Instructional Methodology for Distant Education In Nursing

Nurses Educator 2

Distant Education In Nursing and Instructional Methodology

Instructional Methodology for Distant Education In Nursing

Implementation Issues In Distant Education,Support Services for Distant Education In Nursing,Library Services Distant Education In Nursing,Required Faculty Distant Education In Nursing,Student and Faculty Style and Pattern Distant Education In Nursing,Clinical Environment Distant Education In Nursing,Educational Methodology For Distant Education In Nursing.

Implementation Issues In Distant Education

    Changing instructional methodology required preplanning to coordinate administrative support services (Milstead && Nelson, 1998), Services such as registration were handled by mail or telephone. The nursing registrar's willingness to be flexible and the established procedure of student notification of registration deadlines by e-mail were essential. Student advice was accomplished by a combination of phone, e-mail, and face-to-face appointments during block time segments. 

    Although multiple communication methods were chosen by individual students, the most satisfying approach noted by this writer was the practice of setting individual short appointments during the last block dates of the semester. These 15- to 20-minute appointments addressed the student's view of how her or his program of study was progressing.

Support Services for Distant Education In Nursing 

    Support services, such as student orientation to the university and school of nursing community, was a 3-day segment attached to the first block class days. In addition to the standard student orientation, the distance student needed additional assistance related to computer technology and accessing library resources electronically. Basic computer technical resource requirements provided by the school's computer technology specialists were emailed to students as soon as they preregistered. 

    This information was even provided to prospective students on request. On-going computer technical support was provided by the director of the Instructional Media Center and technically competent assistants. Technology problems experienced by students were related to difficulty in installing and using hardware and software and encountering server downtime and busy peak user times. 

    The students found the technical support responsive, but their ability to identify the nature of a problem and communicate it successfully to the technical staff was problematic. As reported in the literature, we found that provision for technology support system to help distance students when problems occur was an essential component of a distance learning program (Cragg, Humbert, & Doucette, 2004; Milstead & Nelson, 1998). 

Library Services Distant Education In Nursing

    Library services have presented a challenge. Librarians schedule appointments for groups of students to learn search skills during the orientation days. Distance students use online library databases and on-campus library resources during block class segments. Students who were resourceful found additional library services available in their own communities. Textbook availability was an issue related to timing. 

    A block class segment was usually scheduled within the first week of classes. Students purchased textbooks and class packs at that time. Assigning required readings for the first block segment was problematic. Students could not complete all the reading assignments before class. Providing access to textbooks by mail and publishing textbook requirements and reading assignments for students 1 month prior to the first block class were instituted. 

    These administrative services are key to providing a supportive educational environment for the distance student. Pre-planning and coordinating these services were essential to the program's success. An equally important aspect of a distant education program is the time and support provided to faculty members participating in this modified instructional methodology. 

    Implementing a blend of synchronous and asynchronous instructional strategies has advantages and disadvantages. A disadvantage of using multiple technology approaches is based on the unfamiliarity of faculty and students in the application of technology to the learning process. As Ryan et al. (2004) recommended, we used a team effort to address this issue. 

Required Faculty Distant Education In Nursing

    The faculty members had computer technology specialists available for consultation, a multimedia production specialist was contracted for videotaping components, and faculty col-leagues with a special interest in distributed learning were available to help plan online conferencing activities. Advantages and disadvantages of the faculty role changes required were numerous. 

    Faculty liked the increased flexibility of time scheduling but found the block class format a challenge to organize multiple learning activities to stimulate and motivate the learner. Faculty and students both liked the increased accessibility of faculty. E-mail and online conferences provided the capability to readily access faculty. 

    As identified by Morris, Buck-Rolland, and Gagne (2002) and Ryan et al. (2004), there was an increase in faculty workload. More time was required with needed preplanning activities and team coordination. Faculty members needed to be involved in and informed of technology problems that adversely affected planned learning activities. 

    If the server was down and the students did not post their assignments on time, then the faculty member needed to know. Maintaining alertness to actual and potential electronic problems that might affect the learning event was a new skill for many faculty. The support and guidance from other more experienced online educators were needed for faculty members participating in distance programs (Ryan et al., 2004).

    Additional faculty time was needed to write messages, in contrast to in-class verbal interactions. Interactions in class are limited by time, but e-mail and conference postings were not limited by time and in many instances were not limited in volume (pages). The increase in volume of communication and increase in multiple thoughts being expressed in one student interaction required extra faculty time to process communication and organize a response. 

    Changes in interpersonal interactions included a lack of visual and nonverbal cues when online communication occurred. The faculty noted that this lack tended to make interactions more impersonal and less spontaneous. Milstead and Nelson (1998) identified faculty personality characteristics that seem to counteract this tendency. 

    These attributes were flexibility, patience, and an ability to employ a humanist online conversational language style. The use of block classes helped to offset this impersonal tendency and loss of spontaneity.

Student and Faculty Style and Pattern Distant Education In Nursing

    Changes in volume, pattern, and style of faculty-to-student and student-to-faculty interactions changed the faculty role. As identified by Kozlowski (2002), faculty members surrender control to learners and move to a facilitator-of-learning role when using online conferencing. When using a blend of synchronous and asynchronous instructional strategies, faculty members had to be flexible risk takers. 

    As students adapted to a different learning environment, student role changes were identified. Using a variety of instructional methodologies required the learners to be flexible. Students in most instances were learning new computer skills. As with any distance learning format, there is an increased responsibility placed on the learner (Atack, 2003; Billingset al., 2001). 

    Emotional and interpersonal issues play a part in the student's adjustment to the autonomous distance-learner role. Students struggled with the sense of isolation that can occur with distance learning while the faculty used strategies to increase the learners' feeling of connectiveness (Billings et al., 2001; Macintosh et al., 2002). Students had an increased need to develop and use their local resources, such as preceptors and agencies. 

    Different types of demands are made on students' personal support systems, such as family, friends, employers, and fellow students. Students' written and verbal communication skills were challenged by distance methodologies. 

    Communications were expected to be concise and condensed, organized, relevant, and evidence-based. Individual personalities and interpersonal dynamics impacted the quality of communications whether synchronous or asynchronous.

    As with any group of students, variations in learning styles were expected. Providing a variety of instructional methodologies appeared to address this area of faculty concerns. This major concern was that using online conferencing and written assignments alone would be relying too heavily on the written word.

    Another anticipated area of faculty concern in distance learning programs is providing opportunities for professional socialization (Billings et al., 2001; Milstead & Nelson, 1998). Online conferencing was set up to foster faculty-monitored group interaction. 

    Chat rooms were made available to encourage student-to-student interactions. Planned synchronous class meetings were planned in block formats. A question and answer forum and e-mail both were monitored closely by course faculty members.

Clinical Environment Distant Education In Nursing

    The clinical experience environment, when established by a distance, added to the students' responsibilities. The distanced students were expected to initiate setting up a preceptor or agency about 2 to 3 months in advance of the beginning of the semester. The students were sent a copy of the preceptor role and student responsibilities for the clinical experience. 

    Student performance criteria detailing the expected behaviors were communicated in writing. Each student talked with the faculty member in charge to discuss potential appropriate sites. The student was provided directions for approaching preceptors by the contract office. The student then contacted a preceptor or agency and discussed his or her interest in working with the preceptor or agency. 

    If the preceptor or agency was interested, the student communicated that interest to the faculty in charge of the course. If the site selected by the student was approved, the faculty member would initiate the contract process. A separate contract office existed in the school to ensure coordination of clinical sites and standardization of records. 

    Faculty members were available by phone during all steps in this process, to answer questions from students and potential preceptors and expedite the process.To ensure instructional quality of the distance program, faculty sought both formative and summative evaluations. Student group debriefings were held face-to-face in block class segments of each semester. 

Educational Methodology For Distant Education In Nursing

    Students were encouraged to communicate by e-mail any concerns or problems when they occurred throughout the semester. Online course and instructor evaluations were administered during a 1-to 2-week window of time at the end of each semester. 

    The design and implementation of an RN to MSN program to allow for modified distance learning was described. Instructional strategies to blend synchronous and asynchronous formats were employed. Two semesters of the program were described including each course focus, educational methodology and evaluation strategies. 

    Educational methodology implemented included traditional lecture and seminar classes, delivered in 4-day and 5-day block classes three to four times during a semester, and asynchronous formats including CDs with combinations of videotaped lectures, VOPP and voice-over psychomotor skills demonstrations, e -mail, online conferencing, and student-selected faculty approved preceptors or agencies. 

    Major distance-learning implementation issues discussed were preplanning essentials, technology challenges, faculty role changes, student role changes, clinical experience environment, and evaluating in structional quality. The purpose of the RN to MSN program design was to increase RN student enrollment while maintaining the educational quality of the program.

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