Distant Education and Social Space Between Teachers and Learner in Nursing

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Social Space Between Teachers and Learner in Nursing In Distant Education

Distant Education and Social Space Between Teachers and Learner in Nursing

Social Spaces In Teaching and Learning,Facilitating Student Interaction In Nursing Education, Facilitating Faculty Interaction In Nursing Education,Course Study Support In Distant Education,Establishing A Student Centered Distance Education Learning Community,Assisting Students To Develop Personal And Study Support Systems,Personal Support In Distant Education and Nursing. 

Social Spaces In Teaching and Learning

    Teaching and learning are social activities, and faculty and students have an experience base in traditional and face-to-face educational settings where social spaces are well defined and assumed. In DE, however, the opportunity for interaction, social and intellectual discourse, and use of nonverbal cues changes dramatically. Faculty and students must establish different types of social spaces in order to overcome the barriers imposed by distance. 

Facilitating Student Interaction In Nursing Education

    Establishing a sense of community in DE courses is necessary to overcome the barriers of distance and technology and, in some instances, lack of visual cues. Cobb and Mueller (1998) found that some students had a sense of isolation from peers and faculty when enrolled in a Web based course. 

    Students enrolled in video conference based DE can be assisted to overcome the perception of isolation by allowing time for student and faculty interaction via video conference before and after class for questions and to provide an opportunity for networking. Virtual cafes and unmonitored chats can be set up for students enrolled in web-based courses. 

    Cobb and Mueller found that students enrolled in web based courses were overwhelmed about the high volume of messages on the course bulletin board. If personal chit-chat is found to contribute to this high message volume, a separate bulletin board for personal interaction can be established to redirect the flow of such messages. 

Facilitating Faculty Interaction In Nursing Education

    Interaction with faculty inside and outside the course goes to the heart of education and is critical to learning (Anderson & Garrison, 1998). Recent work using computer mediated collaboration tools indicates that cognitive apprenticeship models socially interactive relationships between novices and experts to socialize students into a profession evolve as students have increased interaction with the faculty (Bonk & Cunningham, 1998). 

    Regular office hours must also be established to decrease students' perception of isolation from faculty. By using computer-mediated collaboration tools, faculty access can be more direct. Office hours in a chat group or using a toll free number can provide time for formal and informal discussion with faculty. Students are frustrated by changes in communication imposed by technology. Cobb and Mueller (1998) found that students perceived communication via the Web as impersonal in nature. 

    They reported their greatest barrier was not seeing a face-to-face instructor. Providing some course materials via videotape, CD-ROM, or DVD provides an opportunity for students to have a visual connection with instructors. Shutte (1997) also found that students in a virtual classroom seemed frustrated by their inability to ask the teacher questions in person. 

    If faculty have a camera attached to their computer software, such as Net Meeting, this will support transmission of images as well as voices. This visual enhancement is important to some students and may provide more of a feeling of meeting with the teacher in person and enhances students' feelings of connectedness with instructors (Oehlkers & Gibson, 2001).

Assisting Students To Develop Personal And Study Support Systems

    Students who are learning alone require additional personal and academic support to overcome the isolation imposed by DE. Faculty can assist students to be aware of these needs, embed strategies for student support within the course, and provide suggestions for obtaining additional resources as needed. 

Personal Support In Distant Education and Nursing  

    One little appreciated resource in DE courses is the support families and employers can provide. This support may be even more important than that provided by peers and faculty, and it affects students' persistence (Oehlkers, 1998). Pym (1992) found that family support is essential to student success in DE courses; It is also true that the family must understand the importance of “study time” on the Internet and be supportive to the student who is “in class” while at home. 

    Billings (1988) found that in correspondence courses (which may have similarities to the isolation of Internet courses) students relied on family and employer support to overcome barriers of isolation. Other strategies can be used to assist learners in overcoming the barriers of DE technology, such as establishing outreach sites where face-to-face assistance is available if needed. 

    Another strategy is to identify several students within the course who have used the technology in previous courses and ask them to be available to serve as peer “technology tutors,” or employ a student who is adept with the technology to assist as needed.

    The workplace can be an important source of support. Students should be encouraged to talk with coworkers about their learning and also to discuss learning issues applicable to their work situation in the DE classroom. Students reported that when coworkers were aware they were taking classes, the coworkers asked how the classes were going and volunteered to switch shifts near the time when papers were due and exams were scheduled (Oehlkers, 1998). 

    Oehlkers also found that some employers provided tuition assistance, whereas supervisors were sabotaging students with work schedules that conflicted with their courses. He suggests that educators collaborate with employers for mutual benefit and learner support. 

Course Study Support In Distant Education

    Another type of support that students may need is assistance with the course content and in learning the content and skills of the course. Course tutors may be assigned to courses where students can be anticipated to have difficulty. Course tutors can be students from a previous course, a teaching assistant with the content knowledge of the course, or nurses in the community who can serve as study mentors. 

    These supports may be based at a learning outreach center, collaborative campus site, or clinical agency, or through the use of the technology the tutor may have time on air or within the Web based courses. The role of the tutor may vary from course to course and can involve assisting students to learn the content of the course and to develop writing or math skills or serving as a role model. 

    Having study tutors in DE courses is particularly important if course completion rates have been low, if students have difficulty with course concepts, or if they do not have well developed prerequisite course skills such as language proficiency.Peer study groups are another support for students. These groups may form spontaneously or with direction from the course faculty. 

    Study groups can form at outreach centers or employment settings when a cohort of students is enrolled in a program. In televised courses, faculty can allocate time for small groups to work together. The Internet offers faculty an easy way for students to work together by using e-mail or a separate chat room or bulletin board established for this purpose within a Web based course. 

Establishing A Student Centered Distance Education Learning Community

    The ultimate support for the learner is a course designed to encourage learning by taking advantage of the particular distance delivery technology, as well as faculty who are prepared to serve as guides, coaches, learning mentors, and facilitators. 

    Although there are specific course design and implementation strategies unique to each DE delivery system (Billings & Bachmeier, 1994; Harasim et al., 1996), years of research in teaching and learning have revealed seven principles of good education (active learning, respect for diverse talents and ways of learning, rich and rapid feedback, interaction and collaboration with peers, interaction with faculty, time on task, and high expectations), which when used consistently lead to effective learning outcomes and student satisfaction (Chickering & Gamson, 1987) . 

    These principles are also effective when used in technology-mediated courses (Chickering & Ehrmann, 1996) and can serve as a framework for choosing teaching learning activities that guide students in achieving learning outcomes and personal goals. 

    High expectations are set through clearly defined course goals and objectives and negotiation of learning contracts within the course (Porter, 1997). Students in DE achieve learning outcomes as well as do students in traditional on-campus courses that use face-to-face instruction (Billings & Bachmeier, 1994).

    Prompt feedback about the learning process, as well as outcomes, guides students toward learning goals and overcomes a sense of isolation. Additional feedback can be requested and provided by faculty, classmates, peers, professional colleagues, and experts. Faculty can support student learning by anticipating points in the course where students may require additional feedback and design activities to give feedback as needed. 

    Although prompt feedback is certainly an educational support issue, there is an emotional support component as well. Mueller (2001) found that when sending files digitally to faculty, students worried about whether their file reached the faculty member if an acknowledgment of receipt was not provided. 

    Faculty should either post an announcement on the learning management system or send an e-mail to students acknowledging receipt of digital assignments to minimize students' worries that their files may have disappeared into a large black hole. 

   Electronic collaboration tools can be used in DE classes to promote increased interaction with classmates (Bonk & Cunningham, 1998; Harasim, 1993). These tools promote group work, enhanced communication among class members, and formation of peer support groups. In fact, one of the advantages of DE courses is the richness of students with a variety of experiences and viewpoints. Faculty can encourage and guide this interaction to facilitate learning outcomes.

    Active learning occurs when members of the learning community are socially and cognitively engaged in the course. Active learning aids comprehension and retention of course content, and faculty can design course activities that engage students with content and each other. Active learning is promoted through authentic learning experiences, by solving real problems, using problem-based learning, and developing meaningful products. 

    Embedding these experiences in DE courses leads to relevant learning outcomes and contributions to the knowledge in the profession. Respect for diversity is demonstrated by providing different ways of achieving learning outcomes, creating a climate in which there is respect for different cultures and viewpoints, and providing options for using a variety of learning styles. Faculty can facilitate this respect and model it through course design and implementation.

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