Discourse / Discours - A Critical Analysis of Online Nursing Education: Balancing Optimistic and Cautionary Perspectives

Marjorie McIntyre, Carol McDonald, Louise Racine


The landscape of nursing education has been transformed by increasing student demand for online programs coupled with strong institutional directives to deliver nursing courses through distributed learning. The authors present a qualitative research design informed by philosophical hermeneutics in which 30 undergraduate and graduate nursing students discuss their experiences of the influence of peer dynamics on online learning. The findings include issues related to time, demands of online participation, experiences of conflict, and the development of skills in the online environment. Theoretical matters of curriculum such as instrumentality and tensionality are examined, generating both optimistic and cautionary possibilities for online learning. Online nursing students could benefit from a period of face-to-face orientation with a focus on building intellectual and social communities, limited class size, and opportunities to connect learners.

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