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22st Annual OLC International Conference
November 16-18, 2016 | Orlando, Florida | Walt Disney World Swan/Dolphin Resort

OLC Innovate 2016 - Innovations in Blended and Online Learning
April 20-22, 2016 | New Orleans, LA | Sheraton New Orleans Hotel

Integrating Blended Learning Into the Nursing Curriculum: Strategies, Challenges & Outcomes

Laurie Posey (The George Washington University, USA)
Session Information
July 9, 2014 - 11:20am
Blended Models and Course Design
Areas of Special Interest: 
Blended Program/Degree
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Best Practices
Institutional Level: 
Universities and Four Year Institutions
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Governor's Square 12
Session Duration: 
50 Minutes
Information Session 6

Evaluation results from a newly transitioned blended Bachelor of Science in Nursing program reveal practical strategies for holistic planning, innovative design and quality assurance.

Extended Abstract

The George Washington University School of Nursing's (GW SON) accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program requires students to complete a challenging curriculum within a compressed time frame, integrating dense clinical content with hands-on skills development. Blended learning enables educators to take advantage of the flexibility and active-learning benefits of the online environment while meeting students' needs for clinical skills practice in a lab setting and guided instruction in the classroom. To provide assistance in realizing these benefits while expanding the reach of the program, the US Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) funded the Teaching and Transforming through Technology (T3) project to transition GW SON's BSN program to a blended learning format.

The new hybrid BSN program has been evaluated from a variety of perspectives. All of the courses have been reviewed using Quality Matters (QM), a nationally recognized peer-review process for assessing the quality of online and blended courses. Student perceptions of different blended learning strategies have been assessed through formative evaluation and alumni surveys. Faculty experiences have been evaluated through surveys and interviews. This program evaluation has revealed a variety of challenges along with strategies to promote success in designing and implementing blended learning courses and programs in nursing education.

The use of QM's quality standards has provided a foundation for hybrid course design and continuous improvement. To date, ten of the fifteen hybrid courses have been reviewed using the QM process and have met the standards, and three reviews are in progress. The review process has revealed both benefits and challenges in applying the QM rubric standards to hybrid courses. While the standards have been useful in designing and evaluating the online components of the courses, classroom activities and interactions which are key to course quality are not observable by the reviewers or included in the evaluation criteria.

Qualitative analysis of faculty experiences in implementing blended learning strategies has yielded common themes to guide instructional design practice. These strategies have emphasized optimizing the benefits of, and interactions between, the online and classroom environments to promote active learning and critical thinking. For example, in one course, groups of students contribute to a wiki to build a clinical case and create a plan of care for their fictitious patient. Later, groups then share their cases in class as the instructor facilitates a dialogue to reinforce key concepts, clarify misperceptions, highlight diverse perspectives and stimulate critical thinking. In another example, students view online videos and narrated lectures and submit a worksheet in preparation for case-based learning in the classroom. Another examples integrates online pre-work with a collaborative lab simulation in which students use a student response system to collectively guide a small group in decision-making with a patient simulator in the lab. Key findings based on faculty reflections include: a need for technical assistance in producing multimedia components; promotion of active learning through a flipped-classroom approach; the need for careful planning including structured assignments to ensure that students are well prepared for active learning in the classroom; and the educational value of online collaboration in democratizing the learning process, motivating students to excel, and promoting critical thinking and discovery learning.

A survey of program alumni related to the overall educational value of blended learning yielded mixed results, with 37% of students rating online components of the program as valuable, 30% as somewhat valuable, and 33% as not valuable. Interestingly, results of student surveys related to the effectiveness of specific blended learning strategies have been more positive, with 91% of respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing that the learning activities were engaging; 78% agreeing or strongly agreeing that the activities were an effective way to learn new knowledge and skills; 63% agreeing or strongly agreeing that the learning activities made good use of their personal study time; 70% agreeing or strongly agreeing that the learning activities made good use of classroom time; and 88% agreeing or strongly agreeing that the learning activities promoted interaction and collaboration among faculty and students.

In summary, transitioning any academic program to blended learning requires careful planning, from introducing students to a new way to learn, orienting and supporting faculty in the design and implementation of blended learning approaches, and designing courses and activities to ensure educational quality and effectiveness. As some students prefer traditional, classroom-based approaches, it is important to inform applicants of the blended format so that they can self-select into a program that is consistent with their preferred learning style. With careful planning and good instructional design, blended learning can increase active learning in the classroom and provide educators with flexibility to innovate and meet the demands of a fast-paced, challenging curriculum.

This presentation will share the results of the T3 program evaluation and highlight lessons learned. Participants will learn practical strategies for holistically planning blended learning degree programs, designing effective blended learning strategies, and ensuring quality throughout the blended curriculum.

Lead Presenter

Laurie Posey, EdD, is an Assistant Professor and the Director of Instructional Design for the George Washington University's Health Science Programs. She has a Doctorate of Education in Instructional Technology and Distance Education from Nova Southeastern University and a Masters degree in Instructional Systems Design from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.