Implementation of Team-based Learning in an Accelerated, Online, Asynchronous Graduate Nursing Course to Assess Competency-based Outcomes

Concurrent Session 3
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

Competency-based educational models require students to apply their knowledge, skills, and abilities to create solutions to contemporary, professional issues. Team-based learning creates an exciting environment that feels realistic and lifelike and allows students the opportunity to demonstrate competency of weekly, course, and program goals within any educational program.

Extended Abstract

Traditional educational models, both on-ground and online, for students of all levels include lecture, some contributory discussion from students, occasional team assignments, assessment via examinations, and timely completion of assignments.  Students complete the assignments, submit the assignments within a required period of time, receive their grades, and move through the course successfully meeting or failing to meet the course objectives. Faculty use course and program objectives as the outcome measurement tools and generally communicate with students in a one-way fashion. 

In contrast, team-based learning models include several active components which require both individual and team-based responses. Components can include items such as an open, team pre-test to assess understanding of assigned pre-class work, a team response to a professional topic which might include rapid organization and adoption of roles, presentation of a response, solicitation of contributions from peers, and final collation of the assignment response.  Assessment of each student’s contributions and the team’s cumulative final response to the assignment by the faculty are components of the final assignment grade. Throughout the process the faculty role is to continuously assess student response to team leadership requirements, peer contributions to the team, guidance as needed to problem solve, and grading of the final submission.

Unlike traditional course design which lists course and programmatic outcomes, competency-based educational models include 3 to 6 learning “competencies” per credit hour in each course similar to course objectives.  Learning competencies are main ideas or skills generally described by the industry the student is pursuing.  Students should master a learning competency weekly, at course completion, woven throughout the program curriculum, and integrated at program completion. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) have defined 7 core competencies that define career readiness:  Critical Work Thinking/Problem Solving, Oral/ Written Communications, Teamwork/Collaboration/ Information Technology Application, Leadership, Professionalism and Ethic. Professional organizations including the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) have identified core competencies specifically related to their profession.

Enrollment in online educational programs at all levels and types of programs, including nursing, has grown over the last 10 years at an astonishing pace and enrollment was pushed higher by the onset of the pandemic. The adoption by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) of competency based educational models for all nursing programs, along with other major professional organizations, makes examination of traditional delivery of education a priority. It is essential for educational programs and faculty to examine methods that increase students’ ability to think critically and apply their knowledge in a collaborative manner to novel situations to demonstrate proficiency in expected professional competencies. Team-based learning has been shown to improve student learning and application of knowledge to complex questions across settings. Team-based assignment activities provide observable and measurable opportunities for faculty assessment purposes.

In an online, asynchronous, accelerated educational program it can be difficult via the traditional question and answer discussion format for faculty to truly determine competency in assignment and course objectives.  Additionally, the question of students accessing external, unapproved resources to complete a traditional assignment is omnipresent, even more so in online, asynchronous programs. Team-based learning in the traditional, face to face, on-ground classroom has been noted to improve two-way communication between students and faculty and increase demonstration of competency in problem solving and consensus.  Team- based learning with the requirement of rapid responses to the problem of the week and integration of all team members’ participation, along with frequently changing the subject of the assignment while keeping the same competencies essentially eliminates the ability of students to access unapproved resources to complete an assignment.

Competency based education applied across integrated experiences over time and through each course in a program produces a reflective, competent graduate.  Team-based learning is one effective means to present competency expectations and observe and measure student developmental progress towards practice competency.

Session Description and Planning for Interactivity (45 minutes)

Participants in this session will be exposed to 15 minutes of introduction to competency- based education, team-based learning, and how to implement team-based learning to assess competency in an online, asynchronous, accelerated course (5 minutes each topic).

Following this discussion participants will be quickly and randomly assigned to teams and given a problem to respond to with these competencies required:  Critical Work Thinking/Problem Solving, Oral/ Written Communications, Teamwork/Collaboration, and Leadership. The problem will be finding “at least three things in common” which is a quick means of determining commonality with each other through question and answers between individuals who do not know anything about each other. During this time they will be exposed to a brief, one question pre-test and then have five minutes to discuss and prepare a brief response.  A verbal post-test will then take place to assess competency.

Participants will have to appoint roles, organize their questioning, and determine categories. The participants will then present a quick summary of findings.  The team with the most responses wins (15 minutes).  The remainder of the session will be devoted to lessons learned by the speaker when initially introducing and implementing team-based learning in asynchronous, online accelerated graduate nursing courses.  Finally, questions and feedback from participants will be solicited.

Session Goals

This session goals are to introduce the process, usefulness and appropriateness of team-based learning to assess competencies in an online, asynchronous course setting as well as “lessons learned” from one program.  Participants will leave the session with the application skills and knowledge to explore the use of team-based learning in the pursuit of competency-based education and assessment.  Fundamental knowledge of competency-based education is also briefly discussed.