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Taking Aim at Good Teaching: Utilizing Technology to Engage & Evaluate Learners

By: Andrew Bobal, EdD, and Jenny O’Rourke, PhD, APRN, CHSE

Often a cooperative experience provides learners with an opportunity to grow. This growth experience took place at the 2021 NLN Education Summit during a packed workshop that brought faculty together to learn how technology is used to engage and evaluate learners. The Taking Aim at Good Teaching: Utilizing Technology to Engage & Evaluate Learners workshop employed a unique strategy—having faculty experience the technology while actively immersed in their own learning. 

The workshop provided educators from around the country an opportunity to collaborate on different tools and learning strategies. Leading by example, we introduced several learning tools, many incorporating gamification elements. The tools simulated real-world opportunities for attendees to apply to their own teaching. To extinguish blah didactic lecture approaches, for example, the entire group explored a variety of collaboration activities and tools that promote engagement. Mackavey and Cron (2019) discuss the importance of providing a variety of engaging tasks for nursing students, especially those that include gamification elements.

The day started with an overview of brain science principles and why gaming and interactivity work in the classroom. Next, faculty broke into small groups and were asked to brainstorm activities to meet sample course objectives introduced through case studies. The case studies challenged faculty to think about the level of the student (undergraduate vs graduate), size of the course (25 vs 100 students), type of course (e.g., pharmacology vs ethics), delivery of the course (online, in-person, hybrid), and time of day when the course is offered. In talking through these variables, faculty dialogued about how one size does not fit all and how important it is for interactive tools to match not only the course objectives but the context and environment of the learning. It was evident that the participants enjoyed the session and the authenticity of the information being presented. They engaged with colleagues, asked questions for clarification, and provided examples from their own teaching.

This session was an extension of the 2020 Taking Aim series of webinars hosted by the NLN Division for Innovation in Education Excellence. Although the series originated as a direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic, when campuses needed to close suddenly, the series has expanded to focus on learning from experts who share solutions grounded in today’s neuroscience principles.

We selected technology teaching tools to generate lively participant conversations on how to thoughtfully integrate them into different nursing programs, to add diversity to the learning experience, and increase learner engagement. As educators, we know that assessment is paramount for informing our instruction and providing learners with a gauge of their own learning. Leahy, Lyon, Thompson, and William (2005) spoke of the contract that exists between educator and learner: “Developing assessment for learning in one’s classroom involves altering the implicit contract between teacher and students by creating shared responsibility for learning” (p. 25-26).

We are also aware that tests are not going anywhere, considering that nursing students will always need to be successful in high-stake standardized situations. But assessment in our learning environments does not need to be stressful and high stakes. Engaging our students with fun and interactive methods of instruction can produce a compelling, interesting environment and increase students’ knowledge and confidence in their learning. Zygouris-Coe (2019) defined an engaged learner as someone who “is actively participating, thinking, and questioning, in the learning process; he or she makes connections to existing knowledge and experiences and is reflective about learning.” (p. 56).

As instructors, we hold the ability to foster that engagement and curiosity in learning—or hinder it. If you choose the hinder approach, please reflect on your profession. As educators, there should never be a drive to diminish curiosity to lower engagement and make our learning boring. Sometimes the knowledge is the spark, but more times than not, the spark is generated from the presentation of knowledge in an environment designed with our learners in mind. 


Leahy, S., Lyon, C., Thompson, M., & Wiliam, D. (2005). Classroom assessment minute by minute, day by day. Educational Leadership, 63, 18-24

Mackavey, C., & Cron, S. (2019). Innovative strategies: Increased engagement and synthesis in online advanced practice nursing education. Nurse Education Today, 76, 85-88.

Zygouris-Coe, V. I. (2019). Benefits and challenges of collaborative learning in online teacher education. In Handbook of research on emerging practices and methods for K-12 online and blended learning (pp. 33-56). IGI Global.

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