Challenges and Successes of Undergraduate Nursing Students’ Transition to Fully Online Learning during the COVID-19 Pandemic and What We Learned

Challenges and Successes of Undergraduate Nursing Students’ Transition to Fully Online Learning during the COVID-19 Pandemic and What We Learned

Written by Christie Smart, DNP, RN, CNE
Assistant Professor at California State University, Sacramento

Published: May 2022

My name is Christie Smart, DNP, RN, CNE. I am currently working as an Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing at California State University (CSU), Sacramento. I earned my BSN from CSU, Long Beach, my MSN from CSU, Dominguez Hills, and my DNP from CSU, Fresno. My focus in my MSN and DNP was nursing education. I am currently a certified nursing educator (CNE). I have a certificate in online teaching from Quality Matters, and one of my research interests is creating accessible learning environments for students.

I worked with Dr. Michelle Dang, PHD, RN, and Lyndsay Anderson, FNP, MSN, RN, who are also interested in online learning to conduct this study. This study was done during Summer 2020 after our nursing programs had moved suddenly to a completely online format during the Spring 2020 semester due to COVID-19 restrictions. There are currently three nursing programs at our university, an undergraduate nursing program, an associate degree nurse to baccalaureate degree of science in nursing collaborative, and a registered nurse to baccalaureate degree of nursing program. We wanted to better understand the nursing students’ experience during this transition. We asked questions related to what factors supported online learning, engagement, and retention. We also sought out information to help us identify barriers that impacted our students’ learning. The questions were both qualitative and quantitative in design.

Our survey was sent out to 466 undergraduate students across three nursing programs. We received responses from 174 students. What we found out surprised us and also helped us look at what could be done to strengthen online learning in the future. Students faced multiple challenges during this time, and we found some differences between the RN-to-BSN students and the prelicensure students.

The poster presentation, which will be available to view at the Nursing Education Accreditation Conference, will identify the challenges students faced in the online learning environment as well as ways in which faculty can support students in this environment. While most programs have returned to in-person learning, there are an increasing number of online nursing programs, so making sure that students feel supported, and that faculty are properly equipped to create an effective online learning environment will lead to positive student outcomes. This support and training will assist in meeting accreditation standards related to achievement of program learning outcomes in any delivery method.

This poster presentation is designed for the nurse educator as well as the graduate nursing student interested in teaching in an online learning environment. The content is appropriate for all levels of nurse educator.