Adams, Karen and Johnson, Claire (2008) Blended learning: combining action learning and virtual learning to facilitate independent and collaborative learning for post-graduate Specialist Community Public Health Nursing (SCPHN) students. In: 9th Annual Interdisciplinary Research Conference: Tranforming Healthcare through Research Education and Technology, 5th – 7th November 2008, Dublin. (Unpublished)

The aim of this paper is to present a critical appraisal of the use of a blended approach to support part-time post graduate student learning. The effectiveness of blended learning approaches using action learning and a virtual learning environment for post-graduate part-time Public Health Nursing students will be discussed using examples from current experience, student feedback and supported by appraisal of published evidence. Strengths and limitations of this blended learning approach will be evaluated and the potential for further developments considered.

The development of a new MSc Public Health Nursing Practice programme in 2006 has enabled the team to implement flexible approaches to learning within the curriculum. Post-graduate/post-registration students on this three year part-time course are engaged with a range of learning media to enhance skills development in the use of ICT and independent and collaborative learning techniques.

Using E-learning in conjunction with Action Learning Sets to undertake both formative and summative assessment activities provides the necessary support to help students engage in on-line activities. Groups are asked to work together, on-line and face to face, on assigned tasks and present the outcomes online to the student group and tutor for feedback.

Students are supported to develop their IT literacy through the provision of face to face taught sessions by IT experts and on-line tutorials. Lecturers can assess student progress and analyse student contributions through reviewing student interactions and work and evaluating learning online.

The Department for Education and Skills and Department of Health are encouraging the use of e-learning and recognise its potential value in promoting lifelong learning and increasing flexibility and access to education. It is envisaged that this combination of teaching and learning strategies will help overcome some of the perceived barriers to e-learning and facilitate independent and collaborative learning for post-graduate students.

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