Initiation and Management of Accessible, Effective Online Learning


Initiation and Management of Accessible, Effective Online Learning

Patricia E. Allen / Khadija Bakrim / Darlene Lacy


The literature still tends to use a variety of terms such as distance education, Web-based or online learning, and online education to reflect this type of nontraditional education, which in educational reality is becoming a mainstream approach to learning. Some definitions include “institution-based, formal education where the learning group is separated, and where interactive telecommunications systems are used to connect learners, resources, and instructors” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2014, p. 6). The concept is now associated with learner accessibility, since online learning is experienced locally or globally, at home, a dormitory, or in the work place, regardless of a rural or urban setting, across state lines, and even internationally. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN, 2008) continues to use Reinert and Fryback’s (1997) and Russell’s (1998) definitions to further clarify this type of learning as “a set of teaching/learning strategies to meet the learning needs of students that are separate from the traditional classroom setting and the traditional role of faculty.” Today with the use of the Internet, the terms online education andonline learning (which will be used interchangeably in this chapter) are being used to reflect the broader view of these educational experiences.


Following a brief historic review of distance education, this chapter focuses on today’s high-quality, cost-effective, learner-centered approach to online education, examining content from both the student and faculty perspectives. This includes the importance of applicable educational principles needed to promote interactivity; legal, ethical, and copyright issues; active learning; and effective learner and student support, as well as some of the major academic and pedagogic issues impacting faculty developing creative courses.


This type of education has always experienced bumps and surges of acceptance. Even the term distance education denotes remoteness or isolation to call attention to the differences from the traditional classroom education. While distance education has been available in the United States since before the turn of the nineteenth century, schools and educators have often required a reason to develop and conduct education for students beyond the traditional classroom setting. Initial development centered primarily on vocational training.

Historically, educational regulatory agencies have not been very supportive; approval for off-campus or extension sites was needed when the sites were separated from the originating school or when geographical barriers existed, even when the same faculty were teaching both types of courses. Some states even defined the number of miles for approval. Another approach to distance education, depending on the school’s technological resources, could also mean the faculty drove “the distance” to the offcampus sites, then provided face-to-face (F2F) instruction. Colleges and students have come to realize the advantages and convenience of online education. The enrollment in online courses has consistently increased for the fourteenth straight year. According to a survey by Babson Survey Research Group, 7.1 million plus students have enrolled in at least one college course online (Babson Survey Research Group, 2017).

Use of Technology

The advent of print, audio, television, and the computer has assisted distance education strategies, and eventually led to online learning. In the United States, the distance education movement began with the Boston-based Society to Encourage Studies at Home in 1873, followed in 1885 by the University of Wisconsin developing “short courses” and Farmer’s Institutes. By 1920, a Pennsylvania commercial school for correspondence studies had enrollments of more than 2,000,000. Unfortunately, dropout rates averaged around 65%. In 1919, radio was the first technology used for distance education, later followed by telephone service. Wisconsin again became a pioneer by using audio conferencing equipment with telephone handsets, speaker phones, and an audio bridge to connect multiple phone lines for the first two-way interactive distance education for physicians and nurses (Armstrong, 2003; Schlosser & Anderson, 1994). Next came television, so that complex and abstract concepts could be illustrated through motion and visual simulation. Satellite technology for distance education in the United States was implemented in the early 1980s. As these methodologies grew in sophistication and complexity, distance education students began to experience greater transparency of the technology, which enhanced the educational experience. Computer technology came slowly to the forefront of distance education with computer-based education (CBE), computer-assisted instruction (CAI), and computermanaged instruction, and then its use exploded. Yet, it has been the combination of the various interactive Webbased technologies that have really provided the force for creative educational strategies, as well as innovative ideas from faculty that have provided the momentum and impact of online education.


A number of technologies are employed in the delivery of online learning, yet not all online programs use all of the technologies described.

Learning Management Systems

A learning management system (LMS) is a software product that was first designed for corporate and government training divisions as a tool to assess workers’ skills for job positions, and then provide specific training, either individually or in groups. Learning management systems are also commonly used for K-12 education and the higher education level to track student achievement in outcomesbased educational programs (Waterhouse, 2005). Another term for LMS that is used more frequently in academic settings is course management system (e.g., Blackboard and Canvas). They provide the same functionality as an LMS. The general functions for LMS software includes distribution of course content, communication among the users, interaction with course resources, testing, grading, and tracking records.

LMS becomes significantly more powerful by incorporating third-party applications such as Turnitin, Respondus, Lockdown Browser, all providing an array of sophisticated features. The major functionalities and tools of LMS are summarized in Table 46.1.

TABLE 46.1. LMS Features


Content Management Systems

A content management system (CMS) is a database of learning objects, which may include many items developed for instructional use. A CMS allows course developers to develop learning objects such as videos, modules, assessments, or any other materials used for online learning. It provides version tracking so that changes to these learning objects can be implemented without losing previous versions of the items. Another benefit to such systems is the ability of developers to share learning objects. They can be used as previously developed or modified to fit the need of the current course. Finally, CMSs are designed to integrate with course management systems. This allows the development of materials to take place outside the course itself. Then, building the course becomes as simple as selecting learning objects and placing them into the course. Course management systems such as Canvas offer a content management system that is designed to fully integrate with their system.

Emergence of Massive Open Online Courses

A massive open online course (MOOC) is a model for delivering free learning content. Many MOOCs do not require pre-requisites other than Internet access and interest. Recently, MOOCs have begun to offer academic credit. The concept of MOOCs originated in 2008 among the open educational resources (OER) movement, and cover a wide variety of topics. Designing for a MOOC course is very different from designing for a CMS-based course. The assessment is a challenging area of instruction within the MOOC, often resorting to objective tests or peer-reviewed comments.

Since 2008 MOOCs have become individual online courses allowing thousands to participate with varying results (Perez, n.d.). Considerations for use are cautioned by many faculty whose universities have embraced this model in a concern for completion rates and basic skill needs of the learner.

MOOCs provide participants with course materials that are normally used in a conventional education setting— such as examples, lectures, videos, study materials, and problem sets. MOOCs are typically provided by higher education institutions, often in partnership with “organizers” such as Coursera, edX, and Udacity, though some MOOCs are being offered directly by a college or university, such as John Hopkins University, Harvard, or MIT.

A new option added to the world of MOOCs is the Quasi-MOOC. A Quasi-MOOC may not be designed by a university educator, rather a team of content specialists such as the online content delivery of Khan Academy. A Quasi-MOOC does not assess your progress, rather releases content to explain topics of complexity or of interest to the participant (

Finally, MOOCs have been a great value to the corporate world in the last few years. Here connection, engagement, and scaling up are the key components for large corporations such as Microsoft who used Intrepid software to train thousands in a very large global sales team (Vital Source, 2019). MOOCs today do provide connection to those who may not be able to seek traditional education and allow engagement among learners as well as allowing providers to scale up to capture thousands of learners at one time; something not imagined in MOOC creation in 2008.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality (VR) is a form of computer-generated simulation that brings a unique experience to education and training. Second Life and Active Worlds have brought these technologies to the World Wide Web and made them accessible to much broader populations, including educators. VR is used as a learning environment where learners can interact with others while carrying out tasks or gain new skills. VR appears to provide exciting real-life applications of course content, for example in problemsolving situations, and specialized experiences in other places and times that would otherwise be inaccessible.


The rapid changes in new technologies and access to content anywhere and anytime allow learners to experience learning in a variety of settings and not just in schools (Prensky, 2012). Mobile computing devices are playing an increasingly important role in our personal, professional, and educational life. There are many different mobile devices including smart phones, tablet PCs, and laptop computers. The recent advances in mobile devices make online learning possible through the powerful computing capability built into their conveniently small sizes, Internet connectivity, and the availability of many types of mobile software applications (apps) (Johnson, Levine, Smith, & Stone, 2010). Because of the mobility and strong Internet connectivity, learning becomes ubiquitous and seamless (Liu, Tan, & Chu, 2009). Learners who are taking online courses can use mobile devices anywhere to access the course content, complete learning activities, communicate with classmates, and work on group projects. Many students access the CMS by available apps via phone.

Mobile devices become usable and functional enough to produce an impact on the education software industry, including LMS software. The number of applications for mobile devices has increased dramatically. For example, Google Docs for mobile allows accessing, editing, and sharing documents. Books have also gone digital and for many people e-books are now more desirable than books. Readers have the freedom to read e-books using e-raiders like Kindle or Nook, tablets, and smart phones.

Although the integration of functional mobile computing devices is no longer the real challenge, the focus becomes mainly on how this technology should be used to fulfill the core mission of learning (Cain, Bird, & Jones, 2008). Adeboye (2016) found the effective use of the mobile device increases the quality and quantity of student work.


With the number of online courses increasing, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities emphasizes the critical need for faculty well experienced in teaching online (Orr, Williams, & Pennington, 2009). In order to assist in successful online education, faculty must receive appropriate support, technical expertise, and online infrastructure. The role of the online instructor has developed into that of a facilitator rather than a knowledge distributor. This is achieved by engaging and guiding students through the use of active learning strategies to learn critical concepts, principles, and to develop skills, rather than just lecture material.

Roles of Online Faculty

With the development of new and emerging technologies the instructor role has advanced in favor of more engaging activities for students. The role of the instructor shifts from authoritative, knowledgeable presenter to facilitator, planner, coach, and communicator. The classic work by Oblinger (1999) suggested the shift away from teachercentered to student-centered could be outlined as:

•   From lecture to coaching

•   From taking attendance to logging on

•   From distribution of requirements to connected learning

•   From credit hour “seat time” to performance standards

•   From competing to collaborating

•   From library building collections to networked connections

•   From passive to active learning

•   From textbooks to customized materials, such as electronic materials accompanying textbooks

Faculty Development

Faculty development is a critical component to the success of any online education, especially as colleges and universities are using numerous Adjunct Faculty to assist with the increased student enrollments and teaching responsibilities (Allen, Arnold, & Armstrong, 2006). Academic institutions are taking a proactive approach to faculty support. Numerous workshops and one-to-one support in course development and technical issues are the most common types of training faculty receive. The faculty development activities are designed to assist and improve faculty teaching at all levels of the educational programs. Workshops, seminars, Webinars, and peer coaching are among services available for faculty development. The focus of these services should not be limited to technical skills development, but must include pedagogical issues. For example, strategies to create active learning activities, engage online learners, or motivate online students are topics that, if explored in depth, would help faculty be more effective online teachers. Today, many universities pair faculty with expert instructional designers to build courses with the latest resources.

Disaggregated Faculty

According to Allen, Keough, and Armstrong (2013) a new disaggregated model for faculty content delivery has emerged and is designed for consistency of content delivery as programs respond to large numbers of students. This model segregates design, teaching, and assessment of student learning into a team approach to course delivery (Rosenbloom, 2011).

Robison (2013) indicates the disaggregated model helps build a network of student support while the student is learning. This model also provides access to a variety of perspectives due to the availability of different faculty in areas of knowledge providing learning enhancement (Robison, 2013). In addition, the disaggregated model allows universities to scale up more rapidly, allowing course enrollments to soar while maintaining educational quality.

Support for Course Development

As noted previously, developing and delivering an effective online course requires pedagogical and technological expertise. Instructors new to online teaching are not likely to have such skills. An example used at our university is the Jumpstart Program. Hixon (2007) defined Jumpstart as a series of workshops that may take more than a week. These workshops include a team of support professionals, including instructional designers, librarians, and media production specialists, who help faculty increase their knowledge, productivity, and teaching experience with technology. Evaluation findings document that this Jumpstart program significantly influences the faculty members in their online course development process.

Allen, Bakrim, Lacy, Boyd, and Armstrong (2015) note online course development requires a team involving instructional designers, technical support staff, and content experts. The content expert offers an outline of topics that should be covered. The instructional designer provides help in course structure organization and functionality, and the technical support provides assistance with integration of technology tools. This model of team course development is common in most nonacademic settings and has been adopted by a number of academic organizations. However, course development carried out by the instructors who will be teaching the course is still a common practice in many colleges and universities offering online learning.

Technological tools for online learning are constantly being developed and improved, with the aim to make online learning more interesting and more effective. Regardless of faculty teaching experience, technology support is critical in online teaching.

Faculty Workload

Faculty workload refers to the number of courses taught by an instructor. The allocation of faculty time in higher education usually includes teaching, scholarship activities, and community service. Because teaching online is thought to require more time and effort compared with traditional face-to-face teaching, workload adjustment is usually used by institutions to promote faculty involvement in nonteaching activities.

Actual research into the assumption of increased development time has been limited. Research findings by Freeman and Urbaczewski suggest that the time spent with online course development seems to be proportional to classroom teaching. As with traditional classroom development, usually the extra time devoted to making the course effective and applicable then produces a significant reduction of faculty time after first-time delivery. Their research findings further suggest a model for online learning satisfaction that includes course conduct, admissions, curriculum, and prior experience with online courses at that same location to be significant predictors of program satisfaction (Freeman & Urbaczewski, 2019, p. 44).

Although academic leaders recognize the critical aspect of long-term planning for online education, there continues to be significant barriers to overcome. As indicated by Allen and Seaman (2015), 78% of academic leaders and only 28% of chief academic officers report that faculty members accept the value of online education. In 2013, there were a number of reasons identified for online education to be under-valued, time commitment and compensation, difficulty keeping up with changing technology, and lack of support with course development are major obstacles (Khalil, 2013). Today, “distance education courses and programs provide students with flexible learning opportunities. In fall 2016, nearly one-third of undergraduate students (5.2 million) participated in distance education, with 2.2 million students, or 13 percent of total undergraduate enrollment, exclusively taking distance education courses” (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2018, para. 6). Colleges and universities with appropriate technology capabilities as well as progression away from infrastructure deficiencies in distance education are now employing creative, engaging learning management systems and harnessing the skills of knowledgeable faculty, supportive administration, and the addition of instructional designers for quality online education.


The use of the Web for courses can be divided into three categories: hybrid courses, Web-enhanced face-to-face courses, and fully online courses. The selection of approach depends on the needs of the organization, the nature of the content, and the faculty as summarized in Table 46.2.

TABLE 46.2. Advantages and Disadvantages of Each Type of Course Delivery Mode


Learner Assessment in Online Courses

Assessment is an important aspect in the learning process. Assessment is defined as a means to gather, summarize, and interpret data to decide on an outcome and differs from the previous widely held definition of assessment as a test to evaluate student performance (Bastable, Grannet, Sopezyk, Jacobs, & Brunngart, 2020; Waterhouse, 2005). Using Bastable’s definition, learning may be assessed through a variety of ways such as:

•   Online discussion: Students respond to questions, reply to peers messages, and discuss course materials.

•   Papers: Students submit research papers, or essays. Posting papers to the online discussion forum can spark discussion. Rubrics provide guidelines and a method for self-evaluation.

•   Individual or collaborative projects: Students develop a project individually or as members of a group by using clear directions and guidelines.

•   Presentations/Performances: Synchronous communication systems can be used to make presentations or even have debates. A student can

•   use a whiteboard or show a Web site they would like everyone to view while holding a live discussion.

•   ePortfolio: It is an online application for collecting the student’s work that demonstrates meaningful documentation of individual abilities. Electronic portfolios can serve as a means to assess student’s ability over time, and if the student has met each objective or learning outcome as determined by the instructor or the academic program (McDonald, 2018).

•   Reflection: Reflect on the lesson, projects, actions, and reactions and write down what they have learned. Then, ask them to consider how they would apply this concept or skill in a practical setting.

•   Peer review: Students review each other’s work and provide evaluative feedback.

•   Problem-based activities: Learners are presented with a case or scenario and are expected to analyze the situation and provide resolution or recommendations.

•   Task-based simulation: This involves incorporating a variety of multimedia elements and equipment to test practical and experimental knowledge.

•   Concept mapping: Structure, connect, or manipulate the concepts and contexts in relation to other (Billings & Halstead, 2019).


One of the most critical factors in a student’s success with online learning is student support. Today schools have a wide range of student support services that should help students be successful. These services include precourse orientation, free tutoring services, online writing centers, access to needed learner accommodations, advising, online library source, a standardized CMS, and online technical support. These academic services allow students to be familiar with the technology and improve studentto-instructor and student-to-student communication. The main goal is to increase students’ ease with the cyber environment and encourage constant connection with their peers. In addition to academic support, services that focus on students’ affairs are also important to success and retention.

Orientation to the Online Environment

Orientation programs designed to introduce new students to the online environment are crucial to assure a smooth transition, especially for students without prior experience in online learning. The goals of orientations and tutorials are to ensure that students are familiar with the online environment and are aware of expectations. Free tutorials are also helpful, especially with difficult or challenging tasks such as navigating the Web course space, using new software packages and/or equipment, or performing technical procedures (e.g., uploading a file to a Web site).

Communication and Flexibility

There are two basic types of Web-based communication:

•   Asynchronous communication tools such as e-mail, discussion boards, and blogs. Course participants use these tools when they are online; however, the person to whom they communicate may not be online. They serve as a messaging interface between communicators.

•   Synchronous communication tools require participants to be online to communicate at the same time. These tools include chat, whiteboard, desktop conferencing, and video conferencing such as ZOOM.

To ensure effective communication, instructors must select the most appropriate tool for the course. This will depend on accessibility to the technology and the levels of students’ skills. Communication is strongly affected by course flexibility (due dates and/or assignment submission). Building flexibility in the course structure allows the faculty to compensate for unexpected technological problems, as well as provides opportunities to respond to student feedback. One successful strategy for communication is to always email within the course using the course inbox or email tool, rather than, allowing the student and faculty to communicate through university email services such as Outlook. This recommendation ensures all communication is captured and remains within the course and no communication or messaging is missed.


Accessibility in Online Learning

To avoid creating barriers in online learning, federal and state laws, and local guidelines and policies for online learning such as Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Rehabilitation Act (American Disabilities and Rehabilitation Act, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, U.S. Department of Education, n.d.) require that the online learning should be accessible to the broadest range of possible learners. Accessibility of content becomes a legal requirement in many situations. It is important to present instructional content in a format that accommodates the diverse needs and learning styles. Some elements for accessibility include alternative text for images, appropriate color and contrast, accessible and consistent navigation, closed captioning for audio/video materials.

Accessibility also applies to online testing. Students with disabilities can have many different types of limitations that affect their abilities to take tests. These individuals who are protected by disability legislation can ask for alternative format and extra time to take tests. Students must apply for an “accommodation” through the university’s student services for accommodations to be made by the school.

In 2010 the U.S. Department of Education established rules that required state authorization of any distance or online education. This regulation requires any institution enrolling students from outside the state where the institution has physical presence, to obtain authorization from the correct regulatory agency in the state where the student resides (Weeden, 2015).

To help navigate this federal regulation, a collaboration of the four regional higher education compacts came together to create the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) (Weeden, 2015). The four regional higher education compacts are New England Board for Higher Education (NEBHE), Southern Regional Education Board (SERB), Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC), and Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). According to Weeden (2015), “SARA is a voluntary agreement entered into by states to establish minimum authorization criteria and processes to ensure students’ interests are protected” (para. 5).

Each state has established its own process to become a member of SARA and most states require legislative process through an appropriate entity such as the higher education coordinating agency (Weeden, 2015). There is an application process to become a member of SARA and each state must now pay a user fee for membership.

The faculty is accountable for educational content they teach. However, accountability is even more at the forefront of education at this time. Eaton (2011) defines accountability as the “how and the extent to which higher education and accreditation accept responsibility for the quality and results of their work and are openly responsive to constituents and the public” (p. 8).

Most recently the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) has included this information on their Web site with access to determine your individual states rules and regulations regarding teaching across state lines. NCSBN states,

Sometimes nursing programs offer courses outside of where the program has its legal domicile. When that happens, the host state/territory (defined as that state/territory, outside the home state/territory, where students have clinical and/or didactic nursing education) might have its own rules or regulations, in addition to those from the home state/territory, which the nursing program must follow to be in compliance.

Additionally, if the home state is not part of the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), nurse faculty may need a license in all host states where students take either didactic or clinical courses. Likewise, even if faculty are located in a home state that is part of the NLC, they may need a license in all non-NLC host states where students are taking didactic or clinical courses. (National Council of State Boards of Nursing, 2019, para. 1 & 2)

The Higher Education Act, reauthorized in 2008, made additional demands on accreditors to be more accountable and subsequent creation of rules during 2009 and 2010 expanding accountability expectations even more (Eaton, 2011).

Legal concerns relate to established laws associated with telecommunication technologies, whereas ethical concerns relate to the rights and wrongs stemming from the values and beliefs of the various users of the distance education system. Three major areas that are of concern regarding legal issues include copyright protection, interstate commerce, and intellectual property. Privacy, confidentiality, censorship, freedom of speech, and concern for control of personal information continue to be as relevant today as in 1998 when Bachman and Panzarine (1998) identified these cyber ethical issues.

Copyright Protection

Copyright is a category of intellectual property and refers to creations of the mind (World Intellectual Property Organization, n.d.). According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Web site (, the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) is currently engaged in the discussion of:

•   Limitations and exceptions

•   Broadcasting organizations

This protection for Copyright is based on the Copyright Act of 1976, and was last amended November, 1995 (World Intellectual Property Organization, n.d.). Copyright law protects “works of authorship,” giving developers and publishers the right to control unauthorized exploitation of their work (Radcliff & Brinson, 1999). Although there have been no new federal laws since 1976 to address educational multimedia concerns, the Consortium of College and University Media Centers has published the Fair Use Guidelines for Educational Multimedia (Dalziel, 1996). When combining content such as text, music, graphics, illustrations, photographs, and software, it is important to avoid copyright infringement (Radcliff & Brinson, 1999). In addition, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was passed in October 1998. The U.S. Copyright Office Summary can be located at As noted by the dates of citations here, regulations and legislative guidance seem to lag from the technological changes incorporated within the online educational arena.

Intellectual Property

A common question by faculty is, “Who owns the course?” According to Kranch (2008) there is a great deal of controversy over who owns academic coursework materials. U.S. copyright law is intended to provide ownership and control of what an individual has produced. However, its relationship to faculty-produced work is not as clear. Although faculty may own the materials they have developed for use in their online courses, it is always good to have a memo of understanding documenting the specific use of the materials as well as the accrued benefits (Billings & Halstead, 2019).

The issue of “work made for hire” is the point of controversy. According to the 2003 U.S. Copyright Office document, as indicated by Kranch (2008), a “work made for hire” is defined in the following ways:

1.   A work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment

2.   A work specially ordered or commissioned for use as a contribution to a collective work

The bottom line of this section is that faculty should know their employer’s policy pertaining to intellectual property rights. Over the last several years, universities, government, and private organizations have noted the need to clearly delineate their policies in this area. For example, our school has an established university-wide committee providing advisory opinions to the Provost on matters related to patentable discoveries and inventions, and/or copyrightable material, which had been developed by university employees.

MIT Open Courseware (2010) is a free and open digital publication of educational material ( However, there are specific guidelines and requirements for the use of Open Courseware. Although Open Courseware is available to anyone, material used in education from any Open Courseware participant is consistent with materials from any university and/or faculty. Additional information on Open Courseware can be found at

Extensive resources on intellectual property law and rights can be found at the following sites:

•   Indiana University Information Policy Office (

•   Office of Technology Transfer and Intellectual Property at Texas Tech University Copyright ( ) Intellectual Property ( ). Legislative initiatives regulating intellectual property and copyright are found in the Technology, Education and Copyright (TEACH) Act (

•   The Creative Commons Web site is a nonprofit organization that works to increase the amount of creativity in the body of work available to the public for free and legal sharing, use, repurposing, and remixing.

OERs have shown an increase in use and is cost effective. According to the 2017–2018 survey conducted by the Babson Survey Research Group, a steady increase in faculty awareness of OERs is reported. According to the survey, about 50% of faculty report awareness of OER. Therefore, even though faculty reportedly have concerns about the cost of textbooks, slightly more than half remain unaware of OER alternative (Babson Survey Research Group, 2017).

Ethical behavior in the nursing profession has been established by groups such as the American Nurses Association (ANA) in the Code of Ethics (ANA, 2001) and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s (AACN, 2008) competencies for baccalaureate nursing education. These nursing values and ethics are fundamental in practice decisions and are just as applicable in nursing education, whether education be face to face or online. Mpofu (n.d.) regards ethical considerations in online teaching as performing your work within the context of professional practice and the confines of institutional regulations. However, over and above professional and institutional ethics, nurse educators must contend with legal and ethical issues that take on a new dimension when applied to online education. While issues such as copyright, privacy, licensing, fair and acceptable use, and plagiarism are certainly not unique to online education, they assume new dimensions and different proportions.

Academic Integrity

The Web has provided global access to unlimited information and resources. Advances in technology has created new modes and avenues of academic misconduct in online learning (Etter, Cramer, & Finn, 2006). While maintaining academic integrity is of utmost importance in any educational settings, it often proves to be an even greater challenge within the online format.

Violations of academic integrity such as plagiarism, cheating, and other dishonest behaviors become easier and more prevalent because of the lack of direct contact with students (Watson & Sottile, 2010).

Plagiarism is an ongoing challenge in academia today, and an excellent resource for faculty and students established by Story-Jackson, Rogers, and Palmquist (2018) can be found at: However, a number of other vendors have seen this situation as an opportunity to market plagiarism detection services, such as, and online proctoring for assessments such as Proctorio and Respondus Monitor.

Creating an environment of academic integrity is crucial in all course work whether face to face or online. Institutional policies and clear expectations regarding academic honesty and dishonesty should be available in program and course orientation as well as throughout the curriculum. In order to create and encourage a culture of honesty, clear explanations should be provided of what constitutes academic honesty and dishonesty and what plagiarism is and is not and this information should be part of the course syllabus.

Students need to be guided to understand that cheating is unacceptable in course work and in the profession of nursing. “Discussion about how academic honesty relates to professional values and ethics can add importance to ideas of academic integrity for students” (Iwasiw, Andrusyszyn, & Goldenberg, 2020, p. 463).


Online learning for nursing courses is exploding. Advertisements about “new online education for working professionals” certainly have appeal, capturing the attention of many people seeking to fit further education into their busy schedules. Yet, there are still some traditional students who do not pay attention to online education, there are still some faculty who avoid the concept by raising questions of quality rather than exploring the educational principles used in online learning, and there are still some who believe the only “gold standard” of education continues to be the traditional classroom setting (Allen et al., 2015). In addition, questions emerge concerning the validity of the courses: Is it really possible to earn a degree while at home or in the work setting without driving long distances and sitting in tedious lecture classes? Is the interaction with the faculty equal to the same interaction that occurs in the classroom? Is this really applicable to clinical nursing?

Overall, market-driven demands of educational reform and creative, visionary faculty have moved online learning, transforming both academic and continuing nursing education, by capturing new types of educational experiences and innovative kinds of pedagogy (Allen & Seaman, 2015; Allen et al., 2015). The outcomes have been an empowerment of the nursing student and working professional to have numerous important educational choices. Now, in addition to quality, the educational decisions are often based on accessibility and the amount of time needed to complete the course or program.

Online learning offers greater alternatives to accommodate individual circumstances and educational needs. Now, it is becoming a commonly accepted instructional method in higher education institutions, and the numbers of online courses are constantly increasing to accommodate the large number of students enrolling. For the past six years, online enrollment has grown at a greater rate than the total higher education enrollment (Allen & Seaman, 2018). According to the Sloan Consortium Report (2017), overall online enrollment increased to 6 million in 2016, with the majority of doctoral-granting universities (80%) offering online courses or programs.

In order to purport quality, educational outcomes must be similar for both the on-campus and online learning students; countless studies over at least three decades have documented this (Dede, 2013; Mahan & Armstrong, 2003; Schlosser & Anderson, 1994; Campbell, Taylor, & Douglas, 2017; Desteghe et al., 2018). Findings reflect that regardless of the delivery method, online learning students receive the same grades or do better than those students receiving traditional instruction. Overall, student evaluations are good to very good following online education activities. In essence, good online education theory and good education theory are actually the same; the education just transcends the barriers of time and space.

One relatively new education theory has emerged through the work of Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel (2014). The research has redefined the learning process into three distinct stages in order for learning to be long term and not just short-term recall. The stages for this theory of “Making It Stick” are encode, consolidate, and retrieve. All stages require very specific learner interactions, but for online educators who build learning opportunities with the option to revisit content, practice for new knowledge and skills, and layer new concepts with previously learned concepts “deeper thinking” emerges for the learner.


Program evaluation is an ongoing process in online education and requires a framework for evaluation to be adopted by the faculty, standards, and outcomes to be defined, as well as a timeline for measurement of outcomes. Program evaluation focuses on review and improvement. The need for curriculum revision, resources, and faculty and staff may become apparent during this ongoing review process. Program evaluation allows educators to facilitate meaningful change, while providing feedback. All program evaluation gathers evidence for measurement against predetermined outcomes. The framework will provide the steps to outcome attainment. With systematic program evaluation, revision decisions are based on the evidence from findings rather than assumptions. To obtain this evaluative data, program surveys by faculty, students, and administrators should be completed and analyzed annually. In addition, course surveys should be completed by students at the end of each course.

Regional accreditation agencies assist in guiding programs for maintaining standards in program delivery, and regional credentials are sought after by major colleges and universities. Regional accreditation is a continuous improvement process involving the entire university or college. Many of the regional accrediting agencies, such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), engage the college or university to pursue a continuous improvement process of self-evaluation, reflection, and improvement for not only face-to-face learning but distance learning as well (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, 2010). Other regional accrediting agencies providing excellent resources for online program assessment and evaluation include Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education (WICHE) and WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET). WCET, a division of WICHE, provides information on excellent practices and policies to ensure the effective adoption and appropriate use of technologies in teaching and learning online (

Accreditation agencies require that each facet of the online program be critically and logically appraised to reflect the quality of the programmatic goals and outcomes designated within the program. There is no one type of accreditation applied to online education. In fact, there are several types of accreditations for different institutional statuses, and they are categorized into regional, national, and professional accreditations (see Table 46.3).

TABLE 46.3. Regional, Professional, and National Accreditation

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Jul 29, 2021 | Posted by in NURSING | Comments Off on Initiation and Management of Accessible, Effective Online Learning

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