Online learning: enhancing nurse education?
Aims of the study. The aim of this study was to explore the experiences of nursing students with `online' learning.
Background. The need to integrate information technology into nursing education has been recognized and well documented. In spite of this, information technology remains a neglected subject in many nursing programmes. Strategies have been considered for increasing the integration of information technology in nursing education. One of the key issues identified is the need for research into the factors that contribute to optimal learning with information technology, specifically the need to explore issues that contribute to student frustration and satisfaction with learning. Within Australia, the incorporation of information technology as a core subject in nursing education is still relatively new. This article describes how one university used `online' learning to expose students to conceptual and experiential opportunities that enabled them to develop skills in the management of information technology.
Methods. Twenty-one students participated in this qualitative study. Individual interviews were used to develop insights into student perceptions. Thematic analysis enabled refined themes to emerge. These themes formed the basis of focus group discussions. Focus groups were used to enhance and validate the information from one-to-one interviews by using group dynamics to add experiential richness to the data.
Findings. Four major themes emerged: computer confidence, flexibility, active learning and practicalities of teaching.
Conclusions. The integration of information technology into nursing education requires a dramatic change in thinking. The `learning curve' is steep for both student and educator and there are many issues that need to be considered. This research does not aim to provide solutions to the issues highlighted but rather offers recommendations for enhancing the teaching and learning experience.