Exploring online learning experiences of postgraduate nursing education students at a selected nursing education institution in KwaZulu-Natal.
Background Online learning is becoming an indispensable complementary teaching and learning tool and has been an integral aspect of education in many tertiary institutions around the world. In nurse education and training, online learning, web-based learning or e-learning is a fundamental necessity, especially in the light of the growing shift into information and communication technology (ICT). The South African e-education policy requires every teacher and every learner in the education and training sector to be ICT capable and be able to use ICTs confidently and creatively to help develop the skills and knowledge they need as lifelong learners, to achieve personal goals and to be full participants in the global communities. Purpose The purpose of this study was to explore the online learning experiences of postgraduate Master’s Degree nursing education students at a selected nursing education institution in KwaZulu-Natal. Methodology A qualitative, exploratory, descriptive research design was used and the whole population of sixteen postgraduate nursing education students who were exposed to online learning participated in the study. Data was collected through semi-structured individual followed by focus group interviews and thematic data analysis was used to analyse data. Findings The study revealed that it was the first time that most of the participants had been exposed to an online learning course, and reflected that they had felt empowered by this experience which provided them opportunities of reflection and deep learning. Participants indicated that the range of interactions and the level of engagement determined the eventual level of knowledge constructed. It was revealed from the findings that the online facilitator plays a key role in guiding, supporting and ensuring that the learning outcomes are achieved by all students. Benefits of the online learning space included increased socialisation, convenience and flexibility, asynchronicity and accessibility to learning material. Challenges were lack of real-time response, financial cost and technical issues. Recommendations This study recommends an intense orientation of students to ICT and to be informed of requirements before the commencement of online course. The online facilitators must be more visible in the online space and participate more often in the discussions and stimulate constructive dialogue.
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