Using electronic mail to motivate students

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  • Using electronic mail to motiv

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    Most nursing faculty can readily identify with theexperience of students coming tothe most common concerns v

    faculty and students, to create an atmosphere that is

    3. Evolution of e-mail as a teaching strategy

    Initially, the author used e-mail in a traditional medicalsurgical nursing course for activities that could best bedescribed as course management. These included sendingstudents reminders regarding updating immunizationrecords or reminders about class location or time changes.

    Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 386 506 3922 (Office), +1 386 6894607 (Cell); fax: +1 386 506 3181.

    E-mail address:

    e Degree Nursing. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

    Teaching and Learning in Nursing (2009) 4, 76781557-3087/$ see front matter 2009 National Organization for Associatstudents succeed. positive, and to motivate requires that students stay current with readingassignments in order to not fall so far behind that recoveryis impossible.

    Motivating students to stay engaged is critical to learning.The purpose of this article is to discuss the use of electronicmail (e-mail) as a strategy to motivate students and to help

    have grown up with instant communication (text messa-ging, cell phones, e-mail, and so forth). In our 24/7 world,many students of all generations often prefer to commu-nicate by e-mail. This article will discuss the several wayse-mail can be used to improve communication betweendoi:10.1016/j.teln.2008.12.001class ill prepared. One ofoiced by faculty is thator other assignments priordo not complete assignedt obtain maximum benefitused in the classroom. Inontent covered in nursing

    increasingly important role in the classroom. Ten yearsago, it was uncommon for more than half of the averagenursing class to have e-mail. Today, virtually every studenthas an e-mail account. Many colleges provide students withelectronic mail addresses and accounts. Generation Xlearners tend to focus on the now. They preferinformation in the form of bullets and summaries.Generation Y has been described as digital natives andstudents fail to complete readingto attending class. Students whoreadings or other tasks may nofrom active learning strategiesaddition, the large amount of c1. IntroductionOver the past decade, technology has played anToni Couzenza MSN, RN

    Associate Degree Program, School of Nursing, Daytona Sta

    Abstract Associate degree nurparticipate in class activities andare ill prepared to participate inmail (e-mail) is one strategy fostudents focus on the content th 2009 National Organizationreserved.

    KEYWORDS:Motivation;Nursing students;Electronic mailate students

    ollege, Daytona Beach, FL 32114, USA

    faculty often note that students come to class poorly prepared toussions. Students who fail to complete reading or other assignmentse learning and are at risk of falling behind in course work. Electronictivating students to complete assignments prior to class and to helpill be presented during upcoming class sessions.Associate Degree Nursing. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights

    2. Background

  • ground rules with the class. The class e-mail should not beused to circulate jokes, cartoons, or other entertainment

    77Using electronic mail to motivate studentsOccasionally, a student would e-mail a question or askfor clarification about an assignment. With student permis-sion, test or quiz grades were e-mailed to students as analternative to posting grades in more traditional ways.

    One day, a group of students asked if the Powerpointpresentations could be e-mailed to students prior to class.This seemed an odd request until students explained that theoutline could be printed before class and then the studentscould spend more time listening and making notes in class.Less time and effort would be spent trying to copy thecontent on the slides. The request seemed reasonable, andthis was the beginning of weekly e-mails that included theattachments of slide presentations. Nearly every studentcame to class with a printed copy of the slide outlines. Inaddition, students who did not have access to computers or e-mail obtained copies from classmates. By and large, thereaction of class participants is reflected in one student'scomments on the course evaluation, I really like theavailability of lecture notes by e-mail. That cuts out a lotof worry that you've missed something.

    The weekly e-mail has evolved to include otherteaching and motivational strategies. In addition to thePowerpoint attachments, other assignments are included.These include critical thinking assignments, readingassignments, and case studies. Care is taken to assurethat the assignments are reasonable and do not requiremore than 30 to 45 minutes to complete. The goal of theassignments is to focus the students on the material thatwill be covered in class the next day. As an example,during the respiratory unit, an unfolding case study is e-mailed to students. Many students come to class asking ifthe client indeed has tuberculosis. Since instituting thisstrategy, it is obvious that most of the class works the casestudy prior to class. In the past, very few students wouldcomplete the reading assignment about tuberculosis priorto class. Because much of the course content is coveredusing in-class, group activities, a certain peer pressurehas been observed. Students do not want to come to classand be unprepared to do the group activities that will beexpected in class.

    The goal of the e-mail assignments is to help studentsfocus on what the class is about to do. Students often refer tothe e-mail assignments as their homework. The e-mailassignments served to motivate students to actively engageand be involved in the course. Motivation involves more thansimply stimulating students to take an interest in what theyare learning. Motivation includes providing students withguidance about how to go about learning and applyingcontent (Brophy, 2004).

    Another use of e-mail is to provide feedback to the classas a whole. For example, after a skills evaluation laboratoryexperience in which nearly everyone successfully completedthe skill, an e-mail was sent congratulating the class for beingso prepared. E-mails have been sent that compliment theclass on everything from how professionally they dressed tohow well their projects were presented. These messagesmaterial, as many students do not want to be bombarded withrecreational e-mail.

    Set a day and timeframe that students can expect to receivethe weekly e-mail (for example, on Monday by 5:00 p.m.).Instruct students to contact you if they have not received thee-mail. This will help identify any delivery issues that mayoccur.

    Be careful not to send too many attachments with large filesizes. Some internet providers limit or compress files that aretoo large. Powerpoint presentations may need to be sent inseparate e-mails, depending on the file size.

    Keep email messages brief and to the point. Five or sixsentences should convey what the student is expected to dowith the assignment. Use bullet points whenever possible.

    Convey an upbeat, positive tone in the e-mail. Briefly explainwhy the assignment is important and how it will help thelearner to learn. For example, by answering the questionsfollowing the case study, you will be ready to determine thecorrect nursing interventions for the client.

    Keep the assignments simple. The purpose is not to teach thecontent of the course but rather to help students focus on thetopic at hand and to become somewhat familiar with the topicprior to coming to class.reward positive behaviors and help create an atmosphere ofsuccess and cooperation.

    Faculty of the baby boomer generation may prefertelephone or face-to-face communication, but many mem-bers of generation X and Yprefer electronic communication.An unexpected benefit of the class e-mails has been theincreased communication from students. Students do nothesitate to e-mail questions about assignments or to ask forclarification about material that was covered in class.Students often communicate their feelings about clinicalsituations, being overwhelmed, or just to ask if they are ontarget to be successful in the course. Students who are notpassing the course often seek advice via e-mail about how toimprove their grades.

    If crafted correctly, an e-mail sent to a large audience canconvey personal interest and enthusiasm to the reader.Proponents of electronic learning (e-learning) have observedthat students who are reluctant to ask questions in a live classwill often participate in discussions or ask questions by e-mail without fear of embarrassment (Weller, 2002).

    4. Suggestions for successful use of email

    Using e-mail effectively as a teaching and motivationalstrategy requires planning and careful use. The followingsuggestions are offered:

    Make becoming a part of the class e-mail group optional. Havestudents designate their preferred e-mail account for receivinggrades, slides, and other class materials. On first week ofschool, create a class e-mail group in your address book.

    Maintain an approachable but professional demeanor. Set

  • 5. Summary

    Weekly class e-mail communication can help capturestudents' attention and motivate them to prepare for class. Inaddition, e-mail can assist students to stay focused on thecontent as well as serve as a reminder of their obligation toparticipate in the learning process.


    Brophy, J. (2004). Motivating students to learn. New Jersey: LawrenceErbaum Publishers.

    Weller, M. (2002).Delivering learning on the Net- the why, what and how ofonline education. London: Routlegge-Palmer.

    78 T. Couzenza

    Using electronic mail to motivate studentsIntroductionBackgroundEvolution of e-mail as a teaching strategySuggestions for successful use of emailSummaryReferences


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