Dedicated faculty helping students with distance learning

Accelerated nursing student Melissa Robertson with Assistant Professor of Nursing Andrew Donadio.

COOKEVILLE – Tennessee Tech students are completing courses successfully thanks to the dedication of the university’s faculty.

For Assistant Professor of Nursing Andrew Donadio, distance learning came easy.

“I used Zoom often during my doctoral program,” he said. “When I first was hired with the university, I asked for a Zoom Pro account, its ease of use makes it invaluable. I like to have those student engagement rooms.”

He also enjoys the flexibility Zoom allows outside of regular office hours.

For his lectures, he uses the Voice Over PowerPoint feature. That gives him the ability to supplement a presentation with voice over or other audio, which can turn a presentation from a plain set of slides into a self-contained instructional asset that stands alone and can be used by students to self-teach.

When he uploads an assignment into iLearn and the student submits it for grading, he uses Zoom to record his feedback and grade on that assignment, then upload it for the student to view.

“It’s all about student engagement,” Donadio said. “That’s the hard part.”

Accelerated nursing student Melissa Robertson admits to not being technologically savvy, which gave her a bit of anxiety about going online to do courses and exams.

“I have been more relaxed at home as well as improved my test scores,” she said. “I attribute this to being in a more relaxed environment, per se. However, with every test comes the fear of internet interruptions. The TTU nursing staff has soared above and beyond the call of duty by providing each student with their cell phone number to be used in times of testing emergencies.”

Robertson, who is referred to by Donadio as “the class mother,” earned her BS in interdisciplinary studies with concentrations in chemistry and teaching/learning in 2017 – 30 years after originally starting college. She was a single parent at the time she started college the first time, beginning at Cleveland State Community College and then the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, while working full-time for a home health agency.

She later married, had a second child, and eventually moved back to her hometown, Jamestown, where she ran a photography business while homeschooling her youngest son.

In December 2015, her husband had health problems and a fire caused serious damage to their property. Through all of that, she managed to complete her interdisciplinary degree, which was used as a springboard to apply for the accelerated nursing program.

Prior to COVID shutting campus and clinical sites down, the nursing staff was proactive in scheduling additional clinicals for students, allowing those to be completed before mandated shutdowns took place.

“For a group filled with proactive students, online projects have worked fine,” Robertson said. “Study groups have continued with the use of Zoom meetings as well as Face Time and we have managed to stay the course.”

As for online simulation labs, they do take longer to complete, but Robertson said it was still effective to fulfill that portion of her education.

“There was no preparation for going to distance learning,” she said. “I’ve done what the nursing program prepared me to do – rise above it. Embrace it. I am proud of the fact that I’ve been able to adapt and work with the skills I’ve been equipped with.”

She graduates in August with her nursing degree and already has a job lined up at Cookeville Regional Medical Center. 

Her youngest son will also graduate with a chemistry degree at the same time.

“Becoming a nurse is a 30-year dream which is finally coming true,” she said.

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