Monday, November 14, 2005
This presentation is part of : Online Nursing Education
The Biophysical Measurement of the Stress of Online Learning
Deana Molinari, PhD, RN, CNS, Intercollegiate College of Nursing, Washington State University, Spokane, WA, USA
Learning Objective #1: Debate the feasibility of continuous cardiopulmonary measurement of learning stress
Learning Objective #2: Evaluate differences in the online learning stress of students in group and isolation learning environments

The purpose of this study was to measure the stress levels of junior-level, nursing students working online in either an isolated or group setting using a wearable cardiopulmonary monitoring device and salivary cortisol samples. This study employed a holistic nursing philosophy to gather subjective and objective data. The Allostatic Stress Model was adapted into an educational framework called the “Learning Allostatic Model” permitting the simultaneous study of biophysical, environmental, experiential, and instructional design variables. The purpose of the 3X3 factorial design was to examine the feasibility of collecting continuous cardiopulmonary data during an in vivo educational experience. The study was part of a larger study (N=92) where surveys and grades on the quiz were compared. Correlations, t-tests, ANOVAS and repeated measures were performed to answer research questions. Self-report measures included: An author developed personal information form, the Learning Orientation Questionnaire, the Stress Arousal Checklist, the Computer Anxiety Rating Scale and Holmes and Rahe's Social Readjustment Rating Scale. Thirty-nine students during the first three weeks of nursing school, participated after signing a research consent approved by the university institutional review board. Students were randomly assigned to online computers in either a group or isolated setting where they studied a module and took a test about how to author a database using ACCESS . All students experienced statistically significant stress over time as measured by journals, continuous cardiopulmonary variables and salivary cortisol levels. Differences in the stress levels of the two randomly assigned groups were found using the computerized LifeShirt®. These findings suggest that new technologies can detect stress differences in online learning environments. The anticipatory stress found among isolated students may justify interventions designed to reduce stress levels before distance learning assignments begin.