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Do New Designs make Better Learning Experience? -- A Collaborative Evaluation on Nursing Students’ Online Learning Experience with QM-Based Courses 

11-22-2019 23:03

The College of Nursing (CON) in a university in the southeast of the United States has developed online nursing courses based on the Quality Matters (QM) Framework for the Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing Major (RN to BS) program. QM is an international, non-profit organization that has become a leader in quality online course design for all of higher education (Gaston and Lynch, 2018). 

 

The RN to BS program is a fully online program that allows practicing nurses the opportunity to build a degree based on the nurse’s career needs. The RN to BS program provides a high-quality online education for nurses to advance their practice with clinical areas, nursing management, and beyond. Considering the new features in those online nursing courses, the CON requested an external evaluator to assess students’ learning experience in those online courses. The Model of Collaborative Evaluation (MCE) is applied to this project due to the standards of working with the stakeholders to determine how the results are applied to the program in real-time. This project will evaluate 1) student’s individual learning experience in the online nursing program; 2) students’ collaborative learning experience (for example: learning in groups, learning for course projects, etc.) in the online nursing program.

 

Connection between CON online courses and QM Framework

Quality Matters (QM) is an international, non-profit organization that has become a leader in quality online course design for all of higher education (Gaston and Lynch, 2018). In the past, online nursing courses are designed by individual faculty members, who draw from their professional training, who most likely did not include formal educational instruction on how to deliver courses in the online learning environment. The QM-based online courses in this project were designed by a professional instructional design group in CON. All those courses have a consistent course template, outlines, content format, presentation format, and activity format. The consistency of the course design brings convenience for both faculties and students to navigate those online courses.


All the QM-based online courses were designed in the Canvas LMS and have been delivered for at least one semester online. Currently, the CON tracks the students’ learning experience based on the learning outcomes at the end of the courses that were calculated automatically by Canvas LMS, as well as the End-of-Semester Survey. However, the CON was concerned that current categories that were used to track students’ learning experience were not providing the depth of understanding of students learning experience. The current End-Of-Semester Survey only provides limited room for students to elaborate on their online learning experience. The CON requested an external evaluator to assess students’ learning experience in the online courses to get a better understanding of how the QM-based courses influence their learning.

Evaluation Questions:

  1. In what ways do nursing students perceive their learning experience in the online nursing program?
    1. How do the nursing students feel about their individual learning experience in the online nursing program?
    2. Comparing to the face-to-face nursing program, what challenges the nursing students meet in this online nursing program?
    3. How do the online nursing program need to be improved in order to make nursing students feel more engaged in this program?
  2. What are the suggestions the nursing students want to share in order to improve their learning experience in this online nursing program?

Evaluation Approach:

 

The Model of Collaborative Evaluation (MCE) a well-documented framework for guiding collaborative evaluations in a useful manner (Rodríguez-Campos & Rincones-Gómez, 2013), is ideal for this project due to the standards of working with the stakeholders to determine the scope of the evaluation and to determine how the results are applied to the program in real-time.

 

 The MCE develops an open dialogue between the evaluator and the stakeholders to allow for more meaningful use of the results. The external evaluator will work together with the nursing students in this project. They will review the weekly discussion board, weekly learning experience reflection blog posts (created by each student), end-of-module reflection survey (total 7 surveys in 8-modules, 16 weeks courses), and newly designed End-of-Semester reflection survey.

 

 The purpose of this evaluation is to determine the most efficient way to improve nursing students’ online learning experience.
Data Collection

The evaluator will use three methods to collect data: a survey questionnaire, semi-structured interview, and bi-weekly diary from online nursing students.

The evaluator will conduct a survey questionnaire with multiple-choice questions and open-ended questions focusing on the nursing students’ learning experience in the online nursing program. Questions in this survey will be developed and conducted together with all stakeholders. The evaluator will administrate the questionnaire twice during the semester via the Canvas LMS anonymous survey tool. The first questionnaire administration will take place in week 6, which is at the mid-term of an academic semester. The evaluator chooses this time is because students have taken their online nursing courses for 6 weeks and have some experience that they can share about the online nursing program. Students will complete the second questionnaire during week 12, which is near the final week of an academic semester. The purpose of having students complete the questionnaire twice is to measure whether or not there is a difference in students’ learning experience in online nursing courses.

Then, the evaluator will design a semi-structured interview with selected participants. The semi-structured interview will help the evaluator to get in-depth information and understanding of nursing students’ perceptions of their learning experience in the online nursing program. The semi-structured interview can also help the evaluator to gather information on nursing students’ attitude suggestions and expectations on the current online nursing program. For example, do the students have a positive or negative attitude towards the online nursing program comparing to the traditional nursing program? Students will be asked to explain what experiences influence their attitudes toward the online nursing program. How do students describe their learning experience in this online nursing program? How do students think about the setting and design of the curriculum of this program? Does this curriculum help build their knowledge and professional skills in nursing? What do students expect to learn in this online nursing program? What students think they actually learned in this program? Does this program meet students’ expectations they set at the beginning of joining this program? And why? During the interview, the interviewees are encouraged to share as much as possible about their learning experience and learning-related information in this online nursing program.

The nursing students in the online nursing program will be asked to write a diary every two week, a total of 8 diaries in 16 weeks for a formal fall or spring semester. In the diary, the nursing students need to describe their learning experience, feelings, expectations, about the online nursing program. This can help evaluators get written documents on nursing students’ reflections on their learning experience in the current online nursing program.

The three data collection approaches utilized in this evaluation project will help the evaluators get sufficient and detailed information on the nursing students’ learning experience in the current online nursing program.

Data Analysis

The first step to analyze the massive amount of data is to organize (Morell, 2015). The evaluator will organize the data both physically and electronically. The evaluator will print out the data collected from each participant and organize the data in a folder for each participant. Also, the evaluator will create an electronic folder for each participant to organize and save the data on a personal computer. The evaluator will use the thematic analysis approach to analysis the narrative descriptions on the semi-structured interviews and students’ diaries in the evaluation project. The thematic analysis approach is used to identify and generate the themes in the narrative descriptions after a full set of data (Grbich, 2011).  The evaluator will also use a constant comparative analysis approach to analyze the data. The constant comparative analysis is utilized to find the similarities and differences in the narrative description (Coban, 2015). The constant comparative approach and thematic analysis approach will help evaluator to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the information collected in this evaluation project.

Strengths:

The strengths of this collaborative evaluation project can help evaluators and all stakeholders have an in-depth understanding of nursing students’ learning experience in the current online nursing program. The evaluation results and recommendations will be likely to utilized by the stakeholders to improve the online nursing program. The evaluation results and recommendations can be utilized as a reference for the departments and colleges who want to build and open their online nursing program.

Weaknesses:

The first weakness of this evaluation project is the time. Since the majority of the students in the online nursing program are working nurses, their busy schedule of work and life may not allow them to have sufficient time to write down all their learning experiences, feelings and expectations in their bi-weekly diaries. The second weaknesses of this evaluation project are the online distribution of the questionnaire. Any delay in the response of the questionnaire and the incomplete questionnaire will influence the timeline. This delay will also influence the timeline of the following semi-structured interview negatively.

In order to minimize the weaknesses, the evaluator will give guidelines and examples for students to use when writing their reflection on the online learning experience. The evaluator will work together with the students and the course instructors to build the guidelines for the writing reflection of the learning experience in order to ensure that students only need to spend 30 minutes or less to finish their writing reflection. Working together with the students to build the guideline can also ensure the evaluator get the related information about the focus of this evaluation project. In order to deal with the second weakness of this project, the evaluator will send at least two announcements in the Canvas LMS to remind students to finish the survey questionnaire. Also, the evaluator will work together with the course instructors to remind students to complete the survey questionnaire.

Reference:

Gaston, T., & Lynch, S. (2019). Does Using a Course Design Framework Better Engage our Online Nursing Students? Teaching and Learning in Nursing, (1), 69. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsbl&AN=vdc.100075046991.0x000001&site=eds-live

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