RN to BSN Student Engagement in Online Courses: The Impact of Synchronous Teaching Methods

Concurrent Session 8
Streamed Session

Brief Abstract

The purpose of this study is to examine student engagement in an online nursing course using both synchronous and asynchronous collaboration and presentation tools.  Results of this study will provide nursing faculty with evidence of the appropriateness and effectiveness of these applications. 


Faculty in the Online RN to BSN program through the University of Louisiana Lafayette. Completed my DNP in May of 2015 from Loyola University New Orleans. My MSN was completed in May 2011 from Loyola and my MBA and MSHCM were completed in May 2003 from the University of New Orleans, NO, LA. I am a Diploma graduate from Charity Hospital School of Nursing, New Orleans, LA in 1990. I hold a baccalaureate in religious studies from Loyola University New Orleans, 1976. I retired from the Charity Hospital System (LSU Health Systems) in 2013. I was originally an ER nurse, then Assistant Administrator, and retired as Manager of Quality Performance. I am president of the New Orleans District Nurses Association, Vice-Chair of Louisiana Nurses Political Action committee and co-chair of Region 1, Louisiana Action Coalition.

Extended Abstract

With more recent focus on engagement, retention, and collaboration, questions arise about the value of including interactive learning modules, live discussion sessions, and other synchronous tools in online courses. To date, the impact on RN to BSN student engagement when using synchronous methods as compared to those utilizing asynchronous tools has not been studied. In order to explore and compare the effectiveness of these two approaches to content delivery and student interaction on this population, this study was developed to focus on an eight week online course on transition to BSN practice within an RN to BSN program.

The number of RN to BSN programs has increased dramatically over the past five years, with the majority of these programs utilizing an online or hybrid format. The accessibility and flexibility of these programs make them very attractive to practicing registered nurses with varying schedules and other life demands.  As such, most current programs rely primarily on an asynchronous format to deliver content and facilitate discussion and feedback.

This course was originally developed and conducted using asynchronous teaching methods, but over a series of 3 semesters has been enhanced to offer variations of content and alternate activities that offer opportunities for synchronous interaction with the instructor and classmates. The purpose of this research is to gather both quantitative and qualitative measures of student engagement, perceptions, and outcomes from these various learning experiences. The results of this study will provide nursing faculty with evidence based information regarding the impact and appropriateness of synchronous and asynchronous offerings on student engagement, satisfaction, and success. The intention of this presentation for OLC Innovate is to report and discuss the background, significance and methodology of this study.


In 2010, the Institute of Medicine released a landmark report calling for 80% of registered nurses to possess a minimum of a baccalaureate degree by 2020 (Institute of Medicine, 2010).  As a result of this, there emerged a plethora of completion programs across the United States, with the majority of them utilizing an online or hybrid format. This type of platform affords registered nurses, most of whom are working full time, accessibility and flexibility due to the “any time, any where” teaching methods utilized by most programs.  Because of the need to be able to complete their education while working various hours (weekends, nights and weekends), most RN to BSN programs rely heavily (or solely) on asynchronous teaching methods.  According to Hrastinski, Keller, and Carlsson (2010), most research in online teaching to date has focused on the benefits of asynchronous methods, revealing that this mode provides time for reflection and consideration of complex concepts and ideas. However, research on the benefits of synchronous methods, involving live discussion sessions, webconferencing, and/or interactive learning modules, has been sparse.  Wallace (2007) noted that there exists a need for policy development related to best practices in online teaching.  In order to determine the most effective teaching strategies across the disciplines with various student populations, outcomes research must be conducted. The goal of the current study is to contribute to the development of best practices in online teaching by studying student engagement and how it is impacted by various teaching methods.  The research question for this study is:  How does a select synchronous teaching method (web conferencing) affect RN to BSN student engagement in the introductory nursing course of an accelerated online program compared to asynchronous teaching methods?


It is imperative that decisions related to the adoption of synchronous teaching methods be driven by data focused on student outcomes.  These teaching strategies require a considerable investment of time by faculty since webcasting, live chats and other synchronous activities require small groups to facilitate optimal interaction.  In order to accommodate the work obligations of RN to BSN students, sessions must be conducted during varying times (morning as well as late evening sessions) and students must be provided the dates and times of the session early in the course so that they can adjust their work and personal obligations.  These factors exemplify the need for commitment on the part of the faculty, and subsequently the importance of gathering information from students about their experiences of engagement using asynchronous and synchronous teaching tools.

Data Sources and Methodology

After IRB approval is obtained from UL Lafayette, data collection will begin. At the beginning of the Fall session A as well as the Fall session B (each eight weeks in length), all students will be invited to participate in the study.  Inclusion criteria will include availability for participation in live sessions during designated times, and participants must have a microphone on their computer.  Four assignments will be included in the study, which constitutes 20% percent of the course grade. All participants will engage in two assignments via synchronous format (Adobe Connect Web Conferencing) and two asynchronous assignments (Discussion Forum via Moodle).  Fifteen students will be participating in this pilot study during each session.  The project will be implemented during two, eight week sessions (Fall session A and Fall session B) for a total of 30 participants.  Due to the faculty time intensive nature of conducting live web conferencing and the need to keep the number of participants in each web conference low, the study pilot study will be conducted during two subsequent eight week sessions.

At the end of each course session, participants will complete an online, researcher-developed questionnaire which will focus on their level of engagement and will participate in a virtual focus group to determine their perceptions of the effect of these two teaching methodologies survey on online student engagement. The investigators will conduct the focus group session. Participants will be informed at the time of invitation to participate that upon completion of the questionnaire and focus group, they will be entered into a drawing to win one of two IPADs (a total of four IPADs will be given away over the two sessions).

On the specific date and time established and agreed upon by the instructor and the students, an Adobe Connect session will be scheduled. Students will be required to establish audio capability as part of the participation criteria. Video capability will be encouraged but not required.  All participants will signon to the session. Students will be assessed on the quality of the presentation for the initial preparation on the assigned topic, critical thinking quality in interpreting the topic, and their response to their classmates according to the rubric specifications.  Evaluation of the student’s presentation and response to their classmates will be performed utilizing the rubric for discussions. One of the investigators, who is also course faculty, will moderate the discussion. Each session will be recorded and available for instructor evaluation purposes and student review. Scores will be entered into Moodle with specific feedback included.

The asynchronous assignments will be presented as traditional discussion forums. Students will be given an assignment and will be required to respond to at least one posting by a classmate who is in the study.  These will consist of the assignments that all other students enrolled in the course (and not in the study) will be required to complete, and the assignment will be evaluated using the grading rubric developed for these assignments.


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