Problematic but Possible: Online Teaching and Learning in Post-registration Programmes

Problematic but Possible: Online Teaching and Learning in Post-registration Programmes

Maria Cassar (Department of Nursing, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Malta, Msida, Malta) and Josef Trapani (Department of Nursing, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Malta, Msida, Malta)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 8
DOI: 10.4018/ijdet.2014070102
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Abstract

This artifact identifies the main challenges experienced by the authors, both nurse educators, in the delivery of a module on evidence based practice exclusively through the use of an e-learning platform. The module has been running for the past four years as part of an entirely online post registration programme for qualified health professionals seeking a baccalaureate qualification, and makes use of asynchronous online discussions coupled with traditional written assignments as assessment methods. The authors' efforts to address the identified challenges are discussed, in view of flagging the measures which may need to be put in place by educators embarking on similar teaching initiatives.
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The Online Learning Environment

Addressing Heterogeneity

At the start of the programme, ensuring a degree of homogeneity in the student cohort was effectively worked upon by stipulating clear minimal pre-requisites for student enrolment. These included a certification of prospective students’ basic IT competences through ECDL certification1. This was advantageous because the resultant significant evenness secured a favourable degree of cohesiveness across the group, which in turn accommodated discussion amongst its members. Such pre-course assessment, recognition and consideration of students’ individuality, particularly their background skills, understanding and experience with using technology in online programmes is widely advocated (Clarke, 2005; Concannon et al., 2005; Docherty & Sandhu, 2006; Milligan & Buckenmeyer, 2008). The latter also advocate giving plenty of information well in advance, ensuring that students understand rules and expectations, such as the need to log in regularly throughout the course, and the provision of pre-course orientation sessions. In particular, enhancing familiarity with the e-learning platform was considered crucial because technical difficulties are one of the reasons for poor student participation in online discussions (Hew et al., 2010).

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