Perceived Benefits among Students Using a Virtual Community for Learning

Tuesday, 13 July 2010: 4:25 PM

Jean Foret Giddens, PhD, RN
College of Nursing, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM
Linnea Carlson-Sabellil, PhD, RN
College of Nursing, Rush University, Chicago, IL
Louis Fogg, PhD
Community and Mental Health Nursing, Rush University College of Nursing, Chicago, IL

Learning Objective 1: The participant will be able to describe how virtual communities are used in nursing education.

Learning Objective 2: The participant will discuss the importance of multiple learning preferences among today's nursing students.

Purpose: An emerging pedagogy generating substantial interest in nursing education is the virtual community.   The purpose of this presentation is to report findings from a multi-site study among nursing students who used a virtual community in one or more nursing courses.   The primary research question was: Are there differences in perceived benefits among students using the virtual community intervention based on attribute variables?

Methods: This descriptive and comparative study involved a sample of undergraduate baccalaureate nursing students from nursing programs using a virtual community intervention as a teaching application. Students completed a 19-item questionnaire at the end of the semester related to their experiences and perceived learning benefits associated with the virtual community intervention.   The survey included questions such as how interesting they found the stories, whether they felt the stories extended their learning, whether they were helped by connecting character problems to course concepts, and the extent to which they searched for references to better understand the conditions experienced by the characters. Additional questions asked about the frequency of use within in class assignments, the regularity and frequency of use by students, and linkages to course content.

Results: Data analyses revealed statistically significant differences among participants based on race.  As a group, underrepresented minority participants reported greater benefits to learning than did white students.  There were no significant differences based on gender or age.

Conclusion: Findings from this study support the need to provide a wide variety of learning activities to support learners with diverse learning preferences.  Virtual communities have the potential to change the practice of teaching and learning through the ability to provide context to nursing content.  Further research is needed to understand the full potential of learning with virtual communities.