Susan makes a reflective start to the New Year!


In this first post of the New Year, Dr Susan Clarke, in her role as module co-ordinator considers the value of reflection.

I’ve been enjoying the Friday ritual of reading Maggie and Iain’s Connected Learning blog so thought I might share some of my thoughts on the importance of reflection- not the students’ reflection, but our own reflective practice as educators, and specifically as module coordinators.

A record of real time feelings

Most of you know that I was one of, and am now solely, the module co-ordinator for EBN2. Most years, I keep a reflective diary on my experiences through the module. I do this for several reasons, primarily because my memory is really bad and I want to make sure when we come to run the module for the next intake that I know which bits need tweaked but also because it is a record of my real time feelings and reflections. We all internalise this, right? So I’m just putting my thoughts to paper.

Justifying the need for action

I don’t write reams of text and it mostly consists of bullet points, but I write notes to myself of what worked and what didn’t work and why that might be. The why is very important and I don’t think you remember that if you don’t write it as you experience it. Another important aspect is the action points- suggestions for what I can change that will address the problem. Again, too easy to ignore these suggestions if I haven’t made a note to myself of the “why” to justify the need for action. We are all busy and have competing priorities in this incredibly varied job we do so we could be forgiven for not instigating change if we didn’t need to!

This year, more than most, with the new curriculum, the move to online/remote delivery and the fact that EBN2 is now totally delivered in one teaching phase (will I even remember what a PICO is by the time it rolls around again never mind the nuances of timing the delivery of key messages?!), my ritual has been invaluable. Just a few moments at the end of each week to write my reflections meant that, when we had our debriefing meeting at the end of the module, I was able to identify key learning points for our team and to make suggestions for modifications when delivering it to the February cohort.

Another tool to maximise our teaching practice

This is an entirely new curriculum. We expect too much of it and ourselves if we think it will work perfectly straight out of the box so, dare I say it, evidence based modifications for future cohorts are not only necessary but essential to make it work as well as it can. We teach the students action cycles of plan, do, study, act and that can equally be applied to our education setting as to their healthcare practice. Combining our personal reflections with student feedback, external examiner feedback and team debriefings means we have a well-rounded view of our modules and is just one more tool in our armoury to maximise our teaching practice.

Invisible Threads Are the Strongest Ties: Connecting Us with You by Twitter

In this blog post nursing students Sara Dean, Alex Connolly, Andrena Christie, Gary McCrea, Eddie McArdle and Ryan Cahoon discuss setting up the @NFM1121EBN Twitter page and reflect on its development.

COVID-19 has changed our lives in so many ways but one thing that has not changed is that the evidence-based practice we deliver to our patients is still constantly changing.  This is due to new knowledge, research, regulatory codes of practice and clinical guidelines.  As nursing students on the front-line, there has never been a greater urgency for us to have access to evidence that will help us to work safely, optimise patient experience and protect our own physical/mental health…if only there was a way this information came straight to us!

COVID-19 has made life more challenging for us all.  As nursing students, undertaking an award-winning nursing programme at Queen’s University Belfast (#JustSaying – Student Nursing Times 2020 Nurse Education Provider of the Year), we are sadly not immune to challenges.  But rather than spend our time focusing on challenges, we thought we would try something a little daring.

In September 2020, we launched a dedicated twitter channel for the year one nursing module: Evidence-Based Nursing.  We had already been working with the module coordinator @GaryMitchellRN over the summer months to co-design the new EBN module for year one nursing students.  One of our ‘big ideas’ was to provide something that could help nursing students connect with the latest evidence in real-time AND to provide something that helped nursing students connect with one another, albeit virtually…and so, the @NFM1121EBN twitter page was born.

Our tagline for this student-led account is ‘Connecting Nursing Students to Improve Knowledge & Care’.  We have even got our own hashtag going #QUBEBN.  Twitter is an online social networking service that allows users to send a message (known as a tweet) using 280-characters to each other or their followers.  While everyone can see a tweet, you must be an account holder to reply or share a tweet.  Interested in setting up your own Twitter account?  Check out this simple guide:

We now have 320 followers, and this number has been steadily increasing since we developed this Twitter channel.  Our followers include healthcare professional students, healthcare professionals, researchers, policymakers, patient advocacy groups and healthcare journals.  In the last week, our #QUBEBN has made more than 70,000 impressions on social media, with a potential reach of more than 11,000 unique twitter users.  

We believe this Twitter channel will support nursing students to keep the conversation going after online classes, promote the sharing of new evidence/knowledge amongst users and provide a forum for professional networking between students, their peers and other healthcare professionals interested in evidence-based practice.

But our Twitter channel is not all about evidence-based nursing, if it were the letters E.B.N would probably stand for Everybody is Bored Now… (Shoutout to Zach Mitchell from the EBN Pod; if you know, you know!)  Our channel is also a place for connecting student nurses with other like-minded people and supporting them in their journey.  We make no apologies for lots of GIFs (that is pronounced JIF not GIF), short inspirational quotes or promotion of other learning activities that might be of interest to our audience.  As you will see, we are big reweeters and recently we have been sharing plenty of selfies from our current Sept 20 Cohort – just check out our page!

So, whether you are interested in using the account to access the latest evidence, engage in professional networking or just following the conversation, we think there is something for just about everyone!  So why not take the plunge and set up your own professional account, give us a follow, retweet our content and connect with us all!

Right now, we are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface – but connected in the deep.  (William James 1842-1910).

EBN Student Champions

Sara Dean (@SDeanStN)

Alex Connolly (@AleexConnolly)

Andrena Christie (@AndrenaChristie)

Gary McCrea (@GaryMcCrea)

Eddie McArdle (@ArdleEdward)

Ryan Cahoon (Not on Twitter?!)

Promoting a connected learning through developing an online community: The Jelly Baby Tree

In this blog post Alison Smart shares her experiences of adopting the Jelly Baby Tree for online work.

As we have all started to adapt to the (dare I say it) “New Normal” which we all know will be ever evolving. From a profession where people feature very strongly – personal interactions are something I have massively missed during lockdown. The social interactions we all had on a day to day to basis within the MBC is something I took for granted but a key aspect that makes work enjoyable. 

September 2020 are now in their fourth week of our new curriculum and going to university is a time for social interaction; meeting new people, making new friends and spreading your wings. I remember my first day when Susan Carlisle said look to your left and your right and there will be someone in this room who will become a great friend and she was right. I have very fond memories and made some very good friends, as I know we all did at university. This can also be a daunting time, reaching out to people you don’t know, I would think it’s quite daunting to do this in a predominately virtual world. However, our current students have transitioned to a connected learning environment, when the normal pre-class chatter and a bustling MBC is no longer. Virtual Coffee’s, Zoom Quizzes, Break-out rooms, chat functions are the current virtual social life choices that have quickly became staples in our lives. 

This post will discuss the use of the Jelly Baby Tree (JBT) in creating an online community. The JBT is currently being used in Year 1 Professionalism Module. I will reflect on the implementation of the tool to the module and identify how you could use this. This tool has been previously used as an icebreaker and I have used an adapted version that I had previously used in MSc module with leadership whilst undertaking an MSC course.  

Before I get started, I would like you to look at the image below and think about how you are feeling this week in relation to our current journey at SONM and our journey with connected learning. Which Jelly Baby do you identify with? 

Are you a 12 and branching out? Or wick at 6? Relaxing like an 11. I have been nearly all the Jelly babies on the tree but this week I am a 9 and feeling fine. I have had some positive feedback from the year ones and enjoyed face-to-face teaching this week.

Why JBT? 

I had previously used the JBT in an online module at MSC level which looked at leadership and each week we were asked to identify which Jelly Baby we were in relation to our leadership journey. This was an international module and the use of the JBT facilitated a social presence. The selection of this JBT was used to encourage communication within an online context and its use would help to support and develop the year ones. Previous analysis suggested students found that JBT was a valued aspect of the course. Evidence reported “Jelly Baby Tree as the best bit of the course” giving it “human touch” whilst others “come away inspired every time I read someone else’s Jelly baby posting” It was 2014 when I used it so I figured if I still remember it now, then it must have a lasting impact.

How did I use it?

I set up a weekly JBT discussion forum with a single thread. The students were introduced to the Jelly Baby tree during the start of the module and received the directions below. 

Each week, they are asked to reflect and complete a post to where they are feeling on the course and on their journey as a professional. The instructor should do the same in order to “model the way” and connect with students thereby fostering a sense of social presence for themselves as well. In addition to this, myself and other members of the module team have replied to students with their comments with words of encouragement, thus creating a social presence aimed at creating an atmosphere of trust and belonging.

How has it been received? 

I have been positively surprised, as I was unsure despite my positive personal experience in a postgraduate format. I wasn’t too sure how it would fare with Year 1’s who have not met each other but to date we have had over 650 posts in the 4 weeks. Students appear to be engaged with the Jelly Baby Tree and it does appear to foster a community of encouragement. 

As the potential social isolation starts to creep up on us again, with a 4-6-week restrictions imposed. I think it is important to try and encourage social interactions for our new cohort but to help facilitate those existing friendships. I think the JellyBaby tree is a good place to start. I had initially been dubious myself but having had such a positive experience myself, I thought with the move to more of a connected learning approach this was the right fit. I hope you consider the use of the tree for both undergraduate and postgraduate.

Thank-you for taking the time to read this, let’s take time to ensure we help the student’s in this journey and also ourselves to socially connect.

Please post any comments or your experiences on using the JBT online below

The case for disconnectedness

In this post I argue that, in a connected learning environment, being disconnected is essential to being productive as well as caring for yourself.

Enquiring about the well-being of one of the School of Nursing and Midwifery CPAD students recently she told me the following, ” Some see it as working at home, I feel that I am living at work”. I am sure that she isn’t alone in this feeling.

Over the last seven or eight months initially through necessity-and even now as recommended, we have in effect allowed some of our safest places, our sanctuaries and dare I say it our personal asylums, – our homes- to become part of the rat race that we call work.

We have had to learn new technologies, refine how we work, deal with technological issues and in some cases deliver set content in less hours than previously afforded in our teaching timetables. And this is all with the sword of the NSS hanging over our heads. Pedro Noguera recently noted, “teaching is exhausting, emotionally and psychologically exhausting”. He then goes on to argue “…if you don’t want to give people support, they won’t want to stay in the career. To certain extent I agree. However, this implies that the support should be top-down and here is where I digress from Noguera.

Yes, the employer needs to accept some responsibility to support me, however I also have a responsibility to look after my own health. Working in the Academy and the concept of academic freedom offers the ability to meet work and professional obligations in a manner that is consistent with my obligations to myself and my family. That is why there are times when I choose to wilfully disconnect.

Email + Instant messaging + social media + the world wide web = Information overload = Noise.

Like the proverbial rabbit in the headlights, that noise can become paralysing. It is okay at times to admit that it becomes too much, and at that stage it is appropriate to walk away for a short period of time. School of Nursing and Midwifery Senior Lecturer Dr Derek McLaughlin often talks about, and encourages students to take, guilt free breaks. That can be for as short as an hour or a day or longer. There are times when we need to disconnect from the noise that surrounds us.

Constant digital connection is associated with increased levels of loneliness, anxiety and depression. Disconnection clears the mind, improves concentration and helps focus which in turn increases productivity, I feel better and I get more done-a ‘win win’! In a blog post last year Natalie Cawthorne listed five reasons to disconnect from the digital world.

  1. Greater work-life balance
  2. Decreased symptoms of anxiety and depression
  3. Lower levels of job fatigue and burnout
  4. Reduced stress
  5. Better sleep

It is important to emphasise that the disconnections need to be complete and not simply transferred from desktop or laptop to a tablet and/or smartphone. The ease with which we can inadvertently find ourselves engrossed in something can be frightening. How many of us, attempting to switch off, have taken to a social media site only to find something that you think may be of interest to your students? I do it regularly! The all-pervasive nature of connectedness can be harmful.

I am by no means Luddite or even anti-tech. Those that know me may even say I’m bit of a geek in relation to tech, but I try to engage with it on my terms. I hasten to add not always successfully though.

My colleague and School of Nursing and Midwifery Lecturer Colin Hughes recently recorded a podcast that was published on the RCNi website on why and how nurses should self-care during the Covid pandemic. He talks about the value of routine as one coping mechanism. So my challenge to you, dear reader, is this. Build yourself a routine and make being disconnected from a digital world part of it. In other words, get connected with the physical world around you. You will feel better for it.

Developing a Digital Community in Nursing Education

In this blog post Paul McAleer reflects on his experiences of developing digital communities.

The advent of the Coronavirus pandemic has presented a challenge to the well-established and familiar way of academic life in Nursing Education.  In the short-term at least, it is no longer possible for teachers and students to be ‘in the room’ together as they were before.  In order to assure the safety of both students and staff, social distancing directives have forced change upon the traditional ‘face-to-face’ teaching.  Class sizes have been reduced to support public health guidance and many pieces of the Nurse Education Curriculum have been moved online.  Intuitively, this seems like it may present a threat to our well-established classroom communities however is this actually the case? 

The Classroom Community

Being taught in a classroom is one of the most common and unifying cultural experiences in our society.  From the earliest moments in our lives, these experiences will have served to shape our attitudes, beliefs and how we relate to others in the world around us. 

Anyone who has spent time reflecting on what it’s like to be within the classroom will understand that everyone who is present is having their own, uniquely individual experience.  Everyone in the classroom brings personal fears, anxieties, perceptions and expectations.  In this sense it may be possible to suggest that at any given time there are actually two classes running at the same time…the one that is occurring externally (within the room) and the other which is taking place internally (within the minds of those who are present). 

The familiar classroom experience is a multi-personal one.  Effective teaching moves beyond the didactic delivery of information to the group, by using the taught content as a springboard for discussion and problem-solving.  In these situations, the class becomes more like a community where individual ideas and thoughts are shared and added to so that a higher level of understanding can be achieved. 

Effective teachers will plan and facilitate opportunities to trigger learning through discussion however, the class as a community evolves into an entity which is more than the systems of social interactions which the teacher imposes upon it.  As the individuals within the group share and assimilate ideas, react and respond to each other, agree or disagree, a complex and dynamic matrix of multi-personal relationships are formed and experienced collectively (Foulkes, 1964).  At some level this may seem overly theoretical, however people sometimes talk about instinctively or intuitively knowing what a class wants, or how the class is feeling.  These feelings are often associated with ‘being in the room’ and may be a sign that one is tapping into the classes communal experience.

The Connected Learning Approach

The use of a ‘Connected Learning’ approach may, at least in the short term, help us to maintain our sense of connectedness with our class communities. Connected Learning is a framework for online learning which seeks to replicate face-to-face learning by developing a digital community that is academically orientated, creates shared purpose, is production-centred and provides peer support (Ito et al, 2013).  As Nursing Students are now expected to ‘work from home’ it is anticipated that Connected Learning approaches will facilitate academic learning and also reduce anticipated feelings of isolation, as a result of the limited time the class physically spend in the classroom.  It has been suggested that digital technology can encourage openness and connectivity and can help to construct shared understanding and learning as part of a socially orientated online community. 

Learning and Teaching in Lockdown

During the springtime ‘lockdown’ I had the opportunity to use Connected Learning approaches with a class of Undergraduate Learning Disability Student Nurses.  Admittedly, adopting these approaches was more through necessity than choice, although as Plato so eloquently put it “necessity is the mother of all invention”.  The module lasted for six weeks and to promote wellbeing, the originally timetabled classes were consolidated into four-hour online workshops using a Flipped Classroom approach.  This approach meant that more time could spend on group work activity, discussion and debate.

Various pieces of digital technology were used to help the group to foster a shared and communal online space.  With the exception of online conferencing, students were already familiar with many of the tools, for example, online discussion boards, quizzes, polls and presentations, thus reducing connectivity issues and any hesitancy people might have had when adopting new technologies.  The tools were used to orientate students to the academic content, and to develop a range of co-productive group tasks and activities which offered a sense of shared purpose.

Connecting Through Emotional Experience

To build a sense of community it is important that people can share emotional experiences.  Everyone was asked to keep their webcams switched on so that others could see their facial expressions and emotional reactions.  At the beginning of the workshops, students and teachers took part in icebreakers designed to collectively acknowledge and validate any common feelings or anxieties related to the workshop, or more generally to the pandemic.  For example, people were invited to put one word in the chat box which described how they were feeling.  The group then reviewed each other’s comments.  The emotional themes were summarised so that common feelings could be acknowledged. 

At various points throughout the workshop polls were used to encourage people to express opinions on the session topic.  Students were also asked to make open comments on the topics which related to their own clinical experiences.  This encouraged people to continuously contribute to the collective group task, and to identify and connect with other people’s experiences. Members of the teaching staff were assigned to breakout rooms to support group discussions and work activities.    At the end of the session when the class came together again, people were invited to give each other feedback and share their reflections about their experience throughout the day.

Did People Feel More Connected?

In their evaluations, students provided valuable commentary about their experiences during the workshops and the ‘Connected Learning’ approach more generally.  The feedback was generally very positive, but what was particularly interesting was the language students used to describe their experiences.  Collective pronouns such as ‘we’ and ‘us’ were frequently used to describe their feelings.  One student commented that:

Even in these strange times, we were able to work together with the help of our lecturers through the use of group work”

The language used in the evaluations may represent an important reflection point regarding the students’ ability to development of a sense of ‘community’ or ‘solidarity’ with one another.

Whilst it seems that students and teaching staff were able to establish a shared sense of community on this occasion, it is also worth noting that the group had already spent time together in the physical classroom prior to the lockdown. This will undoubtedly have helped ease the migration of teaching and learning to a fully online medium. 

What will the future hold?

Predicting the future is a difficult task and as a result of the pandemic there is much uncertainty about how the next few months or years will play out.  Approaches to teaching and learning such as Connected Learning will undoubtedly be placed in sharper focus, and it remains unclear whether these approaches alone will be effective in helping new student nurses to develop the collective sense of community that is enjoyed as a matter of course in face-to-face classes.  One thing that is certain however, is the commitment and passion of nurses (students and teachers alike) to solve problems and overcome challenges…even in the most adverse of circumstances. 

Whatever the future holds, we can be assured that Nurses will be at the forefront of any innovative approaches to building communities through online teaching and learning.  As Florence Nightingale said, nurses would rather ‘die in the surf, heralding the way to a new world, than stand idly on the shore’.

[1] Foulkes, S. H., (1964) Therapeutic Group Analysis. London: Karnac Books.

[2] Ito, M., Gutierrez, K., Livingstone, S., Penuel, B., Rhodes, J., Salen, K., Watkins, S.C. (2013). Connected learning: An agenda for research and design. Irvine, CA: Digital Media and Learning Research Hub.

“Paul is a Lecturer (Education) in the SNoM’s Learning Disabilities Team, and has a special interest in Forensic Healthcare and Reflective Practice Groups”

Continuing Professional Development during COVID-19

‘Please remember many of us are working full time, trying to provide a service as well as studying”

I have always worked full time throughout my career, incorporating both work and education which can be challenging. Whether it’s an age thing but to me education should be conducted within university and not on-line. I firmly believe that you learn more within a classroom as it enables you to partake, ask relevant questions and gain knowledge and experience from both the lecturer and fellow colleagues. I don’t agree that this is achievable to the same standard when classes are online. 

My reason for this is as follows, 

I had never heard of Canvas until last year, even though I had completed a recent Intensive Care Nursing course in Queen’s University Belfast a few years previous. Technology constantly changes and unless you use it every day I feel you can fall behind very quickly.

I have worked in ICU and have trained hospital staff on how to use equipment, so I have excellent knowledge on medical devices however I don’t feel confident about Information Technology (IT), simply because I have very little interest! Believe it or not I actually like to communicate face to face, an art which I find sadly lacking in some nursing students and nurses today. To prepare for online classes during Covid-19, which I appreciate is unique and challenging time for all, I asked my NHS employer to ensure I had access to the required platform. Unfortunately my request could not be accommodated by the Trust and the platform could not be accessed from the Trust computers. This caused me a huge amount of stress at an already stressful time. Not only was I still providing a service during Covid-19, I was also anxious that I was going to miss out on valuable information required for my module and exam.  

After numerous conversations with my lecturer, who was very supportive, I was able to connect to the next class although very anxious that I might lose internet connection, sound, video link, etc. Once connected the quality wasn’t great, other class members struggled to get and stay connected and sound quality was poor. 

I had been reassured that classes would be recorded and could be watched at another time, should the technology let me down. However, other than my allocated day at university I unfortunately don’t have the time to go back and re-watch a class. My days off are and will be spent preparing for my exams as well as fitting in normal life activities outside work and study. 

Providing lecture material well in advance of the online class is so important. When presentations are not available at least 24 hours in advance, it causes unnecessary stress. Personally I like to be prepared,and not rely on my printer the night before or morning of the online class. If I do lose internet connection, for whatever reason, having the relevant written material in front of me enables me to work through it and make the most of the protected time.  

Consistency in communication is key and has been challenging throughout my course. Sometimes we would receive emails vis Queens online other times via Canvas, all I ask is pick one and use it, don’t have me guessing!

 I appreciate that Covid-19 is a difficult time for us all,  but to support post registration students through their programme of study please remember many of us are working full time, trying to provide a service as well as studying. The university needs to ensure that staff unfamiliar to studying online receive extra support, to get them through their course successfully and ensure that they actually enjoy learning and don’t see it as a burden, and that information is provided in a timely manner. 

About the author:

Sharlene, has been a qualified nurse for 27years, and has worked and studied in Northern Ireland, England and Scotland.  Her varied career which includes, Accident + Emergency, Surgical High Dependency, Outreach as Advanced Nurse Practitioner, Intensive Care Nursing and most recently as a Cancer Clinical Nurse Specialist. 

Reflection on the first week back teaching ONLINE!

I have survived… I absolutely enjoy and value the opportunity to apply the research into my teaching practice. However, it is no doubt that it has taken me quite some time to design the materials for each tutorial and think about how to best communicate and engage with my students in front of a laptop screen at home, and not necessarily see my students. As one of the post-docs suggested that we are like a TV news reporter who must be enthusiastic about reporting the news to the public, but they could not see the responses from their audience. I have also tried to use a few online tools. Mentimeter, Padlet, MS Teams have quickly become my best friends in teaching. All the hard work is paid off, once you know that your students are engaging with these tools to respond to your teaching.

It is definitely a nerve-breaking experience for the first few times teaching online. A million of buttons to press to make sure you have joined the MS Teams chat with the camera on and not muting yourself but mute all the students to minimise the acoustic feedback. Then you have to share the correct screen with your students and turn off all your emails. In addition, there is a hidden icon on MS Teams that you have to click to ensure the audio of your YouTube or Ted Talks videos are coming through to the students. But trust me, you will get used to it!

The good news is that the School’s Connected Learning working group has developed a resource – 12 Tips for Designing Connected Learning – to support each other in our journey of online teaching. We are in it together to create and enhance our student connected learning experience! I am looking forward to sharing some of the tips with you in the coming weeks, while continue trying out different online tools and strategies in my online teaching adventure.

For QUB account holders, the twelve tips for Connected Learning can be found here

Amy Wong is a post-doc researcher in health professions education at QUB. She enjoys doing research, teaching and supporting students and educators to enhance their learning and teaching experience.

Student nurses, Jade and Majella share their experience of moving online in the Covid -19 pandemic


Moving online was originally a daunting experience for me. Mainly because I thought I would never get the chance to focus on my work with a 4 -year-old at home! Nevertheless, we quickly developed a new routine and got to it. It really wasn’t much different to getting up and getting ready to go to uni. I got up and got ready but only had to sit at my desk at home! It was quite a novelty.


At the beginning, not many people went on screen to participate, it was mainly participation from the online chat or the microphone audio. I felt like my learning needs were still being met and I was actively engaging over the chat, there was something satisfying about trying to get your answer typed in first! However, it was evident that some people were not participating perhaps because it was easy to walk away. When we were encouraged to start and go on screen to participate, I thought this was a brilliant idea and might help with the connection of the class and concentration, especially with the longer topics. As we went on screen our learning really was maximised!

It didn’t feel all that different from being in class, and our tutorial lead was able to engage so much better with us, seeing our faces and reading our reactions, and the class operated more smoothly. This was much better than looking at the “… is typing..” bubble on the screen. It was fun, informative and honestly the best thing to happen in a ‘bad’ situation. I do not feel I have missed out on my tutorial classes at all, over the 12 weeks that were online, I definitely engaged more than I would have in class, as it is not as daunting offering your answers when you are in your own home. Overall, I had a really positive experience going on screen to participate in my learning and it 100% made the transition so much better and enjoyable.


At the beginning the thought of online classes scared me, with a young family I wasn’t sure how this would work.  I soon developed a routine and the lecturers understood the challenge of family commitments.  I attended every online lecture that was available.  When I settled into the new routine, I actually found that online learning suited me! Yes, its not the same as being in uni but the support was there regardless. Perhaps, as a mature student I settled quickly, knowing the demands of the degree were high. I actually found it easier than traveling 2hrs each day to university. I was able to be at home with my children whilst completing my degree.


Engaging with the lecturers and having our own group sessions for tutorial was the biggest help throughout.  In the smaller tutorial classes, I knew most of my fellow students better and felt more comfortable.  Being able to interact with my lecturer and to physically see them eased some of my worries.  We all had the same questions or needed the same advice and sometimes just seeing each other spurred us on – it helped with class morale.  I still miss being around all the friends that I made and the hub of a uni environment, but i can honestly say it worked for me.  

About the authors

Jade is a second year student nurse, with 4 year old son. She has experience working in the the community as a Health Care Assistant and as a physiotherapy assistant. Jade has a real interest in oncology nursing and is looking forward to more practice experiences on placement!

Majella is a second year student nurse, with three children, aged, 11, 9 and 5. Starting university as a mature student has been daunting but with amazing support from her husband, children and parents, she has been able to pursue her career. 

How to ‘connect with’ students in online learning.

By: Dr Patricia McNeilly

Whether you have come to higher education recently with a wealth of recent clinical experience or you are (dare I say!) a well seasoned educationalist one of the things we all have to think about most when delivering our classes online is student engagement.  Put quite simply -if the students don’t engage they won’t learn!  This is all the more important in times of covid-19 which, as you know, has brought many challenges for students and staff in terms of undertaking and delivering programmes in new ways. 

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