Storytelling for Learning: Digital Case Studies

June 05, 2014 in Archives, Higher Education

by Joni Tornwall

When you are ill or injured and need healthcare services, what do you want the nurses who provide care for you to know?  Of course, you want them to have a lot of medical knowledge, but that’s not enough. What really matters to you is how they apply that knowledge to your specific needs. Nursing students must learn a tremendous amount of information about the human body in health and disease, and about drugs, procedures, psychology, and healthcare environments. Presenting this information to the student is the easy part for a nurse educator. The challenge nursing instructors face daily in their work is to find a way to teach students to apply this factual knowledge to an individual person with unique needs and circumstances in a dynamic environment that may be filled with a great deal of stress.

One of the most compelling questions in nursing education is, How can we teach students how to apply high-level conceptual knowledge to real-life problem solving?  The answer to this question in nursing education can mean, quite literally, the difference between life and death. This is where case studies presented to the student can make a significant impact in their ability to apply learned knowledge effectively.

Jodi McDaniel, a faculty member in the College of Nursing at Ohio State, and her Graduate Teaching Associate, Stephanie Stelmaschuk, teach Pathophysiology of Altered Health States to graduate nursing students. These students will eventually prescribe medications and treatments and provide advanced care to patients with complex health issues. Before case studies were introduced  in Jodi’s pathophysiology course, student feedbackpointed to problems with large amounts of dense course content presented in a very short time and the difficulty with remembering everything. Comments from students included, “The concepts are so difficult,” and “I know the content, but I have trouble applying it to real people.”

In an effort to find a way to help students apply the content to real patients and help them remember what they had learned, Jodi and Stephanie developed case studies in an engaging, interactive digital story format. These stories walk students through the process of synthesizing their knowledge of pathophysiology and their analysis of patient signs and symptoms to identify appropriate nursing interventions and drug therapies for a patient. The case studies encourage development of clinical problem-solving skills and enhance critical thinking strategies as well teach appropriate disease management options and test student understanding of essential concepts in pathophysiology.

Jodi and Stephanie chose SoftChalk as the tool to deliver their case studies because of its ease of use for both faculty and students. SoftChalk makes it easy to add text, images, and video and divide the content into appropriate segments by separating it on progressive pages. An example of one of the case studies demonstrates how the summary of the disease, diagnostic testing and treatment is first presented to the student as foundational knowledge and review. Next, a story about a patient is presented with quiz questions integrated throughout the case to provide feedback to students and help them stay on the right track.

Students’ reactions to the case studies indicate that they promote retention and application of the lecture material. One student stated, “I feel like I’m a real nurse trying to solve a patient’s health problem.”

Although the digital case studies cannot be created with this kind of flow and continuous feedback directly in Ohio State’s learning management system, the SoftChalk lessons can easily be integrated into the learning management system where students find all of their other course content. SoftChalk also facilitates the workflow for creating the stories and makes it easy for the instructors to add the engaging and interactive elements to the lessons. The ease of navigation through the stories, the active learning strategies and the engaging and memorable stories support the course design in meeting standards for high quality online courses.

Join Stephanie Stelmaschuk, Jodi McDaniel and Joni Tornwall from The Ohio State University College of Nursing for an Innovators in Online Learning webinar in which they will discuss the reasons they use digital stories to teach, describe their workflow for digital case study design, explain how to find and integrate media into the lesson delivery, and outline best practices for integration of assessment throughout the stories.

Register for this free webinar today!

This webinar is a part of the "Best Practices in Online Course Design" series co-hosted by SoftChalk and the Quality Matters program. For more information about this series and to view previous webinars from the series check out our 'Best Practices' page!

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