Several yearly reports help us understand how technology can support students in the higher education environment. One of these is the annual Educause Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR) Study of Undergraduate Students and Technology (Brooks, 2016). Published since 2004, this report helps drive change in higher education. Key findings from the 2016 report include:
- Students have many devices they use to gather information,
- Students have positive attitudes toward the use of technology for learning
- Students find the use of technology important for them to succeed in the academic setting,
- Device ownership is higher among students than in the general population.
According to the ECAR report, the majority of students have a positive attitude toward using technology to enhance their learning, and most report an affinity toward blended learning, with both online and face-to-face experiences.
Since 2002, the New Media Consortium (NMC) and EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) have published the annual NMC Horizon Report to address important developments in technology and their impact on higher education. Topics focus on key trends, significant challenges, and important developments in educational technology, integrating into the discussion questions about policy, leadership, and practice. Each year Skiba devotes one of her Emerging Technologies Center columns, published in each issue of the NLN research journal Nursing Education Perspectives, to a discussion of the most recent report. For 2017, she discusses short-term trends, which include the shift to greater interest in understanding how the use of “digital modes” of teaching is impacting students (Adams Becker et al., 2017).
A Wolters Kluwer/NLN infographic shows that 82.9 percent of nursing students report that the use of technology enhances their learning. Examples of how technology impacts today’s nursing students are positively targeted at adaptive technology, which directs the student to areas of weakness and strength based on assignments and the results of adaptive testing of content knowledge. Students report that by identifying and targeting areas of study that need greater focus and attention, adaptive technology enhances their learning and improves efficiency in learning.
The Horizon Report also identifies long-term trends. Consistent since 2015 is a focus on innovation in the use of technology. However, faculty are slow to adopt changes that deviate from the traditional classroom lecture for fear that student dissatisfaction in having to be actively engaged could lead to unfavorable course evaluations and impact promotion and tenure (Skiba, 2017). The NLN survey findings suggest that nurse faculty are embracing some innovation in the adoption of technology-driven teaching strategies because of the need to improve first-time NCLEX pass rates, help struggling students succeed, and identify high-risk students early in their education.
While these are important reasons to embrace innovation, Skiba (2017) raises an important point about higher education administrative support for embracing innovation. If higher education faculty evaluation systems do not lend themselves to a safe container for teaching innovation, faculty will continue the status quo.
The what and the why of technology use with today’s nursing student are all about the active engagement with content knowledge we expect of our graduates as they enter practice. Nursing education continues to make significant gains in this area, with survey findings suggesting that 94 percent of practicing nurses say technology use is an attribute where nursing graduates are strongest. However, only 69 percent of nurses in practice settings indicate that students are more prepared to use technology than graduates 5 to 10 years ago. Technology moves teaching strategies in a direction that engages the learner. Faculty need to be both educated and supported to adopt the technologies that will challenge students to be critical thinkers, problem-solvers, collaborators, and lifelong learners.
We hope that our conversation over this four-part series will enlighten you about the research and work being completed to improve, support, and extend teaching and learning using technology to engage our nursing students in creative inquiry, and give them the skills they will need to address the challenges presented by our health care system.