Posted by: Ellie Kutz | November 23, 2010

Educational Technology in Professional Education: The Example of Nursing

Technology is playing an increasingly important role in many fields, and thus in the education of students who are entering those fields. Nursing, the focus of this issue of the educational technology newsletter, can be seen as representative of other professional fields in the need to prepare students for a work environment that’s being altered by technology.

The field of nursing is being impacted by technology in several ways: 

  • Those who work in the field need to be comfortable users of technology.  According to a national survey of nurse administrators in 2003, the information technology skills that are critical for new nurses entering the work force include both general skills (such as using email effectively, using basic Windows applications, and searching databases), and the ability to use nursing-specific software (e.g. bedside charting and computer-activated medication dispensers) (McCannon and O’Neal). Nursing Education programs that use technology for teaching and learning contribute to the development of these skills.
  • The need for more highly educated nurses (for bachelor’s and master’s level education beyond the RN), has created a demand for practitioner-oriented programs for those who are already working in clinical settings—and thus for the online delivery of nursing programs.  The recent report of the Forum on The Future of Nursing: Education from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (2010) speaks to the importance of educating more RN’s to the BSN level and beyond, as the demand for more Advanced Practice RN’s increases and to the role of online programs and elearning in providing this education.

At the same time, the affordances of new technologies can also improve students’ learning in traditional areas of nursing expertise.  The Forum Report highlights the importance of use of technology in nursing education “to prepare students for decision-making in complex care environments” (20), to help students learn “to manage and use knowledge in real time” (12), and in offering clinical simulations. In particular, the report addresses e-learning as offering opportunities for active learning, teaching real life skills, developing collaborative online learning communities that can contribute to professional socialization.  The Forum report acknowledges that educators must be willing to try new, innovative strategies to engage students and that faculty development will be needed to help faculty use new technologies.

The College of Nursing and Health Sciences at UMass Boston, has been using educational technology both for developing students’ nursing skills and for the delivery of its programs.  At the college’s Center for Clinical Education and Research, students can develop clinical skills with SimMan—a high tech manikin—and gain expertise in using specialized clinical software. 

Nursing faculty use the Blackboard learning management system and a variety of other e-learning tools in their face-to-face courses and for the fully online RN to BSN program and a new online doctoral program offered by the college.  Both online programs also create a virtual community for student cohorts.  Ongoing training and support for faculty and careful attention to the quality of online courses is ensuring the success of these programs.  And on a page of testimonials about the value of the RN to BSN online program on the college’s website, students speak not only to the convenience of an online program, but to the usefulness of specific tools used in the delivery of courses and to the quality of their contact with instructors and peers. 

As a registered nurse working full-time, I found the RN to BSN program a very good way to complete my degree.   It can be so difficult to try to arrange classes when combining this with employment and family obligations, this program allows the student to be able to “attend” classes on line.   The program also allows students access to the recorded class if you are unable to attend.   The instructors were very helpful and interested in teaching and the assignments were appropriate to the subject matter.  The text and journals were very useful and informative.  To be honest, I do not think I would have been able to attain my Bachelor’s degree if not for the flexibility of this program.  M. Lahr, RN, BSN   ( )

In the rest of this newsletter issue, we’ll explore some of the uses of educational technology that have been central to the work of CNHS:  the use of a learning management system (Blackboard) to ensure consistency across course sections; the development of high quality online courses using the standards of Quality Matters;  and the development of  a virtual campus experience for online students in the RN to BSN program and the doctoral program.  Nursing faculty have also been using the SafeAssign plagiarism software as a learning tool, and an interview with Carol Allen about the college’s experience with it can be found in the last issue of this newsletter. 

McCannon, Melinda and Pamela V. O’Neal.  “Results of a National Survey Indicating Information Technology Skills Needed by Nurses at Time of Entry Into the Work Force.” Journal of Nursing Education August 2003, Vol. 42, No. 8 <>

Report on the Forum on the Future of Nursing: Education, February 2010. (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Institute of Medicine) <>



  1. good info, you have a great blog here! I’m definitely going to bookmark! I have a Technology (in category) blog. It pretty much covers related stuff.

    Come and check it out if you get time 🙂

  2. You are so awesome! I don’t think I have read through anything like that before. So good to discover another person with a few original thoughts on this subject matter. Seriously.. thanks for starting this up. This web site is something that is required on the web, someone with some originality!

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