Continuing education has often had the unique ability to be responsive to the working nurse's educational needs in meeting the challenges and delivery of patient care. The ability of continuing education to flourish in the future rests upon how well we continue to respond to these needs. Our "tried and true" educational methodologies continue to serve us well, but it behooves us to raise a few new flags and seek new options and strategies as we strive to provide creative, accessible, and quality educational programs.
Mapping out the route means anticipating the barriers so that they become milestones rather than obstacles. Even "Malcolm Knowles found a worm in his apple."1 The literature abounds with claims that the new technologies, especially computers, are full of versatility, and that they are a solution to almost every educational problem. Consequently, we "jump on the old bandwagon" and rush out to buy the latest hardware and software without defining why it is being purchased. Two of the greatest challenges in the future will be to balance the cost/benefit ratio and to obtain the maximum effectiveness from these alternate educational technologies at minimum cost, while locating available quality health-related software.
Information about the educator's experience can be extremely helpful, and in this special issue of The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing the authors address some of the research and planning being done while undertaking alternative methodologies. Forte finds that the computer can offer the nursing staff educator three advantages in collecting needs assessment, while Kuramoto describes a systematic process for implementing computer technology for continuing education records. Ziemann provides a fine example of how a university faculty's research time can be devoted to the development of continuing education via video. Clark and Cleveland present their experiences in producing videotape courses for transmission over cable television systems, and Woodbury addresses a plan and approach for pediatric CAI simulations. Jenkins et al make a point for computerizing 1500 plus education records, while Zurlinden describes a board game used during RN orientation.
It becomes imperative that we as nursing adult learning specialists pave the way but, before we set out for the open seas, I believe we have to "strap on" valuable, major pieces of equipment:
* Plans for the implementation of the technology, based on its capabilities, and on the analysis of the educational problem and goals.
* Commitment to help our learners understand and effectively use the computer, both as a management and educational tool.
* Creativity to extend our thinking beyond four walls and to modify teaching patterns, if necessary, , because learning is the ultimate game.
* Energy (human and non-human resources) to deal with these educational strategy systems and to solve new sets of problems they create.
* Evaluation Criteria to review software products for instructional quality, innovation, and potential for enhanced learning.
* Research applied to these methodologies in our programs.
As we strive for excellence, the decision for using alternative strategies is ours - either lift the anchor or maintain the status quo. If you decide to take the plunge . . .
Study all alternative methods,
Chart your course, but don't expect smooth sailing.
Batten down the hatches.
Use all relevant navigational aids.
Steady at the helm . . .
Damn the torpedoes . . .
And full speed ahead.2
- 1. Knowles M: Malcolm Knowles found a worm in his apple. Training and Development 1983; 37(5): 12.
- 2. Hutchison D: Editorial: A mission for continuing educators. J Cont Educ Nurs 1976; 7(2):6.