Nurses, Physical Assessment and Online Learning: A Design Journey

Concurrent Session 8
Equity and Inclusion

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

A healthcare physical assessment course online? Designing at the convergence of nursing education, equity-diversity-inclusion conversations, and online learning, inspired our innovative course design and content decisions. You'll take away practical examples of applying the Community of Inquiry framework and lessons learned from both design and implementation. 


I am both an instructional designer and a nurse with a passion for creating accessible, practical and relevant learning experiences. My threads of professional expertise intertwine in my current work developing a RN to BScN online degree program - a dream project!

Additional Authors

Maggie Lattuca (Masters, Educational Technology, UBC) is currently the Program Manager for Graduate Online Education at Teaching and Learning Services at McGill University. She leads the design, development, and delivery of an online portfolio of fully online graduate degree programs. Before coming to TLS she was the Portfolio Manager of Educational Technology in IT Services, also at McGill. She began her career at McGill in 2005, in the Instructional Multimedia Services unit where she worked as an instructional designer.

Extended Abstract

Two years ago, when plans were set in motion to develop a fully online Bachelor of Nursing program for Registered Nurses, we could not have predicted the degree of relevance of this project. The need for highly skilled nurses has been highlighted by a global pandemic along with the relevance of online learning for sustainable and accessible education. This RN to BScN online program enables nurses to upskill in specialized areas such as critical care and community nursing and prepares them for leadership positions and graduate studies. Current events have also prompted long-overdue conversations around equity, diversity, and inclusion in all sectors of society including higher education. In this landscape, the transformation of a health and physical assessment course for nurses into a fully online experience as part of the online bachelor’s degree program occurred. In this session, we will share with you our methods and lessons learned from this design journey.

The orienting principles we used to keep our design on track will be highlighted: The Community of Inquiry Framework to ensure appropriate interaction and engagement, and Miller’s Pyramid of Clinical Competence to ensure appropriate scaffolding for the development of required knowledge, skills and attitudes. We’ll share some of the innovative strategies we implemented to meet the course learning outcomes, including the reconceptualization of an in-person skills lab into a two-pronged approach to skills practice: 1) individual online simulations that could be completed asynchronously for maximum flexibility, and 2) virtual peer practice sessions to talk through assessment steps of provided case scenarios with guided peer feedback.

Careful consideration was given to make the course design accessible both in format and in activity design, with multiple means of representation used to provide content and prompt critical thinking. Content was also updated to underscore an anti-racist approach to health and physical assessment with selected materials and activities to supplement standard course content such as the textbook.

With the inaugural implementation of the course in Fall 2021, evaluation data on both the course design, student and instructor experience will be shared as lessons learned that will inform the next phase of the program journey.

Session Takeaways:

After attending this session, you will be able to:

  • Discuss course design strategies that helped transform a hands-on, skills-based course into an equivalent online experience with lessons learned from implementation.
  • Identify practical examples of the pillars of the Community of Inquiry Framework in an online course design.
  • Name considerations for equity, diversity and inclusion taken for both course content and design.


Our online course design was informed by the Community of Inquiry Framework. When you attend, you will be assigned one of the three pillars of the Community of Inquiry (Teaching, Cognitive and, Social presence). During the presentation you will identify examples of your pillar’s application in the course design and invited to share these examples and ideas of how its application could be extended.