With student demographics changing and more working professionals returning to school to uplevel their education, there are hundreds of online nursing schools operating in the US today. In a recent article for the NLN Center for Innovation in Simulation and Technology, Dr. Diane M, Billings, Chancellor’s Professor Emeritus at the Indiana University School of Nursing, Indianapolis, explores the future of online teaching and learning for the nursing profession.
Billings takes a look back at the evolution of online learning and the use of technology in nursing education, remarking that the use of learning management systems (LMS) is relatively recent — with first LMS implementations happening around the year 2000. The introduction of this technology drove many changes in the way the nursing curriculum was created and in education delivery — creating challenges that still exist for many post-secondary institutions. Faculty needed to learn how to teach in an online environment. There was a demand for new skill sets — instructional design, programming, web design and development to support an online learning model — and schools needed to develop (or evolve to) best practices in implementing blended or purely online learning models.
With online learning now firmly in practice within nursing schools across the nation, Billings and other professionals are looking to the future. What lies ahead for the practice of online learning as it relates to nursing education?
Here’s a glimpse into the future Dr. Billings and other learning colleagues see:
- Use of analytics provided by an LMS to inform instruction and teaching with rich data. This might entail embedding ongoing learning assessment through the learning journey using analytics surrounding a learner’s interaction with content and the system to predict future success and to quickly identify learning gaps.
- Personalised learning to allow learners to flexibly chart their own path through learning content and progress at their own pace.
- Use of knowledge gained through the use of technology and online learning to improve traditional classroom education.
- Use of the LMS for ongoing professional development, staff orientation and residency programmes.
Beyond the future of online education, let’s take a look at several other future trends impacting nursing education:
- An increase in the number of nurses with baccalaureate degrees from 50% to 80% by 2020.
- A doubling of the number of nurses with a doctoral degree by 2020.
- Changing student demographics, with a greater number of mature students and greater racial and ethnic diversity.
- Greater use of technology such as EMRs, greater access to clinical data, the emergence of telehealth and telemedicine for care delivery, nanotechnology for clinical diagnosis, and so on.
- Increased interdisciplinary education to lay the groundwork for collaborative care.
- Greater focus on lifelong learning driven by rapid advancements in technology, clinical complexity and treatment methods.