Putting post-registration nursing students on-line: important lessons learned

Heather J Wharrad, Elaine Cook, Cherry Poussa
Nurse Education Today 2005, 25 (4): 263-71
A web site and discussion forum to support a part time degree course for nurses was introduced not only to support student learning but also to encourage students to use and develop their IT skills. Previous cohorts had identified that health informatics skills needed to be addressed more explicitly throughout the programme. The aims of the project were to: (i) evaluate the use of the web site and discussion forum; (ii) determine the barriers to using the web site and discussion forum; (iii) identify ways of overcoming any barriers. The first aim was addressed by analysing web page hits and contributions to the discussion forum. Students' experiences of using the web site and the discussion forum were collected using a questionnaire and followed up by a focus group made up of high and low users of the discussion forum. Students who had accessed the web site most often felt they had been able to communicate with their peers (Spearman's rho, p < 0.01) and had gained peer support by accessing the web site (Spearman's rho, p > 0.05). None of the participants in this study had used a discussion forum before and whilst some students had the skills and confidence to contribute to the on-line discussions, others 'lurked' and some did not access the discussion facility at all. Strategies for improving the engagement and quality of on-line learning are proposed from the lessons learned during this study.

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