Perceptions of community of Associate Degree nurse learners in an RN-to-BSN online program
Cherie R. Rebar, Northcentral University, United States
Northcentral University . Awarded
Registered Nurses (RNs), when educated in an Associate Degree (AD) program, learn in a face-to-face environment. Today's preferred standard of education for RNs is to achieve a minimum of a Bachelor's degree. For convenience while they continue working, numerous AD-prepared nurses seek online education to complete their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, yet have never studied in this type of learning environment, nor have they learned to forge educational relationships in a virtual setting. At the time that this study was proposed, limited research existed that studied how BSN students perceive this forum, and how it affects their sense of community and success in education. This study, grounded in phenomenology, investigated how a group of RN-to-BSN learners perceive the sense of community and success in an online program, and set the stage for further study of relationships and mental health of RN-to-BSN online learners. Five AD graduates who entered an online RN-to-BSN program chosen via convenience sampling were interviewed. Key findings indicated that students in an online RN-to-BSN program do not perceive sense of community strongly in terms of interpersonal connections and relationships. They perceive it in terms of demonstrations of feedback timeliness and professionalism demonstrated by the facilitators. This is of utmost significance, as current published information implies that students perceive sense of community as relational connectivity, as opposed to immediacy of professional information. Implications of the findings can be used to educate faculty in the RN-to-BSN program about ways in which they can increase the sense of community for learners by being responsive and professional as they conduct themselves as academic mentors. A key recommendation for further research includes a longitudinal study of these types of learners, following how their sense of community changes over the course of a program's curriculum, as the learners become more familiar with online learning processes. Another recommended study would include incorporation of nursing learners from different educational backgrounds, such as those who earned previous degrees in other fields. All learners would have the commonality of graduating from a traditional face-to-face Associate Degree nursing program, yet other work in higher education could be considered as an influential factor in how online learning is perceived. Most importantly, further study must be done on what factors learners perceive that must be included in the working definition of sense of community.
Rebar, C.R. Perceptions of community of Associate Degree nurse learners in an RN-to-BSN online program. Ph.D. thesis, Northcentral University.
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