Faculty Stories: Nicole Nieman


Describe what you are trying to accomplish with the specific project or teaching practice featured here.

There were a couple of classes that we decided that we were going to pre-record lectures for, so that the students would have a library of content that they would be able to have and to save or to use for resources and to reference. When they would get to the end of the program, they need to go back and review content for say, the imaging class (which is extremely technical). They could pull those recorded lectures back out, and they could listen to those recorded lectures and reread through that material and be able to bring it back up for study purposes.

We have some classes that are completely hybrid, meaning that all the lectures are prerecorded. That way, students come to campus, where that four-hour or six-hour scheduled class for the week is completely lab-based. There may be content lectures where the students want to review for an hour, or go through the homework assignment to make sure that everyone is on the same page – so that when we give them that lab assignment we’re going to hand it to them when they walk in the door and expect them to be able to do A, B, C… that they read about, that they did the homework about, that they did the reading about, that they listened to the lecture and watched the lecture about. We need them to be able to come to campus and demonstrate those skills.

There’s about 750 required skills that these students have to do in this two-year program. So, depending on which program you’re in and where they house those essential skills, it will depend what needs to be done in each associated lab component of each class. If a student is required to do certain lab procedures, whether it be ear analysis, bloodwork and fecal exams, and we ask them to come into class and do that, we actually have to physically see them do those skills, and we need to be able to document when we saw those skills accomplished.

Having that hybrid component allows us to expand on the classroom time. Nobody wants to sit and listen to me lecture for an hour, hour and a half, at the beginning of every class. And then get to the stuff that, to be completely honest, for my students is the fun stuff – the doing. They want to do the fecals, they want to run the urine, they want to run the bloodwork, they want to do blood smears, they want to take x-rays, they want to assist with surgeries. That’s the focus.

Some of my lab classes are scheduled to be four hours long. It’s four hours of lab time that we have scheduled because we have the class set up as a hybrid format. So there might be 20, there might be 30, there might be 50 prerecorded lectures in each individual class. If it’s an hour lecture in class, that hour lecture becomes, four, five, or six pieces.


What technology/tools are you using in this project or teaching practice? What is the role of the technology in this project or teaching practice?

When we’re prerecording our lectures, we’re using videos, we’re using pictures, and we’re using PowerPoint exams. We’re using as much stuff as we can use to get students engaged. It doesn’t mean that we can’t read the book. We don’t give them all of the material out of the book. Homework assignments are based on the lecture material and the reading materials that they have to do for each individual class. The students are listening to these lectures, watching these lectures – they can watch them ten times if they want to – they do the homework assignments, they come to lab and it’s like “Alright, what did you guys get from the videos?” What did you guys get from the lecture? What did you guys get from the reading? This is what we’re going to do today, how might we accomplish this? And then we get them to start thinking about how they’re going to be able to work as a team to accomplish all of the tasks that we’re asking them to do on the animals for that particular day.

Our job is to be there, and if they’re struggling with something or struggling with a concept or they can’t quite seem to learn how to do this particular type of blood draw, that’s where we step in and we’re like “Alright, let’s work through this together, let’s get this, and let’s get you guys where you need to go.” By the end of each semester, what we’re finding is these students are able to come in, focus on what they’re confused about in the lecture or the video or the whatever-we-had-them-do so they can do what they need to do in class. We record ourselves doing demonstrations for things or injections or blood draws. And if we have to demonstrate things for students then we’ll demonstrate things for students when they come in. The beauty of it is, for the way that we’re used to working within our program, we are constantly, constantly in communication with the students. If there are online quizzes that a student has for a class, like for imaging, for example, the quizzes, the weekly quizzes, they’re all online.

In vet tech, seventy percent is passing, so “C’s get degrees” is kind of the mantra. So in most vet tech classes you’re going to take those quizzes until you can get a seventy percent. It’s a mastery. Repetition does tend to be key. And not just the repetition in class with the hands-on portion, but the repetition of some of those technical points as well. Because the VTN is delivered on a computer, is all multiple choice questions, two hundred questions, and students get three hours. So they also have to get used to taking some stuff online.

The VTNE is hard. It’s hard. It’s a board exam. And if you can’t read and understand a question and understand what they’re asking, you aren’t going to be able to answer it, you can’t memorize answers. So we’ll give the students online quizzes and we’ll give them unlimited attempts on these quizzes for a week. Class is on Thursdays, so the quiz for the week will open after class on Thursdays, you’ll have until Thursday when class starts, you’ll be able to take that quiz as many times as you want or need to, and you’re basically in control of your learning and your grade. If you take it and you’re happy with a seventy two and you stop taking it, technically, yeah, you’ve passed it because you got over a seventy. However, there are students who are like me: they’ll take it until they get nothing lower than a ninety. That’s fine. And they are absolutely in control of their learning.


How does this project or practice influence student learning?

I bet if you asked most of our students they really prefer having those online lectures, having access to those libraries. We have students that get to the end of the program and they’re getting into the internship, or they’re getting into the boards review class at the end and they’ll come in with a flash drive and they’ll be like “Nicole, can you give me all those prerecorded lectures and just copy them to my flash drive?” I’m like “yeah, absolutely,” because I keep a library for the program, and because the AVMA’s going to ask to see that – because it’s my curriculum.

And the beauty of this is we can email it to a student, or we can share it with a student. We don’t have to use D2L we can copy stuff to flash drives. These guys have libraries of photos, and videos, and lectures, on flash drives when they graduate the program because there’s going to be a lag. Let’s say a student who graduated this semester in may here a couple weeks ago, these guys aren’t going be able to take the boards until November. Students that have graduated the program that need to and want to still have that group study kinda feeling – you know most students do better in groups – we invite those students to come back. I run the boards review class on the same day every semester, the same night at the same time. That class never moves. They do practice tests, they review things, they watch videos, they do whatever the group feels they need to do.


What specific student skills are developed through this project or practice?

The whole program is driven by the requirements from the AVMA.


What comments have you received from students about this project or practice relative to their learning? Do you have a direct quote from a student or students that addresses this?

My students like to draw kitties and hearts. When I get my evals back, they will have a parenthesis and then a kitty with a heart and a parenthesis. (We’re very compassionate in our field.) When we were having Argosy students come in for info sessions and we were having them come in to register – and now that they’ve been on campus for about a week – the overall difference that they were hearing and seeing that we really do focus on that hybrid component and we don’t separate the lecture from the lab component.

The students at Argosy have said “I think I’m really gonna like the classes here better, because you’re gonna have us doing more – but you’re gonna give us the tools online” and we do lecture to a certain extent in every single one of our classes.


How has this project or practice changed the way you teach, or made your teaching better?

The students seem to be more engaged, but it also allows us to have a lot of flexibility within our courses and we’re able to – I kind of feel like over the course of the years we got really good at coming up with far more in class activities to do with the students – to get them engaged rather than just talking at them.


How does this project or practice relate to assessment in your course(s)? How do you assess whether the project or practice has been successful/useful in the above areas – such as impact on student learning?

The VTNE scores will be a good indicator on how we’re doing. Once I get my first set of VTNE scores this year from our first group of students who take it, that will really tell me which classes we need to focus on and pull some more stuff together. It doesn’t tell us which questions they got wrong it just tells us what percentage of the questions they didn’t do well on. But, I used to be a data analyst for a local distributor – I like my spreadsheets. I put all of this information in spreadsheets and I track everything. I also track how many students are failing each class each semester. Did they fail because of the exam, or did they fail because overall in the class because they just didn’t do the work? We try to track as much of that as we can. We will try different testing strategies for midterm and final exams. Sometimes we’ll offer it on paper versus offer it on the computer, and we’ll do it one way one semester and one way the next semester and see if we get the same results or if we see better results one way or the other.