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The University of West Alabama’s (UWA’s) education and nursing programs have hands-on field experiences during which instructors watch the students teach or work in a health-care environment and provide feedback on their work. When the programs went online, the institution faced the problem of providing these experiences to distance students.

The institution originally used an on-site skills lab, but this led to faculty spending a tremendous amount of time evaluating student performance. Using rigid time blocks for scheduling, faculty members averaged 24–36 hours per semester evaluating critical skills.

The solution was GoReact, a video recording platform that allows instructors and students to produce videos on their smartphones. For instance, an education instructor can record a video of themselves demonstrating questioning techniques and how a few alternative word choices can take a question from a knowledge to an analysis level of thinking rigor. Online students can then view the video and see how a teacher works in a classroom.

The system also allows students to create videos of themselves and submit them for instructor feedback. One nice feature of the system is that the instructor can provide feedback at specific places within the video. The instructor watches the student’s video and stops it to enter a comment. Then, when the student watches the feedback, the video pauses whenever a comment appears. This allows students a chance to see exactly when a practice is praised or corrected.

Besides offering performance feedback to students at a distance, videos also serve students who are anxious about performing in front of instructors and others. The video system gives students the opportunity to record demonstrations as often as they wish. Students can record new parts of lessons to receive feedback. For instance, a student with an idea for an exciting and thought-provoking start to a lesson can record that beginning alone and get feedback on how well it worked.

Moreover, video gives students the opportunity to see their teaching performance, which often alerts them to the subtle ways they improve or diminish the lesson. Through self-evaluation, students can correct or add to their performance for the next video session. The system may also be used for peer evaluation. Students can view each other’s videotaped lessons and give opinions based on evaluation rubrics. The instructor simply sets up a cohort group within the video recording system, giving all within the cohort the ability to view one another’s videos and offer constructive criticism and praise.

Student education interns use the videos to facilitate the teacher certification process. One step in the process requires the applicant to submit video examples of their teaching. The videos students submit are saved on the platform and, from there, can be easily uploaded to their certification portfolios. Eventually, UWA hopes to build a repository of student teaching videos to serve as models (both good and bad) for instructors to incorporate into their courses.

Our educational leadership and counseling programs use the online video recording tool to train future school and district leaders by practicing administrative tasks—such as conducting data meetings with teachers, leading observation and evaluation discussions with teachers, and rehearsing parent conferences—in a safe but realistic practice environment.

Nursing is using the online video recording tool as a means to validate medication administration, health assessment, intravenous catheter insertion, and indwelling urinary catheter insertion. Students perform their skills in school-constructed simulation rooms that allow them to practice in in a lifelike atmosphere with reduced distractions. The students are also given rubrics for each skill to evaluate their performance prior to submitting video. If an error is self-identified, they have the option to rerecord the skill. After submission, the recorded skill is then evaluated by a faculty member.

The online video recording tool has made it easy for faculty to evaluate student performance. Faculty have the option to pause, rewind, and slow down the video, increasing the accuracy of their assessment. Giving time-coded feedback through text, video, or customizable markers allows them to provide students with valuable feedback. Through a combination of faculty-directed practice and accurate, time-coded feedback, students improve quickly. As a result, clinical faculty and simulation coordinators consistently report that students are performing critical skills at a high level within the clinical setting.

Following the integration of the online video recording tool, the time faculty spent evaluating skills decreased to an average of 11 hours. Now faculty evaluate student videos at a time and place that is convenient for them. With only four full-time faculty teaching critical skills in our program, GoReact has not only improved student outcomes but decreased the faculty’s workload.

We have learned some lessons from using video in our coursework. One is that students often do not have enough memory on their phones to record multiple videos for upload. To solve this issue, UWA purchased relatively inexpensive iPods that students may check out to use for filming during their internships. Also, voices can sometimes be difficult to hear in recordings, so UWA offers wireless, plug-and-play lapel microphones for students to use when filming.

The use of student-recorded videos has solved the problem of teaching subjects online that require field experience. Video recording also enriches our students’ on-campus experience—a win-win for all.

Susan Hester, MEd, is the coordinator of the Black Belt Teacher Corps; Dara Murray, MSN, an assistant professor of nursing; Sara Reynolds, MEd, the coordinator of clinical experiences; and Katie Smith, MSN, an assistant professor of nursing at the University of West Alabama.