Academic journal article Nursing and Health Care Perspectives

Web-Based Courses: More Than Curriculum

Academic journal article Nursing and Health Care Perspectives

Web-Based Courses: More Than Curriculum

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT Online program development depends on an educationally and technologically sound curriculum supported by a solid infrastructure. Creation of a virtual environment through design of online registration and records, financial aid, orientation, advisement, resources, and evaluation and assessment provides students with access and program integrity. The planning of an academic support system as an electronic environment provides challenges and institutional issues requiring systematic analysis.

USING THE WORLD WIDE WEB to deliver nursing courses facilitates learning on demand and learner-centered instruction. From the student level on, institutions are able to establish new forms of electronic collaboration that have the power to facilitate major improvements in access and learning while successfully addressing cost and quality. The development and implement tation of educationally and technologically sound curricular content is the central product of Web-based distance education, but it is only as effective as the system's infrastructure. > The University of Maryland School of Nursing has been offering online courses for several years and now offers the complete RN to BSN program online. Some of this article's recommendations for system infrastructure are based on the authors' experiences at the University of Maryland.

Benefits and Disadvantages The literature frequently cites online learning as a favorable forum for education because it provides access to higher education by students who are geographically dispersed (1). Online learning has other benefits as well. With the average age of nurses increasing and greater numbers of RNs seeking advanced education, the majority of graduate students and students in RN to BSN programs are older, with greater family, work, and community obligations (2). Many of these students are seeking programs that are offered online.

Strengths and weaknesses of online learning programs can be noted as recurring themes throughout the literature. Garrison speaks of strengths such as accessibility, convenience, independence, and the opportunity for self-directed learning (3). Berge and Schrum identify several institutional benefits (4), such as the ability to attract students who reside outside the geographic area that is normally reached by the program. For faculty, although initial course development time is increased, Web-based courses are easy to update and provide for convenient learner interaction.

Despite the many advantages of online learning, feelings of isolation and frustration with technology continue to be reported (5). Students have voiced satisfaction with their courses, but have also registered dissatisfaction with course delivery, including difficulty with the establishment and maintenance of connectivity with the Internet.

Many administrative factors and issues must be addressed when planning and implementing an online program. Berge and Schrum point to the need to conduct planning and program implementation simultaneously and to integrate these activities into the fabric of the institution as seamlessly as possible (4). Despite the growing demand for online programs and courses, most schools lack the infrastructure or change in culture necessary to meet the demand. However, it is important to recognize that on-campus programs and courses often use the same resources and infrastructure as those delivered to distance students.

Creating a Virtual Environment The creation of a virtual environment for students entails the establishment of a Webbased course committee of administrators, technical support personnel, and faculty to handle the many challenges of planning and implementing an online program. Key to this process is the consideration of how to provide student support through the design of online registration and records and such services and issues as financial aid, orientation, academic advisement, counseling, library resources, support services, writing centers, student appeals, and evaluation and assessment. …

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