Academic journal article Nursing and Health Care Perspectives

The Development of Online Courses for Undergraduate Nursing Education

Academic journal article Nursing and Health Care Perspectives

The Development of Online Courses for Undergraduate Nursing Education

Article excerpt


The delivery of content in education does not necessarily mean that learning has taken place. Education requires interaction between students and instructors, and students of all ages learn better and retain information longer if they are engaged in the process (1). As a delivery and resource vehicle, the Internet affords unique opportunities for such interaction and offers students and faculty the opportunity to break away from traditional classroom techniques to become involved in the total social and educational process (2,3). Use of the World Wide Web in education has the potential to lead to enhanced satisfaction for faculty and students.

Outreach education, as provided at Weber State University and other institutions, is changing rapidly and having a profound effect on the educational system (4). Nevertheless, despite the explosion of technology available, many institutions have retained the traditional classroom, textbook, and lecture model of education (5). One reason is the commitment required to make Internet education work and the enormous amount of time and energy that must be invested by any faculty or program considering such a change.

The faculty at Weber State University devoted months to the painstaking work of designing a framework for Internet instruction that could be used, easily accessed, understood, and completed successfully by groups of students of various ages in remote locations. In this task, which often seemed overwhelming, faculty required not only training but encouragement (6-9). This article is an account of the process and the conceptual framework for the course design. Revisions are still being made, but the structure for Internet education at the university works well, and consistency for the online courses now being developed is maintained.

The completion of the redesign of first-year nursing courses for delivery on the Internet has afforded students the opportunity to complete didactic requirements for practical nurse licensure while living in remote rural areas. Beginning in the fall semester of 1998, associate degree didactic Web-based content was made available to practical nurses interested in becoming eligible for registered nurse licensure.

The two sites selected for the first practical nursing program consisting of didactic material delivered totally via the Internet were Fairbanks, Alaska, and Tooele, Utah. Prior to delivery of this program, a pilot course was delivered in the state of Utah. Refinements in some methods were made as a result of student feedback, and additional technologies were incorporated.

The Initial Plan As faculty began to consider the assignment for which they had volunteered -- redesign of the program for delivery on the Internet -- it became apparent that several issues needed to be discussed and clarified before any mechanical process could begin. None of the faculty had prior experience designing an online course, but they knew that the product must reflect the philosophical framework of the program from which it derived. Moreover, they hoped to develop a model that could be used successfully for all courses.

For more than 25 years, the Weber State University Nursing Program had delivered undergraduate nursing education to rural areas of Utah. It was the first nursing program in the state to use interactive television. Now the Internet would provide the opportunity to reach far beyond state boundaries.

The faculty had many concerns -- copyright laws, confidentiality, security, resources, time, technical support, and administrative issues. A tolerance for frustration was required. A course, or components of a course, would "disappear" after hours of work, and technical support might be unavailable for days at a time. It was necessary to be flexible, to think of other ways to engage students, to change formats, and start again. It was necessary also to understand that the technical support team viewed faculty as customers, even while programmers conformed to the pedagogical style of the faculty, adhering to course content, and writing and rewriting. …

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