Real Life Stories
Influencing the Progress of an Authentic Task Simulation in Distance Learning
Putting students in contact with their future work environment is, for them, as formative as it is motivating. In a course that I teach in the Paramedic Care Program, I had the exceptional collaboration of 4 paramedics who agreed to do a pre-hospital emergency care simulation during which the students were periodically questioned, in real time, about the nature and dosage of the medication to be administered... All this, while respecting the social distancing measures that the fall 2020 session required.
Taking advantage of forced adaptation
In the fall of 2019, I invited paramedic Louis-Félix Poulin-Moore (Advanced Care Paramedic) to my in-person Pharmacology Interpretation course. He spoke about certain situations paramedics encountered in the workplace relating to the dosage of medication. The presentation was very well done and very relevant.
However, in the autumn of 2020, when I gave the same course again but at a distance, I was forced to revise the format. It was an opportunity to have the students experience an even more engaging, formative and authentic activity. Just goes to show that crises can become opportunities...
For the activity, I was at home. Louis-Félix gave the theoretical part of his presentation (notions of medication dosage) by videoconference from his office at the station.
Louis-Félix then moved to the ambulance garage where 3 of his colleagues were waiting for him. One was acting as a patient, the victim of a collapse. The second was helping Louis-Félix attend to the patient. The third was filming the response with Louis-Félix's mobile phone. During the training, the person playing the role of the patient was replaced by a manikin, so that he could be intubated.
Throughout the 25-minute emergency care simulation, Louis-Félix described and then explained everything he did. He also periodically questioned the students (5 or 6 times during the simulation) about what to do at the next stage : what medication to administer, how to administer it, at what dose.
To quiz the students, I took over. I would share my screen with the students each time and show them a slide with a multiple-choice question. The students then voted on Socrative (I use the free version). After the vote, I could give the most popular answer to Louis-Félix, without revealing the correct answer to the students. Louis-Félix could comment on the students' answers, then reveal the correct answer and apply this information in the simulation.
I think it was more interesting for the students to have Louis-Félix comment on their answers than to have me. For the students, I think the fact that I took over from Louis-Félix to launch the questions added to the dynamics (movement) of the presentation. In that sense, the fact that I was at home while Louis-Félix was in the ambulance was perfect:
- The "change of set" gave a sort of "journalistic" reporting atmosphere to the video conference.
- At home, I was in a controlled environment where I knew all the digital tools were working, and I had access to equipment to implement a "plan B" activity in case Louis-Félix had connection problems.
An extract from the simulation [in French]
In order to make sure that everything went smoothly, I practiced the simulation with Louis-Félix a few days before. We were able to test the internet connection when moving from the office to the garage and also in the ambulance. We also tested the camera angle and made some adjustments accordingly.
In my own distance learning practice, I often use a slideshow in combination with Socrative to ask my students questions. Before your first attempt, do some screen sharing tests to make sure that your students can see the question on the slide, but not the results until you want them to see.
These little tips may seem trivial, but by now students are used to distance learning. They no longer tolerate technical problems with the same leniency as they did in the spring of 2020, because they have experienced courses that run smoothly. It is up to us teachers to master the tools we use!
For the activity, I was very lucky to be able to count on Louis-Félix and his 3 colleagues, all volunteers. I would love to do similar activities in the future, but realistically it can be difficult to count on so many people being available at the time of our course. However, there are many very interesting activities that could be done with just one speaker, in their workplace, with a camera tripod (and the teacher, of course). In other areas too (e.g. engineering), many of the activities could probably be done with one person. So don't be discouraged if you think you can't gather a whole team!
What I take away from this experience
Even when the courses return to the classroom, I intend to continue using videoconferencing to make inroads into the workplace and allow students to influence the conduct of authentic task simulations.
This time the activity was intended for 3rd semester students. However, I think that an activity like this would be particularly interesting for 1st session students (regardless of the program). It would give them an insight into their future workplaces and the real tasks they will have to do. I really believe that it would strengthen the students’ attachment to their programme of study, the purpose of which can sometimes remain abstract.
The pandemic is a global tragedy with devastating consequences. We need to be resilient. I see it as an opportunity to improve my practices. The pandemic has forced me to develop new skills. I've developed original activities that have real added value compared to what I was doing before. I will incorporate them into my teaching even after the pandemic. Through all the harm that COVID-19 will have caused, I hope that it will also have some lasting positive impact in our classrooms... whether physical or virtual!