Moving online: Nursing students “travel” to Ukraine on virtual study tour

July 22, 2020 | Health, Society
Before COVID-19 hit, Dr. Elizabeth Burgess-Pinto and Dr. Judee Onyskiw were all set to travel to Ukraine with a group of MacEwan University nursing students for the third year in a row.

When the HLST 400: Global Health Perspectives trip was cancelled, faculty members from MacEwan and Ternopil National Medical University (TNMU) quickly shifted gears – preparing to offer the course online, and to refocus the entire experience on the global pandemic.

“We knew that some of our students would lose an entire term if they didn’t take this course,” says Burgess-Pinto. “So after discussions with the faculty at TNMU, we decided to move the course online.”

Fourteen MacEwan Bachelor of Science in Nursing students started their experience with classes on Ukrainian culture, led by Larisa Hayduk, director of MacEwan’s Ukrainian Resource and Development Centre, and then spent two weeks in May connecting online with 10 students in Ternopil, Ukraine. Together, they met up for online lectures from faculty members at MacEwan and TNMU, and worked on group projects tied to COVID-19. In groups of three, they looked at how the pandemic was impacting a specific country – its cases, challenges and responses.

“I think it turned out to be an interesting assignment and a real eye-opener for students,” says Burgess-Pinto. “It provided the global perspectives we look for in the course and helped students see how countries approach things differently.”

Elena Kushmanova, a fourth-year Bachelor of Nursing student whose group looked at the pandemic response in Iran, agrees. The project – and the course – she says, enabled her to gain an appreciation of the variety of responses to the pandemic around the globe, gaps that exist and the importance of listening to experts and health-care professionals.

“I’ve travelled a lot, but I don’t think it matters how many times you are exposed to different countries or cultures, every new exposure will bring something new,” she says. “The project was challenging, especially because of the time difference and speaking different languages, but we worked on a team and got to learn from each other and appreciate our different perspectives.”

And while an online experience certainly can’t replicate – or replace – what students would have experienced in Ukraine, the outcome was positive.

Onyskiw says seeing faculty members and students come together was the highlight. “We knew that signing up for an international course and then getting an online experience instead must have been disappointing, but there were so many people doing their part to make this work that it ended up being a positive one.”


University and UFCE sign memorandum of understanding

The Ukrainian Foundation for College Education and MacEwan University work together to advance international scholarly and educational activities, and to establish resources connected to Ukraine.

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