Risk-taking and the virtual EMS classroom
“The ‘new normal’ won’t work if you can’t break the traditional classroom mold”
By Dan Limmer
While we don’t always look at it exactly this way, EMS classes are quilts. We piece together lecture, dynamic exercises, group activities, lab experiences, homework, clinicals and testing. We produce EMS providers by this crazy, frenetic, traditional and strangely beautiful process. We adeptly herd our frequently attention-challenged charges through the process. I sometimes marvel that we do manage to create EMS providers at the end.
When we do this in the traditional brick and mortar classroom, it feels right. Both the educator and the student see it as “normal” and progress along relatively sure and confident.
Why is this so different in the online space?
Teaching online vs. teaching in a classroom
Many of us look at increased online education as the “new normal” (I am so sick of hearing that term). Yet it feels far from normal. There are several reasons for this:
- It has been forced upon us without notice
- Many have minimal experience in online education
- Both students and educators perceive EMS classes as needing a strong in-person component
- We value the in-person contact we have in class – it gives us a connection and a feeling of stability
But there is one reason that may be the biggest and most difficult to admit: Many educators lack the time, creativity, and risk-taking attitude such a dramatic change requires.
I have taught hundreds of classes to educators over the years. I frequently do a Kahoot poll for attendees. In it, I ask what the biggest hindrance to adopting a flipped classroom is. I give the choices of administration buy-in, student buy-in, financial issues, creativity and time. Without exception, either creativity or time (with the other being a second choice) are the biggest. I added the risk-taking component for this article.
The “new normal” won’t work if you can’t break the traditional classroom mold. Doing that takes a risk. There is no way around it.
Creative risk-taking in EMS education
How do you know if you are taking risks? Have you:
- Had to ask another educator if they think an idea would work?
- Tried something you have never done before – and weren’t sure if it would work right through to the moment you posted it online?
- Tried a new type of technology for the first time?
- Had an idea that didn’t work, and you improved it for next time?
These things are risks. Not blind or crazy risks. Creative risks. Taking these types of risks is how we move online, grow and serve our students well.
The classroom quilt we are used to making in the traditional classroom has a place in online education in a couple of ways. The first is that some of the tools and things you do in the traditional classroom will still work online. The second is that you will build a new online quilt. You will create a series of connections and activities that, in totality, will create a successful online class presentation.
Be sure to take this plan, this quilt you have made, and present it confidently to your students. Show them the whole plan. Let them know that participation is required. Assure them it will work and that you will be there for them even if you aren’t in the same room several times per week.
The dedication you used in the traditional class still works online. The love for your students and your passion for EMS can shine online. The next thing you know, you will be turning out better students and adding to your quilt each class.
You will see; it was worth the risk.
Read next: Virtual EMS education: Growing pains and lessons learned