Institutional procedures trail online education, study finds

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Online programs should reflect their differences from in-person teaching, researchers say.
Online programs should reflect their differences from in-person teaching, researchers say.

As online nursing education increases in popularity, researchers are finding institutional procedures may not be keeping up. 

“It is possible that institutional policies and practices that address support, resource allocation and faculty teaching have not kept pace with the rapid growth of online education,” said Elizabeth Gazza, Ph.D., RN, associate professor at University of North Carolina Wilmington.

In a survey of 2,175 higher education faculty, 49% thought their institution did not provide enough technical support, and 48% thought they did not provide adequate support for course creation. 

Gazza states online nursing education is not better or worse; it is just different. 

Her research showed online instructors strived for the back-and-forth interaction necessary for teaching. In an online setting, teachers need to be available to students more frequently because students can work at virtually anytime.

Typically, instructors' workloads may be determined by credit hours. In online teaching, a better measure is class size. Institutions should evaluate this when scheduling faculty, along with workload allocation and compensation. A majority of study participants found online teaching takes longer than in-person teaching.  

Results of Gazza's study appeared in the Journal of Nursing Education in June.