Batman: The online clinical classroom

Jennifer K. Green, Marla S. Burrow, Camille Manning, and Shelley van der Krogt, Massey University

There is a belief that using demonstration pedagogy in face-to-face hands-on teaching is the only real way to teach clinical skills. We discovered a viable alternative.

The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in uncertainty and significant social challenges for students and their whānau/families. During semester two, 2020 we had to rapidly pivot a clinical skills course into a fully online course for 183 first-year nursing students in multiple, distant geographical locations in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The course had been delivered in a hybrid learning environment for three years and existing online course content provided the foundation for the students’ pre-learning for content. Our problem was being unable to deliver the face-to-face, synchronous applied skills lab.

We needed reliable technology compatible with our learning management system to enable us to demonstrate and respond live to student responses. Our low-cost, low-tech solution used live stream webcams for online synchronous teaching.

To support student engagement, we advertised and ran a virtual Happy Hour asking students to bring their beverage of choice. Through shared drawing and responsive activities, we addressed social needs by creating a convivial atmosphere, scaffolded technical skills required in the Zoom environment, and were able to troubleshoot any connectivity issues prior to the classes beginning for the semester (Green, Burrow & Carvalho, 2020). This created a pedagogically sound learning design that addressed students’ technical needs to access and participate flexibly in online learning.

Using the Activity-Centred Analysis and Design framework (ACAD) (Goodyear & Carvalho, 2014) we identified aspects in each of the three key designable components of social, set, and epistemic design. These design aspects coalesce into non-designable, emergent student activities that occur at learn-time and are dependent on the learners and their specific situation.

IncorpBatman as a "live" manikinorating Batman’s superhero back story, his Covid-19 mask, his movements around the world, and his family history, lightened the mood and facilitated discussion and engagement. We knew stress levels were high for students. This approach provided a predictable environment of collegial, convivial, and supportive contact.

The use of Batman as a ‘live’ manikin combined with the students’ ability to ask questions and receive immediate feedback or clarification, led to a significantly enhanced learning experience. The teaching team felt this tangible responsiveness increased student agency in this hybrid learning environment (van der Krogt et al., 2021).

Zoom attendance and external video platforms reports indicated that the style of teaching appeared to align with student needs and interests and allowed for changes to be made week-to-week.

Covid-19 completely transformed learning contexts and we were mindful of the imperative to maintain teaching and learning, and personal safety and emotional wellbeing of our students and colleagues. In a time when people were thrust into social isolation with personal and professional disruptions, the incorporation of live video tutorials with our superhero colleague, combined with tangible interactions through text chat, audio and video channels, created a constant learning community that seemed to thrive during unpredictable times. We facilitated a learning environment that holistically addressed participant needs through thoughtfully created learning experiences.

In a highly dynamic teaching environment, the creation of nimble, low-cost online teaching strategies that can align with sound pedagogical approaches is imperative. During this period, when our learners were isolated, locked down and their health was challenged by a global pandemic, we provided an innovative, non-confrontational, humorous, inclusive learning environment. The use of a superhero within an online clinical classroom environment can be a highly effective way to ensure that a cohort of students feel that they are virtually there in the simulation space.







Goodyear, P., & Carvalho, L. (2014). Framing the analysis of complex learning environments. In L. Carvalho & P. Goodyear (Eds.), The architecture of productive learning networks (pp. 48-70). Routledge.

Green, J. K., Burrow, M. S., & Carvalho, L. (2020). Designing for transition: Supporting teachers and students cope with emergency remote education. Postdigital Science and Education, 2(3), 906-922.

van der Krogt, S., Green, J. K., Manning, C., & Burrow, M. (2021). How Batman saved the classroom. Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand, 27(1), 16-18.


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