Online and Blending Learning Environments for Nursing: Effective or Not?

Online and Blending Learning Environments for Nursing: Effective or Not?
The increasing number of healthcare issues has necessitated the growth of healthcare nurses. The recent technological advancements have introduced online learning, which is much different from the traditional learning environment. It has been widely accepted that online learning has brought convenience, an aspect that has been lacking in the traditional learning environment. Given the pivotal role that nursing plays in public health, it is important to weigh the options between the traditional learning environment and the online learning environment.

Online learning has been one of the major aspects that have influenced academic progress in various fields. According to Riley and Schmidt (2015), online work does work for nurses if the management supported them through their learning and understood their busy schedules. Riley and Schmidt (2015) further note that health care cases have become rampant, which has consequently led to an increase in the demand for public hospital beds and an increase in the number of nurses. With the growing needs in public health, it is important that nurses develop professionally in ensuring that their operations are in line with the needs of their patients. Through a randomized control methodology, Riley and Schmidt (2015) found out that continued professional development among the nurses was inevitable, and it necessitated the need for the online learning environment. However, Riley and Schmidt (2015) observe that if such programs are to succeed, all stakeholders should take part in ensuring the provision of quality education.

Enhancing knowledge in the clinical sector has proved to be a challenging course for continuing nurses. In their literature, Dalhem and Saleh (2014) observe that online education has been one of the technological advancements that have impacted learning. In their analysis, Dalhem and Saleh (2014) studied the impact of online education in Hamad Medical Corporation, specifically in ICT, which had been promoted by the Qatar government. The aim of the program was to train and improve the ICT skills of the nurses working in public schools. Through a descriptive study design, the results indicated that e-learning was not a useful tool in learning for the nurses as it had been expected (Dalhem & Saleh, 2014). Through the surveys conducted, all the respondents were eager in the enrollment of the studies, but the results were not as per the set expectations. The study, however, found out that e-learning has a positive learning tool which was useful in the busy schedules for the nurses, and it allowed convenience and effectiveness in the provision of the standard services by the nurses (Dalhem & Saleh, 2014). The study, therefore, implies that e-learning can be a useful tool in learning, which could consequently be used in the professional development of the nurses.

There have been shortages of nurses in the healthcare industry. These changes have called for the introduction of innovative educational models that will prepare nurses within the healthcare system. Lowery and Spector (2014) note that there will be a demand of more than 50% of nurses both at the bachelor’s or doctoral levels by 2020. Such demand has led to a proliferation of technology use in nursing education. Similarly, Lowery and Spector (2014) continue to write that many boards of nursing have recommended the use of online and distance learning in the professional development of nurses. The boards of nursing have encouraged the use of technology, which according to them, addresses the increasing need for nurses across the board. However, through a reference from other relevant articles, Lowery and Spector (2014) have indicated that online education has met more challenges that seem to jeopardize the health care sector. Lowery and Spector (2014) have however noted that there is a need for the implementation of a regulatory model that copes with the challenges that face the implementation of online learning among nurses in the healthcare sector
In order to understand the impact of the online learning, it is important to conduct a comparative analysis of the traditional form of learning that involved face-to-face. In the traditional learning environment, students used to meet with their lecturers physically and learning used to take place in a formal environment such as a classroom, library, or laboratory. McCutcheon, Lohan, Traynor and Martin (2014) compare an online learning environment with the traditional system of face-to-face and their effectiveness in enhancing learning in the nursing sector. Through mixed methods systematic review, the McCutcheon et al. (2014) were able to research and analyze the online teaching methods that were being practiced by clinical students. Through the evidence that the authors gathered, online teaching is quite similar to the traditional learning environment. According to McCutcheon et al. (2014), the information provided in both learning environments is similar, and it is not possible to underrate any system of learning merely due to location or availability of facilities. However, McCutcheon et al. (2014) are not thorough in their analysis as they only compare the environment. McCutcheon et al. (2014) have affirmed that more research is required to evaluate the effectiveness of the various models of learning.

Student learning is a process that is guided by learning objectives. In nursing, attaining these goals determines the training that a nurse has accomplished during their course. Attaining course objectives is independent of whether the student is an ongoing professional nurse or a new student. It is important to ensure that an educational program produces a competent practitioner who maintains professional standards and protects the public from incompetence (Edwards, Chapman, & Nash, 2001). Edwards et al. (2001) also define the purpose of effective learning in nursing, which relates to the quality of education offered in online learning. Based on the evaluation methods that have been stated in the article, online education in the nursing practice does not attain the required levels in ensuring competency for the students (Edwards et al., 2001). Such a checklist means that regulatory measures will have to be implemented in online nursing for students.

The literature analysis has provided insight into online learning in the healthcare industry among nurses. The growing need of health services has necessitated a larger number of nurses, which has called for new models of learning among the nurses. Online learning has been considered as an efficient model although it requires reevaluation and introduction of regulatory measures in maintaining competency. 

Dalhem, W. A., & Saleh, N. (2014). The impact of eLearning on nurses’ professional knowledge and practice in HMC. Canadian Journal of Nursing Informatics, 9(3).

Edwards, H. E., Chapman, H., & Nash, R. E. (2001). Evaluating student learning: An Australian case study. Nursing and Health Sciences, 3(4), 197-203. Lowery, B. & Spector, N. (2014). Regulatory implications and recommendations for distance education in prelicensure nursing programs. Journal of Nursing Regulation, 5(3), 24-33.

McCutcheon, K., Lohan, M., Traynor, M., & Martin, D. (2014). A systematic review evaluating the impact of online or blended learning vs. face-to-face learning of clinical skills in undergraduate nurse education. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 71(2), 255-270.

Riley, K., & Schmidt, D. (2015). Does online learning click with rural nurses? A qualitative study. Australian Journal of Rural Health, 24(4), 265-270. 

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