Studies in Learning, Evaluation, Innovation and Development > Vol. 6, No. 2 (2009)

Web-enhanced and on-line learning: A comparison of first year undergraduate nursing students’ learning

Trudy Ann Dwyer, IHSSR
Kerry Anne Reid-Searl, IHSSR


The current shortage of nurses has resulted in education providers looking to more flexible modes for delivering undergraduate nursing programs as a means of increasing student recruitment and retention. Ensuring these new modes of delivery meet learner needs, curricular outcomes and are at least equivalent to traditional course delivery methods is a challenge for nurse educators. This exploratory study compared students’ (n=41) attitudes, learning experiences and cognitive knowledge acquisition in two different modes of delivery. First year nursing students enrolled in a practise based nursing course delivered by either traditional ‘internal’ face to-face mode with web-enhancements or a ‘flexible’ on-line mode participated in the study. Students also attended on-campus practical learning sessions either on a weekly basis (internal mode) or as a single residential school (flexible mode). Findings revealed that while both groups supported their chosen learning mode, participants studying by ‘flexible’ mode were significantly (p<.05) more supportive of this mode as it was perceived to be more compatible with their work/lifestyle balance. Students choosing to study by ‘internal’ mode were less comfortable using computers for studying or accessing and using the on-line resources. This group preferred to study by ‘internal’ mode as they believed the regular face-to-face component was consistent with their learning style. Feelings of learning isolation expressed by the ‘flexible’ group were reduced with the attendance at face-to-face residential school. There was no difference in the cognitive learning scores between the two groups. In conclusion, these findings suggest that offering a practise based nursing course, on-line in the first year of an undergraduate program is a comparable to a traditional, face-to-face web-enhanced course. The choice of learning mode is subject to individual preference in learning style and work/life style balance. This choice is essential to attract student enrolments and ultimately reverse the recruitment shortage in nursing.

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