Preparing for a New Semester

Updated: Nov 21, 2019

The beginning of a new term is often exciting filled with changes. As an instructor, you'll be tasked with getting your course in tip top shape for the next group of students.

The new academic year is fast approaching! Whether you are new to nursing education or seasoned and experienced, the idea of beginning the term can be daunting. Just thinking about getting everything ready for the students can be overwhelming. Many nursing educators have a strong desire to influence students’ future nursing practice. One of the best ways to do this is to be prepared and ready for the students on that first day. And that first day is coming soon!

As I think about what needs to be done before the first day of the class I am teaching, I feel a sense of urgency. The syllabus needs to be completed, the first class needs to be prepared, and I need to have a plan in place for the rest of the semester. How can I get this done in time? For me, pausing, taking a deep breath, and breaking down each of these tasks helps manage the anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed. Once the feelings are addressed, I just need to sit down and get started. What are you waiting for? Remember that creating a class is the “art” of nursing education.

Let's begin by tackling the syllabus.

Most nursing programs have a syllabus template that includes relevant college and nursing policies. This is great! Begin by reviewing the policies so that you are knowledgeable when students ask or have academic situations. The parts of the syllabus that you may be required to complete are the evaluation or assessment section and the course topic outline. These are crucial to the organization and understanding of the class. Some key tips:

Review the existing course syllabus (if there is one). Determine what you can keep, and what needs to change. It may be helpful to ask the last person who taught the course for suggestions about what worked and what may need revision.
Keep course outcomes, content, and concepts the same. Avoid changing these without approval from the appropriate person(s). This is to ensure the students are addressing relevant topics and concepts needed for nursing practice across a curriculum.
Align each course outcome / objective with a learning activity and an evaluation / assessment method.

Preparation for the first day can begin!

Be sure to check with your tech department to make sure there isn't any additional equipment or adapters you will need. Make sure your devices are compatible with the lecture space in advance.

Once the syllabus is completed, you will have an overview of the class! The next step is preparing for the first day, which can be one of the scariest. Even though I have been teaching for thirty years, I am nervous on that first day. The first impression is important and directly relates to how students perceive you as the teacher and how the class will operate

during the term. Some key tips:

Be early, have equipment set up and ready to start.
Greet students as they enter. Welcome them to class.
Begin class on time.
Avoid making statements like, "This is my first time teaching". This is similar to a nurse telling a patient, "This is the first time I have given an injection".
Plan an icebreaker so that you can get to know students, and they can get to know you. Ideas for icebreaker activities can be found here.
Do not dismiss the class early -- this sets a precedence for the rest of the semester. Use class time wisely to orient students to the syllabus, class expectations and first lesson (if time permits).
Be enthusiastic, sincere, and have fun!

Wanting more tips and tricks?

For more information on nursing instruction, student tips, or professional trends and updates. Be sure to read through some of our other RN2ED posts! If you are wanting something catered more to your needs or are interested in learning more about Connect, fill our the contact form for your free 15-minute consultation.

Good luck with the upcoming semester!

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