Emerging technologies enhance nursing education

Wednesday , July 09, 2014 - 12:00 AM

Joyce M. Barra

With courses in fundamental nursing techniques such as patient safety, maternal and child health and medical and surgical conditions, 36 women attended the first nursing class at Weber College in 1953. WSU was part of a pilot program to see if it was possible to educate nurses in a junior or community college setting.

The pilot proved so successful, it led to the Weber State University School of Nursing. Now in its 61st year and ranked 7th in the nation for number of degrees awarded, the school continues to teach fundamentals of nursing care, while also offering an education focused on the future.

In 2014, the New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Report described a variety of important developments in educational technology for higher education. The consortium is a community of international educational experts who exchange ideas and engage in online discourse.

The good news underscored by the report is that Weber State University’s School of Nursing already incorporates emerging technologies for the benefit of students. Since 1997 when WSU entered the online world, there has been progressive and expansive growth in the use of educational technology. Support for faculty to investigate and implement new technologies into the classroom has resulted in creative curricula and excellent program outcomes.

Two of the six categories identified by the NMC report were digital and social media technologies. In the digital technology realm, WSU is actively engaged in the use of the “flipped classroom.”

The flipped classroom is a model of learning that rearranges how time is spent in and out of the class — both online and in traditional classroom environments. Instructors transfer ownership of learning to the student. For example, pharmacology faculty members now record their lectures electronically and then make them available for students before class begins. That way classroom time with faculty is devoted to clarification of concepts, review of difficult content and in-class activities that augment learning. This arrangement produces many positive results: deeper leaning, increased student collaboration and greater satisfaction. Faculty members feel they can devote more time to helping those who struggle, while also creating learning activities that are intellectually challenging and fun.

The second area is the use of social media technologies. More and more, students are turning to social media to get educational information. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Flicker, YouTube and Instagram are just a few examples of where students go to access and share information. In many nursing courses, faculty members upload instructional videos to YouTube to present up-to-date nursing practices. Students create WikiBooks jointly to demonstrate knowledge of emerging bedside technologies. Social Waves allow students to track the history of Facebook conversations in informative ways. These chats are embedded in courses to create a bond between students online. Google Docs also promotes collaborative, coordinated work without having to print or email files.

All of these media technologies offer students and faculty two-way dialogue that can enhance learning.

Faculty members in the school of nursing are committed to investigating how emerging technologies in education can best be implemented to assist our students. Keeping up with change will be the biggest challenge. With 700 graduates per year, however, excellent education translates to excellent patient care, and that mission has not changed since 1953 when the first group of nursing students entered class.

Barra Ph.D., RN, is an assistant professor at Weber State University School of Nursing.

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