Myths About Web Based Courses In Nursing Education

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What are the Myths About Web Based Courses In Nursing Education

Myths About Web Based Courses In Nursing Education
First Myth About Online Courses,Methods to Concise Online Discussion,Second Myth About Online Courses,Third Myth About Online Courses.

Common Myths of Web Based Courses

First Myth About Online Courses

    Faculty Can Accommodate More Students by Using Technology This myth is particularly damaging to a school's efforts to get a program started. It frightens teachers because they actually need small classes to start with. A Web-based course may increase the size of those classes that tend to have a small local enrollment. The distance opportunity increased our Informatics course from 7 to 25 the year after we started offering it online. 

    The point is that the Web format will help fill classes. It does not reduce faculty workload for a given course it may in fact, increase the workload involved in teaching a course.A Web-based course does change the distribution of the way work happens for a course. For a new course, most schools want all the course modules to be completely written and up on the Web the first day of class. 

    Therefore, the front-end work is intense. In a typical classroom course, teachers design a course in advance, but they actually write the lectures week-by-week the first time they teach it. So, the work is spread out over a semester. As the teacher writes lectures, meets with students, and returns phone calls, he or she is also writing the lectures each week. 

    This is why a new course preparation is so much work, regardless of whether it is online or in a classroom. For the Web course, all that module development is done in advance. So, during the semester, the workload in development is reduced. Subsequent times the course is taught, the Web course must be updated in advance of the course. Classroom courses can be updated weekly.

    For all course modalities, however, students' questions and concerns must be addressed regularly and in a timely fashion, and papers must be graded as they come in. Where a Web course can become overwhelming is in the class discussion area. An on-campus course class discussion is very limited. It must fit into the classroom hours. This is not so with a Web-based course and this fact can create a real problem for the instructor.

    In one of my Web courses with 26 students, I had more than 1,276 student entries on the discussion board in the first 3 months of the class. That can become a serious workload for the teacher and for the students. In this aspect of Web courses, the workload for a Web course can greatly exceed the workload of an on-campus course. 

    And it is this aspect of Web courses-and the need to give personal attention to students in Web courses-that makes class sizes of 60 to 100 or greater a poor idea for Web-based courses unless there are teaching assistants to assist the primary course instructor in keeping that personal touch. The number of items in the course discussion area will be so huge that nobody could possibly read them all, much less respond to those who ask the teacher a question.

Methods to Concise Online Discussion

    Even in ordinary size classes of 20 to 30, the class discussion must be managed in a web-based course. Here are some ways to limit the course discussion:

1. Ask students to send supportive comments to each other via private email. Many times, students want to praise each other for a particularly good entry on the discussion board. Unfortunately, if 26 people enter the comment, “I really agree with your item!” a great deal of time is wasted on those comments. And everyone ends up having to read those supportive comments if they are put up as public articles. 

    So, in my initial instructions to students, I ask them to send those kinds of comments to each other via private course e-mail. Web-CT (the course software we use) allows the students to either REPLY-put the reply on the public conference so everyone in the class sees it; or to REPLY PRIVATELY send the reply only to the writer of the item that so impressed the reader. 

    I require students to send responses of interest only to the writer privately in order to save everyone else time. And I enforce that by gently (and privately) sending a reminder to anyone who publicly posts a personal type response.

2. Break larger classes into work groups and give each work group a private discussion forum, and then have discussion assignments divided by work groups. That way you may have a bigger reading workload than a teacher, but the students will not have as much to read. Each student reads only his or her own group's items in the private forums. 

    Students do not even see other private forums in Web-CT, so their reading load is kept reasonable. In fact, if my class is large, I use private forums only for their private group work sessions. In that case, I tell them I will not be reading articles in their private forums and I keep a few public forums for articles for the whole class. 

    Then I tell students that if they have things, they want me to read, they must either e-mail me or post in a class-wide public forum. In the latter instance, final papers are either e-mailed to the instructor or posted in a separate place in the course.

3. I do want students to network with each other. But this means private, non-course-related conversations. Busy students may resent having their time wasted on such conversations when they are in a hurry, so I create a private networking forum for this purpose. Sometimes I call it “Coffee House” or “Networking Forum.” But I warn students I will not usually read that forum, and ask them to keep non course related conversations in that forum. 

    I encourage them to use it liberally to share ideas about their jobs, fun vacations, recipes, or anything else they want to use it for. But nobody has to read it, and everyone is welcome to use it for anything that isn't related to course work. That saves a great deal of wear and tear on nerves. Teachers need to be aware that even if they do not complain, some people get angry at having to read non-course-related conversations in the mandatory forums. 

    The reality is, students will get involved in non-work-related conversations in the course. So rather than trying to eliminate those discussions, I just have a place for them to happen. So far, it has worked extremely well.

4. Now, what if you have the opposite problem? Nobody is discussing anything! This is a function of poor course design. You must design your course so that students have to begin having discussions the very first day of class. My first course assignment requires the students to enter their introduction on the Conference Center.

What you ask them to enter is up to you, but I ask at the minimum: Name, city and state location, home phone and home e-mail address in case I or someone in their private group needs to reach them urgently; their nursing specialty, what kind of unit they work in, and their job. Then they are free to introduce whatever else they wish others to know about them. Of course, I put my own introduction in the Conference Center first. 

    I tell them a bit about my educational background and job experiences (things I tell my on-campus students so they also know who their teacher is). Then, to make it a more personal experience, I add information about my husband and children, pets and favorite hobbies, and perhaps recent vacations. Pending on the kind and level of the course, I may share information about research projects, recent publications and other scholarly activities (especially if it is a PhD course).

    After the introduction, there should be regular assignments for course topics they are to discuss on the Conference Center. A percentage of the grade should be allocated to the class discussions. Students who are actively engaged in the class discussion rarely drop out of the course. This brings up the issue of how often the teacher needs to enter items on the Conference Center and to respond to items students place on the Conference Center. 

    Although each teacher needs to find his or her own level of effective response, at a minimum the teacher should respond to every student's introduction with a personalized welcome response. Because you are not face-to-face, it is doubly important to make each student feel personally recognized and welcome to your class. I cannot imagine a course in which I failed to put at least three to four items or responses per week on the Conference Center, just so students know that I'm present and active with them in the course. 

    Typically, I will use the Conference Center to share ideas and information that is not in the text or available in online readings.Students want and need the benefit of your experience and special knowledge. They cannot be expected to use the class discussion area if you are not active in the class in that area. I tend to teach by telling stories from my own nursing experience. In my course evaluations, students have said they really appreciate those stories because they learn so much from hearing about real situations that I have lived through. 

    And the stories can be ones you have heard from colleagues or have read in professional journals. But in some way, share yourself, your knowledge and experience. That's why they have a teacher.

Second Myth About Online Courses

    Using Technology Saves the Institution Money Someday, this may not be a fiction. Someday, the cost of classroom space and utilities and maintenance and other physical space costs will be reduced by online courses. Unfortunately, those cost savings today are generally not fully recognized. 

    Too many administrators believe the cost savings will come from having huge class sizes because physical classroom limitations will not apply to online classes, and that money can be saved if one teacher can handle a much larger number of students. However, for some of the reasons listed above, programs that are successful will not generally have extremely large student-to-faculty ratios. 

    If the students cannot get timely responses to their questions, they will find another school that provides sufficient faculty time. Some schools hope to make money by attracting more out-of-state students who pay much higher tuition. Only time will prove this true or false. Today, many schools offer instantiation or reduced out-of-state tuition to Internet students in order to fill classes. 

    Over time, we suspect that a few prestigious schools offering full degree programs will be able to fill Internet classes, even at out-of-state tuition costs. Schools that offer only isolated courses or whose reputation is not world-class will have to offer cheaper tuition to fill classes. Money can also be saved if the number of buildings (and attendant maintenance costs) can be reduced. 

    This is where the real cost savings are most likely to be realized. Internet students do not use the classrooms or student activity buildings that traditional campuses must provide. We suspect that eventually, if enough students opt for online courses, the number and size of buildings can be reduced (or more likely, given the need for lifelong continuing education, not expanded). 

    The myth that technology saves the faculty members' time is not as prominent as it was in the late 1990s. The development time needed for a Web-based course is now recognized as much greater than that for a traditional course. Faculty workload must be greatly reduced when a teacher is first learning to teach online. The first time I taught a course online, I spent approximately 30 hours per week on that one course for a whole semester. 

    I was learning to use the technology, honing my HTML skills (this was in 1995 before Front Page or other Web authoring programs were available and certainly before Web-CT or Blackboard was available), developing and trying out new ways to offer material, and experiencing the inefficiency of any beginner. Today, that same course can be taught much more efficiently. 

    As an experienced online teacher, I spend about the same amount of time preparing for and teaching an online course as I do for on-campus courses. Of course, because I can teach the online course at my convenience rather than on the university's class schedule, it sometimes seems easier to teach that course than to teach on-campus courses.

Third Myth About Online Courses

    Online Teachers Cannot Know Students Personally Many teachers think if they cannot see the students, they cannot get to know them. Au contraire! I get to know many of my Internet students much better than I know many of my on-campus students. Online teachers may or may not have the benefit of video technology, or even have a photograph of the student, but they certainly can communicate personally with each student at least once per week. 

    Human personalities come across in computer communications quite nicely. There is a feeling of equality about the Web that many students don't experience in person. Web students can be given permission to address us by our first names; They often share their personal lives with us. I continue to hear from both online and on campus students today, even though they completed course work years ago. 

    That long-term relationship does not always happen, but it adds greatly to the joy of teaching as a career choice. Teachers develop as great a depth for Internet students as for on campus students. (The only thing you cannot do is hug your Internet students.) Otherwise, the teaching-learning experience can be equally intense.

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