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To develop a teaching methodology instructors must ask themselves what do I want my students to learn from this class and what is the most effective way of achieving this goal. When choosing a certain methodology instructors have to take into account their students' learning goals, prior knowledge, environment, and many other factors. Every instructor wants to be effective and facilitate learning and critical thinking but this cannot be achieved sufficiently unless the instructor adopts a good teaching methodology. I will describe why I believe online learning is the best method for teaching nursing students of all types, the advantages and disadvantages of this method, and how this method has become very useful in the staff development and patient education settings.
Online learning has started to find its niche between the need for nurses to stay at the bedside due to the nursing shortage and the nursing profession's need for more graduate prepared nurses. Today it is more common for undergraduate and graduate students to come into institutions of higher learning having grown up in, or having become accustomed to, a very quickly advancing technological world. People have gotten so used to technological advancements in everyday life that I believe if a teacher showed up to a classroom without a Power Point Presentation and lectured to the class on a chalkboard that the students might not learn as much as they would have in the past. In my opinion online education seems more engaging and motivating to most students. Online teaching and learning has many advantages over its older and more frequently used counterparts. Seiler and Billings, authors of “Student Experiences in Web-based Nursing Courses: Benchmarking Best Practices”, found that active participation, meaningful and timely feedback from instructors, increased interaction and camaraderie among students, emphasis on diverse ways of learning, increased achievement of educational goals, convenience, flexibility, and preparation for the real world practice environment were some of the many advantages to online learning (Seiler & Billings, 2004). Also, many students pursuing higher education have to balance school with work and family responsibilities. Billings and Halstead, authors of Teaching in Nursing: A Guide for Faculty, write, “The learners of today expect ready access to course offerings and flexibility in scheduling to meet their educational needs” (Billings & Halstead, 2009).
Online education has quickly spread to most every field of study, across the nation, and to many parts of the globe. This type of education is also hastily becoming an essential tool in teaching job related information in nursing and many other professions. Most students who have participated in an online course believe that using technology in their program of study will prepare them for real world technology and prepare them for professional practice (Seiler & Billings, 2004). Online learning has become very popular in the work setting by keeping nurses up-to-date on new protocols, providing nurses an alternative way to complete job required meetings or classes, allowing nurses to manage their requirements for continuing education, and various other applications. With the introduction of WebMD, online BLS/ACLS courses, and many other online informational tools/games staff development and patient education have become easier and more accessible.
Online education may not be for everyone but research has shown that it can be a satisfying and effective form of education for students from various age groups, either gender, different ethnicities, and for students of varying computer skill levels (Salyers, 2005). The Sao Luiz Hospital in Brazil, conducted an experimental research trial on 49 nurses randomly assigned to online or on-site groups and found that the nurse that participated in the online learning had slightly higher scores than the on-site nurses proving that the online method of education is just as effective as on-site learning (Padalino & Peres, 2007). Billings and Halstead also write, “Studies of the effectiveness of online courses reveal that online learning is as effective as it is in the classroom” (Billings & Halstead, 2009). Online education is gaining global popularity as an effective way of sharing thoughts, learning matter, and unique experiences and it may one day replace other forms of education altogether.
Although online learning has many advantages it also has its disadvantages. Many students in today's educational settings grow up with face-to-face lectures, and the thought of any kind of change in their normal way of receiving information may make them uncomfortable or even anxious. Many teachers who have been utilizing face-to-face lectures for years may also find online teaching a bit anxiety provoking when the thought of more time needed to prepare an online module, needed computer skills, and many other factors begin to be realized. Billings and Halstead write, “Faculty who teach online courses and students who take online courses must reconceptualize their roles as teachers and learners to be successful in these courses” (Billings & Halstead, 2009). Students that are not very self-directed, procrastinators, and students with inadequate time management skills may run into trouble with the “learn at your own pace” kind of style common to most online education. Also, online education is still lacking in its ability to teach psychomotor skills and have the students demonstrate the skills via the internet. Students that really rely on student-faculty and student-peer interactions, have little technological skills, prefer the structure of a traditional classroom setting, or are being taught by an instructor with little online teaching expertise may find online learning inconvenient, annoying, and difficult (Salyers, 2005).
In addition, maintaining an online course may take large amounts of time on the part of the teachers and/or cost the institution too much to maintain. Institutions may find that they do not have enough teachers or the technical support to maintain an online class. Even the online course with the best technical support will have some unavoidable technical glitches or require a certain amount of time to be down for maintenance. Some students may not have home computers or may be having problems with their home computer or internet service. Research has shown that technological difficulties can be a disadvantage to online learning but that the online platforms and hardware available today are more stable than in the past (Seiler & Billings, 2004).
In conclusion, even though there are a few disadvantages to the online learning process these disadvantages are heavily outweighed by the numerous advantages and satisfaction ratings that go along with online learning. In the future the capabilities of an online learning class may be endless. When online complex psychomotor skill teaching and various other tools available to the online community are advanced the way we think of a classroom may be completely changed forever. Some people today are getting degrees without ever leaving their houses. Our kids may gain the education and work experience needed for their careers in their bedrooms on a computer. I don't know what the future will bring, but I do know that the area of online education will continue to advance and make the process of learning easier and more effective.
Billings, D. M., & Halstead, J. A. (2009). Teaching in Nursing: A Guide for Faculty. St. Louis, Missouri: Saunders Elsevier.
Padalino, Y., & Peres, H. H. C. (2007). E-learning: A Comparative Study for Knowledge Apprehension Among Nurses. Rev Latino-am Enfermagem 2007 maio-juhno, 15(3), 397-403.
Salyers, V. L. (2005). Web-enhanced and Face-to-Face Classroom Instructional Methods: Effects on Course Outcomes and Student Satisfaction. International Journal of Nursing Education Scholarship, 2(1), 6-9.
Seiler, K., & Billings, D. M. (2004). Student Experiences in Web-based Nursing Courses: Benchmarking Best Practices. International Journal of Nursing Education Scholarship, 1(1), 5-8.