Birgit Loch, Linda Galligan and Jill Lawrence in close consultation with the Department of Nursing and Midwifery, run two integrated courses: Building Professional Nursing Attributes A (CMS1008) and Building Professional Nursing Attributes B (MAT1008) to improve mathematical, IT and academic literacy among first year nursing students. They use a full-program approach with Nursing, Maths, IT/literacy skills and knowledge integrated into the work at every stage. For example, a computing component is embedded in every assignment and electronic submission is required, so that students are practicing IT skills throughout the courses.
Learning goals and objectives
The learning goals are to bring the students up to standard with IT, Maths and Literacy skills so they can proceed smoothly through the rest of the programme, and their career, with confidence. At all stages the work is linked with the learning goals of the Nursing program and professional practice – so for example, when using a word processor to write a CV, the CV has to address the requirements of a nursing position. The article review critique assignment asks students to review a Nursing article. And in the presentation assignment students create a PowerPoint presentation describing a drug and its dosage. The two courses were written in close collaboration with staff from the Department of Nursing and Midwifery, through regular meetings in the semester before the first offer.
First semester, first year nursing undergraduates taking courses MAT1008 (IT and Maths) and CMS 1008 (Literacy). There were 200 Toowoomba and 50 Fraser Coast students enrolled in S1 2007, all of whom are internal. All learning tools, including assignment submission, are available online through the course website, giving students the flexibility to study whenever and wherever they like. This is particularly important for Nursing students who often work in the profession already, as it caters for their limited study time that has to fit in with irregular working hours and family commitments.
Care is taken with the provision of task descriptors, rubrics, criteria and exemplars, and classes take the form of workshops rather than lectures so that students perform their assignments with help and guidance. Where peer review is required, students are provided with clear marking criteria within their assignment instructions. These criteria are then used by others students for peer review, as well as by instructors where moderation is required.
The two courses use the submission and peer review system developed by Michael de Raadt (Maths and Computing). Students often receive feedback within minutes of submitting an assignment, as all students complete peer reviews of other students' assignments directly after submission. Instructor feedback then usually follows within a week from the submission deadline, which leads to fast turnaround times considering that these are not multiple choice assignments. In CMS1008, students may show drafts of assignments to the course team for review prior to submission.
The team received help and support from the library, the Learning Centre and (during course design) from Marilyn Dorman at LTSU. The workload for students appeared to be high, but for any student who already had some or all of the skills (eg how to send an email or attach a file to it) it was not arduous.
The initial step of marking was done through peer review for four of the six assignments, including the joint CMS1008 assignment. In MAT1008, moderation by the teaching team was discussed in weekly meetings to identify possible updates in the marking approach. In CMS1008, weekly meetings were held with marker and tutor, as well as a review session at the end of the semester.
The SEC student course evaluations were very positive and well above USQ and discipline means (see links).
Problems and advice for others
There is a lot of assessment in this course and this will be revised for next year. The tasks will also be made more demanding – for example, extending the second CMS1008 assignment to two body paragraphs rather than one. There will also be more regular CMAs for the Mathematics component of MAT1008.
For the future, the team plans to implement a system to weed out the students who already have these skills and do not need to take the courses. This will probably take the form of a test or a very early assignment, which, if passed, exempts the student from the course.
Dr Jill Lawrence, Senior Lecturer (Communication)
Dr Birgit Loch, Senior Lecturer (Computing), Principal Advisor (Learning and Teaching)
Ms Linda Galligan, Senior Lecturer and Academic Liaison Officer
Assignments and pedagogy* (doc 57kb)