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Faculty Buy-In Leads to Improved Student Outcomes at Columbus State LPN Program

Mandi Mauck, Program Coordinator of Columbus State Community College’s LPN program, has experienced a lot of change since she started teaching at CSCC in the spring of 2014. And with each new change, she has learned one thing for certain: faculty buy-in is critically important to driving student success.

When Mauck began teaching at CSCC, the program was using ATI products and its NCLEX pass rate was at 82% — hovering around the state average. During this time, all four faculty members in the traditionally small LPN program were studying for their master’s degrees.

“We were hearing all these things about concept-based, and studying it in school and talking about it to our classmates and professors,” Mauck said. “I really think the instructors in the PN program at that time just bought into it and everybody just really believed in it.”

Transitioning to a Concept-Based Curriculum

The faculty wanted to make the change to a concept-based curriculum (CBC) and met with an Elsevier representative to learn more about the products that could help them do just that. Mauck, who was familiar with other Elsevier products from using them at a previous institution, had enjoyed her experience and was hopeful to return to Elsevier. Ultimately, the LPN program decided to make the switch to a CBC with the help of Elsevier products.

“We were really lucky because everyone was really into it,” Mauck said. “It was a lot of work. It took a lot of time. We had to figure out how to do it, but I think the faculty buy-in was what made it so successful from the beginning.”

One of the products the faculty implemented was Nursing Concepts Online (NCO) — not only to use the resources available, but also to help organize themselves and their students.

“The Nursing Concepts Online just has so much to offer,” Mauck said. “We make our own folders for our courses, so we pull things from the Elsevier platform and we put them in those folders for our students.”

For example, faculty will create a folder labeled “Week One” within NCO and pull everything students will use during the first week of the course into that folder. Mauck explained this helps students find what they need, which makes it easier for faculty to hold students accountable.

Additionally, Mauck explained NCO is a good starting place for faculty to get ideas for active learning strategies and better understand CBC.

“Figuring out how to teach in concept-based style, a lot of the ideas and things we had been doing weren’t really concept-based,” Mauck said. “They weren’t really active learning. Looking into the NCO gave us ideas. It also provides learning to those faculty that are just trying to figure out how to make a concept-based curriculum.”

Mauck gave an example of an active learning strategy her colleague used in the pediatrics course. She said the instructor had students bring their laptops to class, open a SimChart® scenario, look at the orders for their pediatric patient in pain, and order Tylenol. The instructor pulled bottles of infant Tylenol from the skills lab and purposely made the measurements on the bottles different from the order. The students had to realize it was the wrong concentration of Tylenol and determine what to do, how to chart the discrepancy, and whom to notify. Then, the instructor provided the Tylenol in the correct dose and the students had to do the math to determine the correct dosage for the patient.

“She did that in a 15-minute, small group session, but they covered safe dose range, six rights of meds, safety, and math,” Mauck said. “They covered so many things and that’s one of the things we really like about the active learning strategies, especially as they get further into the program. We can throw so many things at them at once in one activity and that’s what they’re going to see when they’re practicing nursing.”

The switch to a CBC is also paying off in the program’s NCLEX pass rate. Since switching to a CBC, the NCLEX pass rate has risen from 82% in 2014 to 100% in 2018 for students who took the exam within six months of graduating.

EAQ Superstar Contest

For second semester students, Mauck explained faculty assign one or more Elsevier assignments every week, typically involving Elsevier Adaptive Quizzing (EAQ).

“We do that because we know they help the students think and they help the students learn,” Mauck said.

The entire Practical Nursing faculty gives the students a lot of support with EAQ in the beginning, to get them comfortable with using the tool.

“Every single week in their first class, I’ll demo to the class, this week you have an EAQ due and show them how to find it and complete,” Mauck said. “When students are comfortable, they’ll go in and play with it more.”

With EAQ assignments, the PN program requires students to reach a certain level to earn points. First semester students must reach level one. After the first semester, students must reach a level two or three to receive points.

However, faculty were struggling to get students to leverage EAQ outside of assignments to study more and strengthen their weaknesses. To encourage students to do this, Mauck and her faculty created an “EAQ Superstar Contest” — a friendly competition to see who could complete the most EAQ questions. After a student completed 200 medical-surgical questions on his/her own, Mauck gave them a star on an EAQ Superstar bulletin board in lab.

“I was going to do it for every 100 questions after that, they would get a new star, but they were doing so many questions that I did it for every 200-300 questions,” Mauck said. “It became a contest in the class. The students would see what other students were getting.”

At the end of the semester, Mauck had two EAQ Superstar winners who had completed more than 1,000 questions each on their own time.

“They were doing my class, plus clinical for my class, plus another pharm class,” Mauck said. “They didn’t have a lot of free time, but they were so engaged in it.”

The lowest number of questions completed by a student was around 300-400 questions, which Mauck said was still more than she had ever seen in any of her other classes.

Using HESI Data Reports

CSCC also uses HESI Specialty Exams and the Exit Exam in the LPN program. After students take their first exam, Mauck said she shows them how to interpret their individualized HESI student report. HESI automatically highlights students’ weak areas within these reports and delivers personalized remediation, so first semester instructors use this time to stress the importance of remediating these areas, rather than studying what they already know.

“We want to identify those weaknesses now, not when they get to the end of the program, a month before NCLEX,” Mauck said. “We spend a lot of time that first semester learning about the products themselves, but we do want them to be able to look at their reports and say, ‘I’m doing really well in this area so let’s not do 100 EAQs in this area. Let’s do an area where I need to improve on.’”

Faculty also look at HESI reports at the end of each semester to compare their students’ scores to the national average and previous cohorts. Mauck said they identify if the area of weakness was due to lack of student preparation or a lack of coverage in the curriculum.

“If there is a need, then we look at ways to tweak the course to enhance those areas of weakness,” Mauck said.

In the last semester of the program, Mauck said another instructor, Rochelle Burton, uses the proctored examinations to assess students' readiness to sit for the NCLEX. The results are then used to turn weaknesses into strengths prior to completing the licensure examination. This, along with the HESI Live Review, have had a significant impact on NCLEX pass rates for their first-time testers.

Words of Advice

Mauck said using several Elsevier products together has been beneficial for faculty in planning their courses, but more importantly, it has paid back in dividends with student success.

“The products teach the students how to think,” Mauck said. “I feel like with the products I’ve used prior to Elsevier, the students were memorizing answers. That’s what they got by on. If anything in there was altered, they couldn’t figure it out. There is no way we can teach them everything they need to know to be a nurse, but we can teach them to think so they can act like nurses.”

Lastly, Mauck explained how important faculty buy-in is when implementing the various products.

“If the faculty is comfortable with the products and believes they are valuable products, then the students will feed off that,” Mauck said. “Try to really impress upon them that we’re going to give you the knowledge and show you how to think, but these products are how you’re going to pass your test. This is how you will be able to learn to think like a nurse. Faculty buy-in goes a long way.”