Distance education in Nurse Education

Sample Question

Conduct a search on current literature (published within the last 5 years) for a minimum of 3 scholarly research articles about distance education programs, web-based education, or the application of informatics and technology to nursing education.  Conduct analysis and discussion on the articles and describe the outcomes for particular distance learning modalities.  Discuss one of the following:

  1. What extent do you believe that technology-supported distance education programs changed nursing education for the 21st century?
  2. Discuss the pros and cons of the delivery of clinical courses through distance education strategies.
  3. Select a course that you teach and adapt it to either on-line, video-conferencing, hybrid, or web-based technology.  Explain your rational for your selection as it applies to the course.

Sample Answer

My discussion point for the project evaluation project is analysis of the pros and cons of delivery of clinical courses through the distance education strategies.  I have selected this discussion point for various reasons. First, there has been an increase in the enrollment of nursing students in distance education programs, and hence it is important   to understand the main attractions of taking distance education modules over the traditional brick and mortal classes. Secondly, I would like to learn about the impacts of undertaking distance education clinical courses on the competence of the learners in delivering quality healthcare services to patients in diverse clinical settings.

In nursing practice, delivery of quality healthcare services, using evidence based practices has been identified as one of the major goals of the healthcare system in addressing the various healthcare challenges in the 21st century. Thirdly, delivery of clinical course through distance learning has raised concerns about its ability to empower learners with significant clinical experience, which is mostly associated with the conventional classwork training.

Healthcare policy makers and professionals have recommended nurses to advance their education as a strategy of enhancing their skills and knowledge to enable the healthcare professional address the changing healthcare needs in the population (Rouleau, Gagnon, Côté, Hudson, Julien & Dubois, 2017). For nurse education program to empower the nurses with requisite skills, it is important to enhance its rigor and ensure integration of clinical and practical experiences in the entire learning process (Lowery & Spector, 2014). Distance education programs in nursing have created opportunities for nurses to advance their education engage in lifelong learning and enhance their professional development. Essentially delivery of clinical distance learning programs is done online, through various, information technology applications and internet enables devices, such as smartphones, personal computers and tablets among others.  In this case, the instructor and the learner are geographically separated and depend on electronic devices in delivery of instructions and course content (Vioral, 2013).

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Distance learning in nurse education has been identified as one of the strategies of addressing the issue of nurse shortage in the healthcare system by encouraging increased enrolment of nursing students. About 600,000 new nursing students are enrolling in at least one distance learning course (Lowery & Spector, 2014). By 2013, the total number of nursing students enrolled in various distance learning programs was 6.7 million in the United States (Mitchell & Delgado, 2014). Various innovative technologies are applied in delivery of nursing curriculum online, such as blackboard platforms, social media, video conferencing, webinars, virtual clinic learning environments (VCCLE’s), telehealth, and numerous open online courses.

Delivery of clinical courses through distance learning education approaches is associated with various benefits. First, it provides limitless opportunities for nurses to advance their education and promote their professional development (Mee, 2014). This is due to the fact that it is convenient and affordable, which enables learners to participate in learning activities at any place of their convenience, including residences and workplaces.  Advancement of education and participation in lifelong learning empowers nurses with up to date medical technology, knowledge and skills, including application of evidence based practice in various settings.    

Secondly, delivery of clinical courses through distance learning encourages healthcare systems to apply and embrace the various emerging technologies especially information technology in delivery of healthcare services in diverse settings (Mitchell & Delgado, 2014). This is due to the fact that learners undertaking the distance learning programs are required to be proficient in various computer applications applied in the contemporary learning and healthcare setting. As a result, the learners become familiar with the various technological applications that could be used in contemporary healthcare setting. This enables them to become receptive to various applications applied in enhancing delivery of healthcare services, such as electronic health records, telehealth and social media among others.

The third benefit of distance learning in healthcare is that it has enabled nursing programs to extend their reach. This has resulted to improved accessibility of nursing education to various groups of people in diverse settings including remote areas, who might otherwise lack the opportunities   to join the nursing career.  As a result, distance learning has increased diversity of healthcare professionals in the healthcare system. This has enhanced the ability of the healthcare system to deliver patient centered and culturally sensitive care to various groups of people, including minorities groups, including women, minority racial groups, lesbians, gays, transsexuals among others. Another benefit of distance learning is that it is flexible to learners, cost-effective and provides access to a wide range of learning resources (Baleni, 2015).

However, various shortcomings are associated with distance learning in the healthcare context. First, the module is associated with concerns about its ability to provide learners with meaningful clinical experience remotely, such as acquiring psychomotor and critical thinking skills (Dacanay, Vaughn, Orr, Andre & Mort, 2015). This is due to the fact distance learning is undertaken in an isolated setting, making it difficult for learners to deduce visual and nonverbal cues. Distance learning of healthcare courses is associated with limited practicum experience. Practicum experience empowers learners with various skills appropriate for medical practice, such as ability to become organized and prioritize in addition to hands-on experiences. Practicum experiences are normally acquired in settings that allow interactive and collegial interactions between learners and instructors. This enables the learner to acquire anticipatory guidance, which is necessary for both independent and collaborative medical practice(Lowery & Spector, 2014).

Another shortcoming associated with distance learning in medical practice is that the programs are designed for a wider population of students compared to the conventional classroom learning setting (Baleni, 2015). This implies that it does not address individual needs of learners such as culture, including proficiency in the language of instruction. Additionally, the increased number of learners in distant learning programs increases the possibility of errors, especially during assessment and monitoring of learners. Moreover, the implementation of distance-based clinical program requires costly investments inform appropriate infrastructure, including technological installations and human resources.  To address the challenges associated with delivery of clinical courses in distance learning, it is important to for the institutions to be well prepared in terms of acquiring appropriate resources, support from stakeholders and leadership to ensure its success in instilling learners with required skills and competence.

Conclusion

Delivery of clinical courses through various distance learning strategies is growing rapidly in popularity across the United States. Some of the benefits associated with the approach include convenience, wider accessibility and cost effectiveness. Distance learning has increased opportunities for healthcare professionals to advance their education conveniently and affordably.  However, it is associated with inadequate clinical experience and lack of adequate instructor-learner interaction. Moreover, implementing clinical distance programs is costly.  To address the concerns associated with distance learning programs, it is important to secure support from relevant stakeholders   and aim at continuous improvement of delivery methods and content of the programs.

References

Baleni, Z. G. (2015). Online formative assessment in higher education: Its pros and cons. Electronic Journal of E-Learning, 13(4), 228-236.

Dacanay, A. P., Vaughn, S., Orr, M., Andre, J., & Mort, K. (2015). Factors contributing to  nursing distance education student success. Journal of Nursing Education and Practice, 5(2), 34-34. doi:10.5430/jnep.v5n2p34

Lowery, B., & Spector, N.(2014). Regulatory implications and recommendations for distance education in prelicensure nursing programs. Journal of Nursing Regulation, 5(3):25-33.

Mee, S.(2014). Is distance education the answer to the nursing shortage? Open Journal of  Nursing, 4: 158-162.

Mitchell, M., & Delgado, C. (2014). Online Learning: Advantages and Challenges in Implementing an Effective Practicum Experience. Open Journal of Nursing, 4: 379-384.            http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ojn.2014.46044.

Rouleau, R., Gagnon, M., Côté, J Hudson, E.,  Julien , B., & Dubois, C.(2017). Effects of e-learning in a continuing education context on nursing care: a review of systematic qualitative, quantitative and mixed studies reviews9protocol). BMJ Open, 7:e018441. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-018441.

Vioral, A.(2013). Exploring pedagogical competence in a distance education nursing program: A case study. Journal of Nursing Education and Practice, 3(9):36-47.

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