August 2019

Faculty Perspectives: Dr. Lela Hobby

Dr. Lela Hobby teaches health assessment, evidence-based practice and public health and community nursing in the RN to BSN program. She is a board-certified advanced practice public health nurse, and this is her ninth year of online instruction at the University of West Florida.

“I enjoy my students,” Hobby said. “Many have been away from classes for three, five or 10 plus years. Some have never learned in an online environment. They all come to class with experiences to share. I, as the nursing instructor, witness them embracing scholarly work as they build on their two-year associate education.”

Hobby said the key to student engagement is increasing their understanding of topics they face in their professional practice. She relies on Quality Matters standards to frame course content and communication in a manner that includes teacher-student, content-student and student-student learning. Hobby produces videos that reinforce written instructions, creates assignments that require students to go the e-library to search for scholarly evidence and then structures discussions that require students to defend their opinion or planned actions.

“It is key that instructions are clearly presented in simple, straightforward language,” Hobby said. “Students need to feel confident that they will be able to understand instructions when they are alone at their computer at midnight. Otherwise, their anxiety translates into a rallying point for a storm of question-and-answer distress.”

Hobby said most RN to BSN students do homework on weekends or late at night. Hobby answers student questions with her first morning cup of coffee. She responds to queries throughout the day and closes the class at bedtime after checking one last time for student questions. Hobby uses the Canvas app on her phone to make this process efficient and consistent.

“I enjoy the flexibility of taking my classes wherever I go,” Hobby said. “As long as I have a strong WIFI connection, I can do it. I love teaching online and believe our RN to BSN program prepares RNs for a higher level of patient care and safety. Graduates are very proud of their accomplishments, and adding BSN onto their nametag is a highly regarded insignia among work colleagues.”

Design Tips

  • First, take the Designing a Quality Online Course (DQOC) that Global Online offers through Canvas. It has open enrollment and is self-paced.
  • The DQOC incorporates Quality Matters (QM) standards. These provide a roadmap for how to align University and program outcomes with course activities and evaluations.
  • QM further instructs about the importance of course navigation and communication, which is key to students’ confidence and their ability to be successful.
  • Make an appointment with your assigned instructional designer at Global Online. The designers can guide you through the QM standards.

Teaching Tips

  • Keep instructions simple. Begin sentences with a verb such as read, define, discuss, compare, create.
  • Use grading rubrics to score all assignments. This ensures equitable grading, especially if teaching assistants or coaches are grading, too.
  • Set up your course so that each module looks similar to the others.
  • Create a separate Module Assignment file so students can see a brief list of all module learning activities.
  • Maintain a separate file for each learning activity, and use links when appropriate. This file should link to the assignment’s submission box where the grading rubric is visible.
  • Make a short three to five minute course introduction video and an equally short assignment instruction video. Many students say screen-share instruction videos help them understand complex assignments.
  • Tell students what to do, rather than what not to do. “Submit an essay using excellent grammar and spelling and avoiding slang words.” Rather than “Don’t use run-on sentences. Don’t misspell words. Don’t use slang.”


Students Perspectives on Quality

Jamie Silva is in her second semester of the MLT to MLS program. She lives in Navarre with her husband and their 2-year-old daughter and works part-time as a phlebotomist.

“I continue to be blown away by the quality of my experience,” Jamie said. “You can tell the UWF professors truly want you to succeed.”

Jamie has taken courses such as clinical genetics, clinical biochemistry and hemostasis, and thrombosis. For Jamie, the flexibility of online classes goes beyond being able to do schoolwork at her convenience. It’s also about options associated with the content, based on the way classes are designed.

“Besides quizzes and major assessments, we do activities, and worksheets and study guides and projects,” Jamie said. “These various assignments keep you engaged with the material on a weekly basis, which makes it much easier to lean in chunks rather than waiting to the end to prepare for one big test. This kind of structure allows you to process and reflect. You can start and stop as you need to, and it gives your brain time to rest, which is important when the content is so complex it could be overwhelming.”

For a lab session of one of Jamie’s current summer classes, the instructor arranged for students to attend a webinar presented by a major manufacturer of coagulation instruments.

“You could get a certificate at the end of the presentation if you did the required activities,” Jamie said. “This is an ingenious idea because not only are you getting the most up-to-date information, you can earn continuing education hours and see what professional development is like in your field. This is exactly the kind of thing you will encounter as you maintain certification throughout the rest of your career. “

Other instructional tools her professors use include Cisco Webex, which allows instructors to meet in real-time with students for topics such as exam reviews. In her genetics class, several assignments required drawing a diagram of a concept, taking a photo of it or scanning it in and reviewing the professor’s feedback.

All Jamie’s online classes have options for discussion groups and places to post questions and find members for a study group.

“I like this kind of learning environment because you can rely on your colleagues for their expertise, which is empowering, and the instructor can see what is being asked and offer her guidance. It makes all students better equipped and better trained, which will ultimately lead to better care for patients.”