The effectiveness of educating community nurses by distance learning
The purpose of this thesis is to examine the effectiveness of distance learning within post-registration community nurse education. In this context, 'effectiveness' is defined as being useful to the student or 'fit for purpose' and it focuses on the educational experience. The study, which was designed in two stages, aimed to investigate whether learning support needs were similar for full-time adult students and distance learners. In the first stage, an original survey instrument was designed and posted to a group of nursing students who had undertaken a diploma-level course (n=169). A response rate of 69% was achieved. It aimed to determine whether the learning and educational support needs were similar between these two groups. The findings suggested that the learning and educational needs were alike and suggested the need for proactive support with adult learners, irrespective of their mode of study. In the second stage, a phenomenological approach was used to determine the experiences of the first cohort of graduates from a distance-learning degree course in community nursing (n=6); their community supervisors (n=9) and the academic staff involved with the course(n=7). Each group interpreted the meaning of 'effectiveness' in varying ways. The findings confirmed that distance learning is an effective mode of education, providing that the students' learning is facilitated and supported by regular contact with course tutors and other students. The significance of this study is in the model of supportive learning which was developed in light of the findings that will assist in the effectiveness of distance learning. The model has five elements within it, addressing 'student characteristics 1, 'tutor characteristics', 'student-student contact', 'course content' and the relationship between the student and tutor. It is proposed that this model could be used for the support of students, as a framework for staff development and for course evaluation.