A Case Study in Micro-Learning and Alternate Credentials Before Their Time: Cardiac Care on the Web

A Case Study in Micro-Learning and Alternate Credentials Before Their Time: Cardiac Care on the Web

Bettina Brockerhoff-Macdonald, Lorraine Mary Carter
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7697-7.ch001
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In this chapter, the journey of how the Cardiac Care on the Web online program came to be will be described, along with how the guiding principles framing the program development and delivery, as applied more than 20 years ago, still hold relevance today. Furthermore, how the program's micro-credential status has been sustained and has paved the way for micro-certifications at Laurentian University today will be discussed. Finally, this case study offers the authors the chance to review past and present literature and to reflect on next steps for Cardiac Care on the Web given the present emergence of micro-credentials in digital format.
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Laurentian University is a bilingual (English and French) and tricultural (English, French, and Indigenous) university in the city of Greater Sudbury located in northeastern Ontario, Canada. Because northern Ontario is characterized by great physical distances between communities, a limited number of post-secondary institutions, unpredictable and inclement winter weather, and expanses of rurality and remoteness, Laurentian University is a pioneer and an innovator in distance education. Not only is Laurentian University distinguished by a long history of distance courses and tricultural programs, it also occupies a place of distinction as a leader in early online education.

In the late 1990s, Canada was beginning to learn about the capabilities of the internet for educational purposes. Laurentian University’s Centre for Continuing Education and School of Nursing, in partnership with the Sudbury Regional Hospital (now Health Sciences North), responded to a federal funding call through the Office of Learning Technologies (OLT), a branch of Human Resources Development Canada, for online learning projects in specialized areas. In the space of a couple of years, Laurentian University won competitions to develop novel online programs in prior learning assessment and recognition, nursing health assessment, and cardiac nursing. It is this last program that the authors will describe and position as a program ahead of its time.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Credential: A credential is that which is issued by a credible institution and represents the learning achieved by an individual. In universities, the most common form of credential is the degree. Certificates and diplomas are also credentials issued by universities and colleges. They are typically distinguished by focus on knowledge and skills related to a specific disciplinary or professional practice area. In each case, there is a set curriculum with learning outcomes, activities, and assessment strategies. The credentials landscape in post-secondary education is changing, however, as undergraduates look for ways to complement their degree studies with career-focused learning. Similarly, adult learners including those from professional backgrounds are increasingly seeking learning opportunities that permit them to re-skill and upskill quickly. In these instances, it follows that a micro-credential is a way of recognizing and validating learning.

Distance Education: Historically, the term distance education was used to refer to systems and strategies that brought education to those who lived at physical distance from the educational institution. Early models of distance education included course packs sent to learners who worked through their materials independently, submitted assignments by mail, and possibly wrote exams at exam centres. Over time, in some institutions, course packs were complemented with video tapes while learners may have also been required to attend teleconferences. With the arrival of online education, distance education evolved dramatically such that there is much greater interaction in the learning experience with synchronous and asynchronous means and the growing sophistication of multimedia applications embedded within online courses. Over the last 10-15 years, online courses which originally served students at a distance from the institution now serve several groups including but not limited to those for whom distance is a factor in their learning lives; those who live within the catchment area of the educational institution but are not able to attend classes because of complex and busy lives; those who prefer online learning because of its convenience and/or a personal learning style preference; undergraduate and graduate students; and adult learners. Canada has extensive history in distance and online education because of its vastness as a country. It also has some excellent scholarship in the field.

Micro-Learning: As the prefix ‘micro’ suggests, a micro-learning situation is brief and focused. While it may encompass some theoretical learning, often a micro-learning situation is skill or competency focused and/or provides a chance for specialized learning. While colleges and universities have now entered the micro-learning sector, so too have large corporations such as Google and Amazon.

Communication Tools: The term communication tools typically refers to the use of email, chat, and bulletin board/discussion board in an online course. These tools can be used to facilitate asynchronous discussion around ideas, the completion of learning activities, building of relationships, and networking. Asynchronous communication tools may also be complemented by synchronous tools such as webinars delivered in real time. In online courses, communication, and responsiveness on the part of the instructor to students is essential.

Canadian Nurses Association: The Canadian Nurses Association or CNA is a bilingual national professional association representing over 135, 000 nurses in Canada. CNA is an integral player in the evolution and advancement of Canada’s publicly funded and not for profit healthcare system.

University Continuing Education Unit: University continuing education units vary in purpose and mandate. Some are well integrated with the main campus and possibly the university’s teaching and learning centre; others are standalone entities, which may function as ancillaries. In general, however, continuing education units serve adult learners whose learning needs focus on career advancement and professional development. Continuing education units are more nimble in how they function than faculties and foster strong relationships with their communities, industry, and professional associations. In Canada, many continuing education are leaders in online education and other innovative educational models.

Online Learning: Particularly since the 2020 pandemic, which required educational institutions around the world to transition to technology-enabled teaching and learning, there are various definitions of online learning. The definition of online learning used in this chapter refers to learning made possible through learning management systems such as WebCT, Brightspace, BlackBoard, Canvas, and other platforms. While students can interact with each other, their instructor, and the curriculum, their interactions generally occur asynchronously or not in real time.

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