An Exploration of Student and Academic Issues Relating to E-learning and its Use in Undergraduate Nursing Education in Australia: A Mixed Methods Inquiry

Author: Didy Button

Button, Didy, 2017 An Exploration of Student and Academic Issues Relating to E-learning and its Use in Undergraduate Nursing Education in Australia: A Mixed Methods Inquiry, Flinders University, School of Nursing & Midwifery

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Since the 1980’s the use of computers, internet and social media has increasingly played a role in the field of education. Learning via electronic technology (E-learning) has offered many benefits, but also has presented a number of challenges. These challenges may also be impacted by the increasing role that Information Computer Technology (ICT) plays in the health professions. Students studying in these professions, such as in nursing, not only need to be able to use ICT at University but also in their practice. Failure to attain proficiency in Computer Information Literacy (CIL) skills at university therefore, can impact on the ability of students to care for their clients. This study aimed to examine the current issues around E-learning, and the associated ICT from the perspective of nursing students and academics in nursing education in Australian undergraduate programs.


The thesis used a two phase sequential qualitative then quantitative mixed methods approach guided by the philosophical underpinning of pragmatism according to John Dewey. The focus of the study was to investigate issues encountered by Australian undergraduate nursing students and academics when using E-learning and associated technologies. The value of mixed methods research is enhanced through the integration of both qualitative and quantitative data. Integration was achieved when different data elements and strategies for analysis were combined so that the resulting research findings were greater than the sum of the parts

Phase 1, the qualitative arm of the study, used separate focus groups of students and academics. The focus groups identified issues unique and some common to nursing students and academics. The Phase 1 findings were used to develop two online questionnaires that comprised the second phase of the study. The Phase 2 online questionnaires were distributed Australia-wide to Schools of Nursing and Midwifery. The resulting quantitative data from the two questionnaires; were analysed using Factor analysis and nonparametric tests. Content analysis was performed on the questionnaire’s open response items.


A total of 27 students and 25 academics from one University participated in the Phase 1 focus groups, and 466 students and 203 academics from 13 and 18 Universities, respectively, responded to the online questionnaires. The results from both Phases of the study were then integrated by quantitating the qualitative data and qualitising the quantitative data.

The integrated student findings revealed that while undergraduate nursing students frequently used the internet and social media for personal communication, they perceived difficulties in using E-learning, and that they required assistance in developing CIL skills when undertaking their university studies. Academics, on-the-other-hand, were more positive and confident about using E-learning in their curriculum as long as issues relating to the lack of leadership in the area of E-learning, professional development, and the time taken to develop, implement and evaluate E-learning resources are acknowledged.


Considering that the use of technology will continue to increase within the health sector, and that the knowledge required to practice effectively should be evidence-based, it is important that undergraduate nursing students are develop the CIL skills required to use new ICT technologies and be able to locate recent, internationally reviewed research articles. Therefore, it is imperative that academics are provided with relevant and timely support to maximise their CIL skills. Further, educational versions of digital communication systems used in health care agencies should be made available to the tertiary education sector to allow students to build CIL skills.

Keywords: Nursing, e-learning, undergraduate, education, computer information literacy

Subject: Nursing thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2017
School: School of Nursing & Midwifery
Supervisor: Assoc. Professor Dr Ann Harrington