Mobile spaced education as a digital learning platform for undergraduate nursing students

Dr Clare McVeigh, Susan Carlisle, Matt Birch, Christine Oliver and Dr Helen Kerr, Queen’s University Belfast



Technology plays a growing and important role in today’s digital healthcare era. The role of technology is also important in the teaching and learning environment of healthcare professionals, which is why it is important to consider when nurturing effective ways of learning amongst future nurses. To promote undergraduate nursing students engagement in learning, effective teaching that demonstrates innovation and the use of technology must be considered when delivering the core principles and knowledge of safe nursing practice. Online education enables healthcare educators to facilitate and extend learning beyond traditional classroom hours to wider audiences, with flexible and interactive ways of engaging with content. This can all be achieved using devices such as mobile phones, tablets and desktop computers. However, one of the key challenges when promoting an online education environment is ensuring that the delivery method encourages participation of the learner, and provides effective knowledge translation.

Mobile spaced education, which is a learning analytics platform that promotes active learning (Kerfoot 2008), can provide a novel approach to optimising effective evidence based healthcare education. Spaced learning can be defined as a learning technique which repeats information over a set period of time, usually with breaks in between (Ferguson et al., 2018). Within nursing, this form of educational delivery is often achieved through delivering short clinical case based scenarios to students via email or a hand held mobile device (Philips et al., 2017). A small number of cases are delivered to the student every other day with relevant questions regarding the case. Each student’s performance is recorded to allow for analysis, whilst students are provided with immediate and succinct feedback. This online platform is built upon the psychological theory of learning that education that is ‘spaced’ and ‘repeated over time’ can deliver more efficient learning and improved retention compared to a single, and less interactive, distribution learning format.

Currently at the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Queen’s University Belfast, the ‘SPLENdidS study’ funded by the Martha Mc Menamin Memorial Scholarship is being conducted. This study is exploring the feasibility of delivering symptom management education in a university setting to first year undergraduate nursing students through implementing mobile spaced education as a digital learning platform. The management of patients’ holistic symptom needs are often complex and challenging with a clear need for a strong and integrative approach to care in clinical practice. To achieve this, the education needs of undergraduate nursing students involved in this care needs to be optimally addressed to have a significant impact on patient care. Mobile spaced learning offers the opportunity to deliver specialised clinical content in an on-line format that can change practice. It is hoped that the knowledge gained will facilitate nursing students in optimally assessing the holistic needs of the people they are caring for, and aid them in delivering effective symptom management.

Undergraduate nursing students often fear starting their first job as they feel they might not know enough or make a mistake. To promote safe, competent and confident practice, it is crucial to select ways of teaching and learning that will optimally engage and involve undergraduate nursing students. The new Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) Standards of Proficiency for Registered Nurses emphasise the importance of developing innovative ways of learning and assessment, as part of the undergraduate nursing curriculum. Knowledge and safe practice are vital in providing optimal care to people and their families, and this commences with undergraduate education.




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