Evaluating Tablet Technology in an Undergraduate Nursing Program

By Swan, Beth Ann; Smith, Kellie A. et al. | Nursing Education Perspectives, May/June 2013 | Go to article overview

Evaluating Tablet Technology in an Undergraduate Nursing Program


Swan, Beth Ann, Smith, Kellie A., Frisby, Anthony, Shaffer, Kathryn, Hanson-Zalot, Mary, Becker, Julie, Nursing Education Perspectives


With the introduction of tablet technology, faculty began asking ques t ions about when, where , and how tablet s might enhance curriculum oppor tuni - t ies for s tudent learning and facul ty teaching s trategies beyond their use as personal digital devices and smart phones (Swan, Smi th, Frisby, Shaf fer, & Hanson-Zalot , 2012). Personal digital devices (PDDs), including smart phones , had been used by nurs ing s tudent s for the pas t five years. The purpose of this study was to evaluate how tablet technology affected student and faculty teaching-learning processes and outcomes in an accelerated, pre-licensure baccalaureate nursing program.

Following four months of planning, we integrated tablets into classroom teaching, simulation/laboratory sessions, and clinical experiences. With institutional review board approval, the researchers employed a qualitative descriptive design, using focus groups, to elicit data from students and faculty. Four focus groups were conducted, one with faculty and three with students. Eight faculty attended the session, representing 40 percent participation; 14 students attended the three sessions, representing 11 percent participation. Participants were asked about their experiences with tablets, concerns about implementation, and recommendations.

Overall, there were surprising congruencies between faculty and students, especially in the area of using the tablet for classroom use. Although many in the four groups expressed a "cool" and "wow" reaction, the availability of appropriate software and limitations in the use of the technology influenced the experience of students and faculty.

Experiences with the Tablets Most faculty had little previous experience with PDDs. Most students had experience with iTunes, and several had experience with Apple computers or iPhones; most were familiar with applications (apps) and how to use the iTunes store. This familiarity was not sufficient to overcome some of the most complicated aspects of the tablet software and app installations.

Faculty received their tablets (Apple iPad2) approximately four weeks before classes started; all faculty agreed that this was not enough time to prepare for class, despite technical and instructional design support. Students also felt unprepared for the use of tablets; several reported "feeling lost" and sought out campus technical support. Of note, an instruction manual and one-onone student and faculty sessions, as well as group sessions with technical and instructional design staffwere offered frequently, but few students and faculty participated.

Like faculty, students wanted time to learn more about the tablets before being required to use them. Students and faculty turned to peers who were "super users" for help with applications and software issues. While they found this additional assistance helpful, their need for technical support was not satisfied.

Faculty noted they needed instruction on how to incorporate the technology into lesson plans, classroom activities, simulations, and clinicals. They thought more time and instruction would have helped with integration of the tablet into their teaching. Students commented that there was a disconnect between what instructors had in the syllabus or talked about in class and what was available on the tablet, specifically readings (chapters and page numbers) or the need to download additional apps.

Faculty thought the tablet supported the integration of different teaching strategies with classroom content, yet several faculty stated they had not received sufficient training or had not made the time to adapt course content. Students had a different perception of the tablet in the classroom. The device offered too many opportunities to multitask, including checking email and Facebook. The students also noted that some faculty were facile with the device and integrated materials well into the classroom settings while others grossly underutilized the technology.

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