Evaluation of Blackboard(TM) as a Platform for Distance Education Delivery

Article excerpt

Abstract: The Hampton University School of Nursing has implemented a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Distance Education Program that utilizes the Blackboard Learning System", which was designed to transform the Internet into a powerful environment for the educational experience. The Interne, however, may be a new learning environment for many nurses seeking a graduate degree. The Blackboard(TM) platform allows for synchronous, real-time activities such as chat rooms, and asynchronous, delayed, activities such as discussion boards and digital drop boxes that can be used for student-to-instructor and instructor-to-student document transfer. This article focuses on the skills and challenges of navigating a course on the Internet using Blackboard(TM). Recommendations for improving the teaching-learning process using a Web-based environment are included.

Key words: Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, Distance Education, Instructional Technology, Blackboard(TM), Graduate Nursing Education

Hampton University's School of Nursing, located in Hampton, Virginia, offers undergraduate and graduate programs in nursing. The graduate program includes both a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in family nursing and a Master of Science degree in nursing. The graduate program is the oldest amongst Historically Black Colleges or Universities (HBCU); and the undergraduate program is the oldest in Virginia offering a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing. The curriculum for a Master of Science degree offers several roles, including educator, administrator, clinical nurse specialist, and nurse practitioner.

With a long history of providing quality programs for graduate nurses, the School of Nursing ventured into the distance education arena to target those nurses who are unable to attend on-campus programs due to distance, lack of time, busy schedules, and family obligations. Amongst the first programs to be offered using distance education methodology in the School of Nursing was the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP) specialty. The program was designed and received funding from the Department of Health and Human Services. Blackboard(TM) was selected as the platform to deliver the program.

The primary focus of this article is to describe the challenges of using the Blackboard(TM) platform, maintaining interpersonal relationships in the virtual environment, and providing Blackboard(TM) recommendations when implementing a totally online PNP master's program. While the Blackboard(TM) system performs as advertised and is mentioned in the distance education literature (Avery, Ringdahi, Juve, & Plumbo, 2003; Sakraida & Draus, 2003; Larsen, Logan, & Pryor, 2003; DeBourgh, 2003; Rovai, 2001), an evaluation of its usability does not appear to be readily available.


Blackboard(TM) is a third-party Web-based course development platform that was already in use on the campus by the University. The platform has been used by the PhD degree in Nursing and the University's undergraduate Religious Studies distance education program. Blackboard(TM) offers a secure environment in which to post information, documents, assignments, and announcements. It allows for synchronous, real-time activities such as chat rooms and asynchronous, delayed, activities such as discussion boards and a digital drop box that can be used for student-to-instructor and instructor-to-student document transfer. A grade book is also provided where items can be weighted and final grades computed automatically. The grade book even allows instructors to post grades of complete or incomplete. The instructors may also track course requirements for the practicum component of the program, such as current malpractice insurance, cardiopulmonary resuscitation certification, health records, and vaccinations. Any number of instructors can be designated for a course with all instructors being given equal rights and privileges. Having more than one instructor per class provides protection for the students if a catastrophe befalls one of the instructors. …


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