, and further study resources were added to the course. Most importantly, the objective and practical assessments that would evaluate student learning outcomes were built using the Blackboard assessment tools. The Scholarly Writing course was beta tested and eventually released in early Fall of 2016. Quote from Matthew about results         For more information on the course, please contact hicks-rhumb Rod Hicks, PhD, APRN, FAANP, FAAN, Professor, College of Graduate Nursing, at   mdurkin-thumb   Matthew Durkin, MA, Director of Assessment, College of Graduate Nursing, at   coats-thumb   Cherishea Coats, Educational Technology Support Specialist, at   macalino-thum   Jeff Macalino, Educational Applications Designer, at   Related Articles: