Learner Isolation In Distance Education Essay Example

Background

Research demonstrates that distance education is the “magic bullet” in addressing nursing shortage issues and ensuring that nurses have the opportunity to advance their skills and competencies (Mutea & Cullen, 2012). In nursing contexts, some of the advantages of distance education include:

  • Time flexibility
  • Convenience
  • Lack of transportation worries
  • Easing the shortage of nursing educators
  • Capacity to share information via the Internet

One study investigating the effectiveness of distance learning found that, compared with traditional methods of instruction, “web-based distance education has equivalent or even better effects in improving participant’s knowledge and skills performance, and improving self-efficacy in performing nursing skills” (Du et al., 2013, p. 175). “As a delivery mechanism, distance education involves the separation of the educator and learner in time and space and is used primarily to assure access and convenience for learners” (Du et al., 2013, p. 167)

Issue Description

Despite the “candy-coated” advantages, distance education has been accused of isolating the learner from real communities of practice and peers (Gilmore & Lyons, 2012). This student-based issue is particularly harmful in nursing contexts due to the practical nature of the course and the need for nursing students to continuously interact with faculty and other learners to develop adequate skills and competencies (Young & Paterson, 2013). Evidence from the Literature. Jain and Jain (2015) argue that a significant proportion of nursing students feel isolated in online learning contexts due to:

  • Inadequate learner-learner interactions
  • Inadequate learner-content interactions
  • Inadequate learner-course management system interactions
  • Inadequate instructor-learner interactions
  • Lack of spontaneous discussion
  • Lack of an opportunity to share values and ideas
  • Feelings of anxiety due to the perception that they are “out there by themselves”
  • Lack of contact and competition from other students
  • Lack of rapport between students and instructors

Learner-Learner interaction – “occurs when students work or communicate with each other in small or large groups or on an individual basis” (Jain & Jain, 2015, p. 181). Learner-content interaction – “means students are working with the instructional materials or activities” (Jain & Jain, 2015, p. 181). Learner-course management system interaction – “allows a student to navigate through the online instruction, complete and submit assignments, and track their progress and grades” (Jain & Jain, 2015, p. 181). Instructor-learner interaction – “occurs when the instructor and students work and communicate with each other” (Jain & Jain, 2015, p. 181).

Evidence from the Literature

Jain and Jain (2015) acknowledge that the problem of learner isolation is grounded in the fact that “too much of our practice in distance education is not evidence-based and our actions and instructional designs are often grounded on untested assumptions about the value of the modes of interaction (or lack thereof)” (p. 181). Du et al. (2013) found that many nursing students feel isolated in distance education contexts as they lack the confidence needed to use computers and other information technology tools. “The effects of isolation seem to be more pronounced in female students who yearn for more intimacy in communication venues” (Young & Paterson, 2013, p. 130). For example, one study found that female students were more likely than their male counterparts to drop out of an online education course due to feelings of isolation (Wells & Dellinger, 2011). Additionally, isolated students are less likely to engage in activities that could improve their learning outcomes and performance motivation (Furness & Kaltner, 2015).

Some of the advantages of distance education include more flexibility, mobility, customization to students’ needs, lack of travel/accessibility, global outlook, many technological possibilities, as well as low cost. The main disadvantages include lack of control, incapacity to appeal to all learning styles, student isolation, technological issues, and lack of computer competency; this presentation deals with the issue of STUDENT ISOLATION.

Problem Description

Main Takeaway from the Literature

Based on these elucidations, it is evident that the issue of student isolation presents a major challenge in attempts by nursing students to achieve the needed education and skills through distance learning

To ensure the effectiveness of distance education, it is important for relevant stakeholders in nursing education to design and implement evidence-based courses with the capacity to minimize learner isolation and increase interactions in online learning contexts

What is Needed?

Based on the reviewed evidence, an effective online nursing course should incorporate elements that not only enhance interactions, discussions, and competition among students but also ensure that students and instructors are provided with an enabling framework to share values, perspectives, and ideas

Additionally, distance education should have the capacity to enhance rapport between students and their instructors

Types of interactions that need to be stressed in distance education to reduce learner isolation:

  • Learner-learner interactions
  • Learner-content interactions
  • Learner-course management system interactions
  • Instructor-learner interactions

Significance of Issue to Distance Education

Learner isolation in online learning contexts has impacted negatively on the ability of the distance education model to achieve the intended outcomes. For ease of understanding, the impacts are divided into three components namely retention, motivation, and empowerment.

Retention

Research is consistent that learner isolation leads to high dropout rates among nursing students enrolled in distance education (Wells & Dellinger, 2011). Gilmore and Lyons (2012) argue that learner isolation is a significant contributor to low retention rates for online nursing programs and continues to discourage many nurses from upgrading their skills and knowledge through distance education. The study by Gunderson, Theiss, Wood, and Conti-O’Hare (2014) found that retention rates for online nursing programs are low compared to traditional classroom settings because distance education tends to isolate students from the actual learning and practice environment. For example, nursing students may become isolated when they feel that they may not be able to transfer the theoretical knowledge learned in virtue environments to real practice settings, leading to the decision to drop the online course. Available literature demonstrates that “estimates of the failed retention rate for distance education undergraduates range from 20 to 50 percent”, and that “distance education administrators believe the failed retention rate for online courses maybe 10 to 20 percent higher than face-to-face courses” (Hill, n.d., p. 2).

Motivation

Once students feel isolated in distance education contexts, they are less likely to have the needed performance motivation (Du et al., 2013). The effective construct of motivation fulfills many important functions in the educational process and is positively associated with feelings of satisfaction with learning outcomes in online courses (Gunderson et al., 2014). Available literature also demonstrates that, when students feel isolated in online learning contexts, they are more likely not to develop the motivational factors that increase their urge to be competitive in learning and practice environments (Young & Paterson, 2013). It is important to note that, in distance learning contexts, the students lack the immediate support of the instructor who normally motivates them in traditional classroom contexts, further compounding the issue of learner isolation (Wells & Dellinger, 2011). The motivation construct demonstrates that “distance learners require additional support that may not be required of students in face-to-face classrooms” (Gilmore & Lyons, 2012, p. 45).

Student retention and motivation are intricately related in that students who are less motivated by their educational environments are more likely to drop out of school than those who feel more motivated. Available literature demonstrates that retention and motivation issues have their main origins in learner isolation (Young & Paterson, 2013).

Empowerment

A major objective of nursing education is to empower students with the skills and competencies required to provide quality patient care in practice settings (Wells & Dellinger, 2011). However, the available evidence demonstrates that the issue of learner isolation has the capacity to affect the realization of this objective due to its association with feelings of disempowerment and frustration (Young & Paterson, 2013). The relationship between learner isolation and empowerment is linear in that students that report more integration into their educational programs are also more likely to be empowered than those who are isolated from their learning contexts and peers (Mutea & Cullen, 2012). Since nursing empowerment is critical in the provision of quality care outcomes, nursing students who enroll in distance education programs may find it difficult to perform well once they join practice environments (Jain & Jain, 2015). Based on these observations, it can be justifiably argued that the issue of learner isolation in distance learning may affect the capacity of the student to provide quality care to patients once he or she joins formal employment.

Students can never be empowered if they feel isolated from their learning environments, teachers, and peers (Young & Paterson, 2013). Lack of empowerment has been positively associated with several negative outcomes, such as the inability of students to develop necessary skills and competencies, low motivation in educational and practice areas, and attainment of unsatisfactory grades (Young & Paterson, 2013).

Strategies to Address the Challenges Posed by the Issue

The pertinent challenges raised by the issue of learner isolation can be condensed into three components, namely:

  • Retention problems
  • Lack of performance motivation
  • Empowerment deficits

The evidence-based strategies that could be used to address these challenges are described as follows.

Retention Problems

Introduce group learning processes to enhance interactions – “the larger the group size the higher is the quality and quantity of the interactions” (Jain & Jain, 2015, p. 182). Use video conferencing to address the issues of

“isolation and loss of face-to-face interaction with instructors and peers” (Wells & Delinger, 2011, p. 406). Create a friendly environment in which the students feel comfortable sharing their opinion about the content” (Jain & Jain, 2015, 183). For example – stakeholders can design an introduction section or arrange for frequent phone conversations with learners with the view to developing a friendly and social environment in which students feel comfortable to engage in learning activities.

Evidence demonstrates a strong positive relationship between group size (six to 10 students) and overall meaningful interactions (learner-content, learner-course management system, learner-learner, and instructor-learner) in distance learning contexts (Jain & Jain, 2015). Group learning processes and creating a learner-friendly environment address the issue of learner isolation by reinforcing inclusivity and increasing positive interactions; this, in turn, improves retention.

Lack of Performance Motivation

Conduct orientation programs to ensure that students develop positive perceptions of the technological tools used in the learning environment (Wells & Dellinger, 2011). Example – Stakeholders can use “remote orientations, face-to-face orientations, and combined face-to-face with remote orientations” to motivate students enrolled in distance education programs and ensure that they are comfortable with using various technological tools to learn. Such orientation programs, according to Gilmore and Lyons (2012), not only improve performance motivation but also reduce student attrition. Orientations also improve the students’ sense of belonging to the academic community, hence effectively reducing learner isolation (Gilmore & Lyons, 2012). Stakeholders could also use student mentoring and encouragement to motivate students and reduce incidences of learner isolation (Gilmore & Lyons, 2012). Lastly, stakeholders could use available technological tools to provide students with the opportunity to meet with their tutors and the broader learning community.

Evidence shows that “If learners have positive perceptions of their interactions with the technological tools of the learning environment, it is likely that they will also have positive perceptions of their interactions with faculty and other learners” (Wells & Dellinger, 2011, p. 406). Such orientation programs should include the following components that are consistent with educational standards for distance learning: program overview, welcome, and introduction; review of each online course; review of student support services; university and program policies; registration and advisement processes; computer technology services and technological applications used in the program; orientation to the online library and technological applications used in the program; orientation to the online library and search engines; orientation to the WebCT/Blackboard course and course navigation; review of practice course; orientation to practice course; social interaction in the virtual environment; one-on-one assistance with course tools, navigation and downloads; and question and answer session (Gilmore & Lyons, 2012).

Empowerment Deficits

Develop feedback systems to address student issues in a timely and spontaneous manner (Gunderson et al., 2014). Employ available technology tools to ensure that students have round-the-clock access to learning resources. Develop the confidence of students in the use of computer resources and other information technology tools normally used in distance learning contexts to disseminate learning materials (Young & Paterson, 2013). Develop distance learning contexts that permit flexibility in the use of students’ time and also underscore convenience and accessibility (Young & Paterson, 2013).

Learner isolation is also related to other negative outcomes, such as lack of student engagement in the educational process, lack of motivation, lack of student satisfaction with the institutional environment, as well as student interaction deficits (Hill, n.d.). These outcomes have the capacity to lower the performance of students in distance learning contexts, as well as affect their corroborations and interactions.

Conclusion

This presentation has identified the issue of learner isolation and discussed how the issue continues to impact negatively on the ability of the distance education model to achieve its intended outcomes. An analysis of the significance of the issue shows that learner isolation is directly associated with student retention challenges, lack of motivation, and student empowerment deficits. These challenges are negatively associated with student satisfaction, interaction, and socialization in web-based learning environments, hence the need to address them using the identified strategies. According to the presented evidence, it is evident that the described strategies have the capacity to minimize learner isolation and increase interactions in online learning contexts.

Overall, this presentation has been successful in demonstrating that the issue of learner isolation presents a major challenge in distance learning contexts that must be addressed through the strategies identified here.

References

Du, S., Liu, Z., Liu, S., Yin, H., Xu, G., Zhang, H., & Wang, A. (2013). Web-based distance learning for nurse education: A systematic review. International Nursing Review, 60, 167-177. Web.

Furness, L., & Kaltner, M. (2015). Facilitating student education and support using videoconference. Australian Journal of Rural Health, 23, 249-253. Web.

Gilmore, M., & Lyons, E.M. (2012). Nursing 911: An orientation program to improve retention of online RN-BSN students. Nursing Education Perspectives, 33(1), 45-47. Web.

Gunderson, B.J., Theiss, M.A., Wood, L.K., & Conti-O’Hare, M. (2014). Using a telephone call to increase social presence in online classes. Nursing Education Perspectives, 35, 338-339. Web.

Hill, C. (n.d.). Strategies for increasing online student retention and satisfaction. Web.

Jain, S., & Jain, P. (2015). Designing interactive online courses. Education, 36, 179-191. Web.

Mutea, N., & Cullen, D. (2012). Kenya and distance education: A model to advance graduate nursing. International Journal of Nursing Practice, 18, 417-422. Web.

Wells, M.I., & Dellinger, A.B. (2011). The effect of type of learning environment and perceived learning among graduate nursing students. Nursing Education Perspectives, 32, 406-410. Web.

Young, L.E., & Paterson, B.L. (2013). Teaching nurses: Developing a student-centered learning environment (2nd ed.). Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

True Intentions Of The Founding Fathers

The transition of the United States from a small and rather helpless group of colonies to one of the most influential powers in the world has been a long journey. Some might argue that it would ultimately have failed if not for the Founding Fathers and their heroic efforts during the Philadelphia Convention. The very notion of America as a nation seems to originate from democratic ideas expressed in the Constitution. Despite that, certain critics disagree that the Founding Fathers were, in fact, democratic or that their intentions were noble. In order to make a conclusive judgment regarding this dilemma, it is crucial to examine the historical context of the U.S. Constitution’s ratification. In the 18th century, the emerging nation required change related to the existing confederate government to survive and sustain itself. This paper argues that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and other Constitutionalists were democratic and that all the criticisms fail to consider these men’s need to remain reasonable and appease the majority.

History lessons and media contributed to the idealization of the Founding Fathers and their actions. They are always portrayed as “generally noble, with strong personal narratives, undergirded by faith and patriotism” (Shorto 2010). In order to determine whether they were truly democratic, it is important to assess the content of their proposals, which have become the basis of the Constitution. First, it is evident that the new Constitution enforces the concept of republicanism, which refers to the inherently democratic principle of citizenship and election of representatives. Second, the Constitution emphasizes the importance of another democratic theory, social contract. According to this philosophy, there should be an agreement between citizens and those who govern them. It gives consent from the citizens to be governed as long as the authorities do not abuse their power and vow to protect individuals’ natural rights.

The existence of natural rights is another democratic concept imbedded in the text of the Constitution, which the Founding Fathers were fighting to ratify. Lastly, the U.S. Constitution establishes a system, which ensures that the regime’s power is restricted by formal regulations, which is the basis of limited government. Thus, it is apparent that the Founding Fathers’ ideas are truly democratic. In fact, they have served as a foundation for all the new human rights and civil liberties developments in the country for the past 350 years.

Despite the aforementioned Constitutional concepts rooted in democratic principles, some might argue that there is a limit to the Founders’ noble intentions. Alfred F. Young (1988) noted that George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and other Constitutionalists were members of an elite class who could not possibly address inequality, violence, and financial burden faced by ordinary people in the country. Thus, some may conclude that the Founding Fathers were no one but a group of well-educated and pampered gentlemen who sought the excitement of political intrigue and wanted to stroke their egos. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1837) refers to such members of privileged classes as bookworms “who value books as such; not as related to nature and the human constitution.” Moreover, Young (1988) mentions that the Founding Fathers primarily followed their personal interests and tried to secure economic gains from the ratification of the new Constitution. Thus, the intentions of Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, and others were far from noble or democratic.

In the context of the historical events taking place right before 1787, the argument of the aforementioned critics seems weak. The Founding Fathers acknowledged the need to move away from the Articles of Confederation to an updated Constitution. The reasons for that were varied and included the emerging nation’s economic struggles and legislative inefficiencies. The majority of the United States’ issues stemmed from the absence of a central government. The Congress had no authority to control trade, impose one currency, tax people, or set up an independent judiciary. In addition, there were many difficulties in the process of passing new legislature, which was worsen by an inefficient amendment process.

The Founding Fathers simply followed the rules of the political game they were now a part of. First, they faced a challenge of securing a balance between individual liberties and the order necessary for the nation to sustain itself. Second, they had to maneuver in order to convince the majority of privileged white males in power to ratify the Constitution. According to John P. Roche (1961, 802), “the state legislatures obviously would have the final say on any proposals that might emerge from the Convention,” which pressured Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, and other Founders rather reasonable in their proposals. The 18th century was far from the Utopia, which meant that the Constitutionalists could not suggest immediate radical change (Roche 1961). Therefore, with the help of numerous compromises, they set up a framework, which would allow the development of democratic processes in the future

In conclusion, the Founding Fathers were democratic and had good intentions. The nation needed reforms in order to survive and prosper. The Constitutionalists offered a new political framework, which contained reasonable enough proposals for the privileged members of the state authorities to ratify. The democratic notions of the U.S. Constitution became the basis of the future developments in the fields of civil liberties, human rights, and political freedom.

References

Emerson, Ralph Waldo. 1837. “The American Scholar.” ArchiveVCU. Web.

Roche, John P. 1961. “The Founding Fathers: A Reform Caucus in Action.” American Political Science Review 55 (4): 799–816.

Shorto, Russell. 2010. “How Christian Were the Founders?” The New York Times, Web.

Young, Alfred F. 1988. “The Framers of the Constitution and the “Genius” of the People.” Radical History Review 42: 8–18.

“Covid-19 Protection From The Flu Shot?” Study By Duhnam

According to the data, the researchers report that getting the flu vaccine reduced the chances of testing positive for COVID-19 than those who did not receive the flu shot by 24% (Duhnam, 2021). The study found that flu-vaccinated residents are less likely to need hospitalization or mechanical ventilation and have shorter hospital stays; however, vaccination had no effect on mortality rates and in the use of intensive care (as cited in Duhnam, 2021). These results may affect the future use of the vaccine, as the data obtained may play a prominent role during future outbreaks of the virus. The researchers suggest that the flu vaccine may also have a protective effect against the new coronavirus through a process called “trained immunity” (as cited in Duhnam, 2021). The same happens in the fall when people get vaccinated against the flu or another disease, and the incidence rate decreases. Dr. Kozak called it an ‘interesting hypothesis’; he said that the data to make such a conclusion is not available in this particular study (as cited in Duhnam, 2021). However, Dr. Michael Silverman suggested that the lower rate of severe outcomes among people vaccinated against influenza is socioeconomic (as cited in Duhnam, 2021). This can be explained by the fact that residents who are vaccinated against the flu are more likely to monitor their health and worry about the consequences of their behavior for other people. Kozak also stressed the importance of obtaining a vaccine against COVID-19 and agreed that further studies of the flu vaccine are needed (as cited in Duhnam, 2021). To summarize, the study shows a decrease in some incidence rates when using the flu vaccine, but this does not prove the flu vaccine’s effectiveness against COVID-19.

References

Duhnam J. (2021). COVID-19 protection from the flu shot? Experts wary about new study. CTVNews. Web.

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