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Occupational Therapy Students Make the Most of Online Learning

Occupational Therapy Students Make the Most of Online Learning

I am pleased to share a guest blog with you today, written by Megan Edgelow, an Assistant Professor in the School of Rehabilitation Therapy. She is an occupational therapist and an educational researcher.

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The Spring has unfolded in some unexpected ways for first-year students of the MSc in Occupational Therapy (OT) Program. Students returned to campus in early March, fresh from their first two-month clinical placements across the province, and the country, ready to dig into a Spring term of learning while applying their recently expanded clinical skills. Just one week of face-to-face learning took place before students left campus and courses moved online due to Covid-19, and students once again found themselves scattered across the country when learning resumed online late-March.

For my teaching, the move online presented some challenges in OT852 “Group Theory and Process”. This course traditionally blends group theory and practical group leadership experiences, with teams of OT students designing and leading health-oriented groups for community volunteers in the Faculty of Health Science’s Clinical Education Centre. While theory may lend itself to online lectures and textbook readings, the applied learning activities in the course were more difficult to reconceptualize. Thankfully, with some creative thinking, and the flexibility of the OT students, all the learning objectives could be met remotely.

Occupational Therapy Students Make the Most of Online LearningMy course team and the students turned our usual face-to-face class times into regular Zoom sessions covering the necessary group theory, and then used the “breakout rooms” feature of Zoom to allow the students to work in teams. These smaller online rooms provided the students with a virtual environment where they could effectively engage in group collaboration, including the designing and planning of OT group sessions, while continuing to receive essential formative feedback from instructors.

To replace the in-person Clinical Education Centre experience, further creativity was needed. This year, the OT students designed “Healthy Aging” groups, creating content to address the physical, emotional, social and spiritual factors that influence the aging process, responding to the performance and engagement issues that the aging process can bring. Teams of students designed online group sessions around a variety of topics, including falls prevention, physical activity, leisure activity, time use and routines, spirituality, and coping skills for use in daily life and with the stress of Covid-19. Students then recruited adults and older adults from their own lives, including parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, family friends and neighbours to volunteer as their group participants.

Occupational Therapy Students Make the Most of Online LearningOver the course of two weeks in May, 10 teams led and recorded three group sessions each, for a total of 30 “Healthy Aging” group sessions, with over 50 community participants.

Feedback from the participants was overwhelmingly positive. They learned new things about staying healthy later in life, as well as ways to cope in daily life and during the global pandemic, and they appreciated the opportunity to connect remotely with the OT students and other participants during a particularly isolated time. Some participants even asked to keep in touch with each other to keep applying their learning and supporting one other.

For myself and my co-instructors, who had the pleasure of watching the recorded group sessions and providing the OT students with feedback on their leadership skills, the learning was clear. Our students designed creative, engaging and supportive sessions for their participants, learning about leadership in a new way during an unprecedented time in health care.

Given the ongoing need for flexibility in health service delivery, and the expanding nature of telehealth and remote health care, this learning experience sows the seeds for these OT students as future action-oriented, responsive and adaptive leaders. This evolving health care environment continues to provide opportunities for Occupational Therapists to lead in health systems adaptations, addressing issues of performance and engagement, and focusing on meaning, purpose and connection with patients and clients as their health journeys unfold in real time.

Chloe Moore

Thu, 05/28/2020 - 10:25

It seems like these students are still receiving a wonderful learning experience from their own homes. I am truly impressed with Professor Megan Edgelow's ability to adapt the course during this global pandemic's stay-at-home order. She is definitely an asset to the faculty.

Chloe Moore

Heidi Cramm

Thu, 05/28/2020 - 10:46

What a great example of adaptation and innovation during a pandemic! The OT students have really benefited from this leadership experience. Congratulations!

Heidi Cramm

I agree with you Heidi,

This crisis has challenged us, but it’s also motivated us and forced us to think differently.

Thanks for your comment.

Richard

Richard Reznick

Sarah Wise

Thu, 05/28/2020 - 10:52

This was an incredibly valuable experience, for not only the participants per say, but also for us as future OT practitioners! I found this experience to be eye opening to the possibilities of telehealth. With the uncertainties of Covid-19 looming over us as future health care providers, it has been great to get virtual care experience.

Sarah Wise

Thanks for your comments Sarah. It’s fascinating to see if that while we have been trying to incentivize and motivate the use of virtual health in this province for a long time, the necessities placed on us by Covid have catapulted us to a brand new level.

Richard

Richard Reznick

It's true, Sara & Richard, the speed with which we have all innovated over the past 3 months is astounding. I feel confident that our OT students have met the current challenge and will continue to as future health professionals.

Megan Edgelow

Hailey Muir

Thu, 05/28/2020 - 11:07

This was such a wonderful and unique learning experience. It was daunting at first the thought of leading a group online but I found I learned so many additional communication and problem solving skills from this experience. I don't think I would have learned these same skills by doing this group in person. Thanks so much to Megan for this wonderful experience!

Hailey Muir

Thanks for your comments Hailey, It’s quite incredible with the powerful combination of a motivated teacher, and incredible students, can accomplish.

Richard

Richard Reznick

Imasha Perera

Thu, 05/28/2020 - 11:08

I just want to thank Megan and the teaching assistants for the amount of work they put into making this class as enriching as it was during our current circumstances. I learned so much about leadership and running effective groups that create meaningful change in people's lives. For me, this class really solidified how great of a profession occupational therapy is and has gotten me more passionate and excited for my future practice.

Imasha Perera

Imasha,

What a great comment. It’s so great to see this positive feedback, and to see how much this experience is inspiring you on your journey to become an occupational therapist.

Richard

Richard Reznick

Renee Bucci

Thu, 05/28/2020 - 11:11

I am blown away by the dedication and commitment of our OT students, especially within the OT852 Group Theory and Process course! Such great and innovative work!

Renee Bucci

Sara FitzPatrick, first year OT Student at Queen's University

Thu, 05/28/2020 - 11:40

Having the opportunity to provide group programming via the online zoom format was not what we expected to have to complete when this semester began. However, these sessions really went wonderfully, and all of my team's participants really enjoyed our Coping with COVID coping skills series. I think there is an added bonus of providing group programming on the Zoom platform, in that it gave our participants an incentive to download the app which they can now use to increase their socialization throughout these trying times. Megan Edgelow has been a great instructor and has really worked to mitigate any of the class's concerns about the transition to an online format. I am so glad to have been able to run programming for not only people within my community but people across the country. The first year OT class has really shown a strong work ethic and a commitment to learning this whole term! Cheers to us.

Sara FitzPatrick, first year OT Student at Queen's University

Peter McPherson

Thu, 05/28/2020 - 12:27

Fantastic story of the importance of flexible thinking in both teaching and learning. Well done!!

Peter McPherson

Lauren Mckinley

Thu, 05/28/2020 - 14:20

I am extremely proud of my program, teaching staff, and fellow classmates for being so adaptive and creative during this unprecedented time! Thank you Megan and teaching assistants for providing us with this invaluable learning opportunity. It will help tremendously in our practice as future OTs!

Lauren Mckinley

I agree Lauren, well said! I am equally proud of the class, my teaching team, and the program for their adaptability and feel very optimistic about you and your peers as future leaders in health care.

Megan Edgelow

Susanne Murphy

Thu, 05/28/2020 - 14:42

Thank you for sharing this example of flexibility, creativity and connection with the community. Congratulations on your success and your dedication to creating exceptional learning experiences for our OT learners, regardless of the situational factors. Wonderful work Megan!

Susanne Murphy

Susanne Murphy

Linna Tam-Seto

Thu, 05/28/2020 - 15:13

Thanks for sharing this story. What a great piece demonstrating creativity to support the learning needs of occupational therapy students! As well- a fantastic example of how health access challenges may be addressed. Well done, Megan!

Linna Tam-Seto

Janette Leroux

Thu, 05/28/2020 - 16:03

Inspiring to hear about this instructor adapting so quickly to these circumstances, and preserving important shared learning components of this particular course. It sounds as if the added administrative work of setting up virtual spaces for exchange has really paid of for the students. Congratulations and thanks for sharing.

Janette Leroux

Thank you Janette for your thoughtful comment, coming from an innovative instructor like you, it is all the more meaningful. I agree that the work of creating virtual spaces pays dividends in instructional impact.

Megan Edgelow

Frankie Chan

Thu, 05/28/2020 - 17:04

A real enriching experience for us students even in face of shifting our activities to an online platform. Glad and appreciative that we had the opportunity to provide a place of common ground and growth during these difficult times!

Frankie Chan

Frankie & Richard- what good insights about the unique experience of Covid-19. I hope to look back on this blog post in a decade and reflect on this moment in history.

Megan Edgelow

Rosemary Lysaght

Thu, 05/28/2020 - 18:08

What was particularly impressive was the way Megan and her team did such a quick pivot to allow the students to meet the course competency goals in the context of the online platform. It is a great example of creativity and flexibility, and a nice model for others teaching courses with practical skill requirements.

Rosemary Lysaght

Bill Moore, Meds '62

Thu, 05/28/2020 - 18:12

Thanks Megan! Your contribution to the Dean's blog is outstanding in its clarity about how faculty has been challenged and responded so effectively to COVID-19 restrictions. Quick adaptation to changing circumstances is what continues to make Queen's a leader in health sciences. Keep up adapting and inspiring your students.

Bill Moore, Meds '62

Thank you for your interest and your kind comment, Bill. I am so pleased to have the opportunity to share our hard work in the OT Program with our alumni community!

Megan Edgelow

Hanan Abdu

Thu, 05/28/2020 - 20:40

I truly appreciated having the opportunity to create group sessions that focused on promoting health and well-being. I appreciated the process and found it to be an enriching learning experience. It'll be interesting to see how much Tele-Health can grow in the future. Thank you Megan for being so accomodating and making our OT852 class manageable, even during these trying times. It's been a pleasure!

Hanan Abdu

Grace Manalili

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 08:35

I would like to thank Megan for delivering this course in an exciting and interesting way despite our transition to online school during this time. Now that I think of it, having this experience of running group therapy online is especially important as the use of telehealth increases!

Grace Manalili

I agree with you and Megan. I’m also confident that in the next decade with the confluence of artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and Virtual Reality, we will see a major transformation to the way we deliver healthcare.

Richard

Richard Reznick

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