Using Online Technology to Enhance Educational Mobility

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Charlene C. Gyurko Ph.D., R.N., C.N.E.

and Jill Ullmann, B.S., M.S.

This article was made possible by an educational grant from
Chamberlain College of Nursing



Gyurko, C. and Ullmann, J. (February 2012). Using Online Technology to enhance Educational Mobility. Online Journal of Nursing Informatics (OJNI), 16 (1), Available at  http://ojni.org/issues/?p=1270


The purpose of this paper is to discuss an innovative online educational program at Purdue University Calumet School of Nursing.  Through a grant entitled: The Development of a Dedicated Online Educational Platform for Masters of Science in Nursing Programs at Purdue University Calumet School of Nursing, this program enhanced learning opportunities for graduate students and helped to make graduate education more probable for adult learners.  The program was made possible by an Advanced Education Nursing Grant through the Division of Nursing (DN) Bureau of Health Professions (BHPr), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).  The inclusion of key elements to help support and enhance student learning makes this program unique.  Internal infrastructure was also revised to support this program.


Educational Mobility, Nursing Students, Online Technology, Web Based Learning, Online Masters Nursing Programs


Today nursing is pursuing creative solutions to increase the number of advanced practice nurses and alleviate workforce shortages.  Such shortages could hurt the U.S. health care system. In 2009, Ginsberg, Taylor, & Barr reported that policymakers are considering the use of nurse practitioners (NPs) in improving access to primary health care services due to the anticipated and actual shortages of primary care physicians.  In 2010, Wexler acknowledged the shortage of primary care physicians and felt that nurse practitioners are part of the answer.  One key approach to attracting more adults to pursue a degree in advance practice nursing, is integrating technological applications that increase educational mobility. For these and other reasons, more nurses are taking greater advantage of online courses.  Online learning is decentralized, not defined by a physical location, and often asynchronous, which removes time and space barriers. In terms of student population, online programs permit nursing educators to be more innovative and expand infrastructure and recruitment efforts, both regionally and nationally. Jeffries (2005, p. 3) said “To keep up with our changing society and the technological advances in nursing practice, nurse educators will have to be creative in developing new, innovative models of teaching.”  So we did just that.  With funding received from the Purdue University Calumet School of Nursing (PUCSON) grant, the Masters of Nursing program’s curriculum was revised, transforming a classroom-based program to an online platform.

PUCSON implemented a high quality, cost-effective, dedicated online evidence-based nursing education program at the Master’s Degree level for each of the advanced practice educational offerings by PUCSON.  Moreover, PUCSON developed an innovative online educational program that helps more nurses attain advanced practice education.  The first class to complete the new online three-year program graduated in August 2011.  The development and implementation of the online educational program was made possible by an Advanced Education Nursing Grant for $436,192 through the Division of Nursing (DN) Bureau of Health Professions (BHPr), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

The rationale for the grant was to design programming that accommodated the needs of adult learners and address the need for nontraditional curricular offerings.  With the intent that enrollment, retention and graduation rates would increase with a focus on the shortage of faculty and nurses with specialized skills, focusing on Nurse Practitioners and Clinical Nurse Specialists, the online program was envisioned.  Additionally, the school also wanted to increase recruitment of minority and economically disadvantaged graduate students. PUCSON wanted the online educational program to accommodate unique learning needs of nurses, including nurses practicing in underserved areas.  Thus the distance-learning program provides options for study as a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) and/or Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) in adult health and/or critical care nursing. Post Masters Certificate options are also offered in these specialties, in addition to nursing education.

PUCSON was one of the first schools at Purdue University Calumet to design web-based courses.  In 2000, the first nursing web-based course went online.  Today the entire Bachelor of Science (BS) Completion Program is offered online. In addition to university resources, the PUCSON is very fortunate to have an Instructional Design Specialist on staff.

As part of our three-year project to put the entire graduate program online, the grant’s Primary Investigators determined that instruction would be well suited to the podcast format.  A podcast is a digital media file, either in an audio only or audio/video format that can be downloaded and saved onto a computer or handheld mobile device.  Funding from this grant provided an Apple iPod “Touch” for each online student.  The podcast format is asynchronous and allows the students real-time learning, flexibility, and mobility in their instruction.  Thus, with grant money, PUCSON created a podcast lab for faculty use.

During the grant period, students who were enrolled in the program were given an iPod that included a welcome letter that provided a set of informational links to assist the students with setting up the unit for the first time.  Students were expected to set up their iPods and have them ready for classes.  A podcast and PowerPoint introduced students to faculty, concepts, and requirements of online distance education.  A student tutorial through Blackboard, Purdue University Calumet’s learning management system, also introduced students to concepts and requirements of online distance instruction.  Throughout their courses, students were able to download podcasts on the iPods to allow for real-time learning, flexibility, and mobility in their instruction.

An online counselor support system gave the students an avenue to address individual concerns about the program, their courses, and personal matters.  The personal support system was provided as a discussion forum in a “course” called Distance Education Master’s in Nursing.  Students also had the opportunity to discuss confidential issues with the counselor using Blackboard e-mail. All students enrolled in the program were put into this “course.”

To further support distance, online learning, a link called Ask the Geek was built to give the students real time online computer support for technical issues.  The “Geek” was the Instructional Design Specialist employed by the School of Nursing.  Students communicated with the Instructional Designer directly via e-mail or a discussion forum.  This forum also included the Distance Education Master’s in Nursing “course.”

As the internal infrastructure of the online program was enhanced, a Not-So-National Treasure Hunt was developed, which assessed and enhanced students’ computer skills.  The Treasure Hunt was accessible through Blackboard.  Students completed the requirements for the hunt on their computers with feedback provided to each student by the “Geek.”  In the Not-So-National Treasure Hunt, students were required to complete selected activities that included creating a Word file, naming it, uploading and downloading a file.  Students also downloaded a PowerPoint and a PDF, as well as downloaded and uploaded podcasts to both their computers and iPods.  They were required to send e-mails, attach documents, write in a text box, participate in the discussion board, locate and upload an image file from the Internet, install iTunes, download and play podcasts, maintain file management, and create folders.

All first semester students were required to successfully complete the Treasure Hunt.  The Treasure Hunt was built as a “course” in Blackboard where students were enrolled two weeks prior to the beginning of their formal classes.  Students were sent a letter advising them to begin their “Hunt” so that they could be prepared to start classes when the semester began.  The Geek sent students a congratulatory podcast upon successful completion of the treasure hunt.

So What Made This Master’s Program Special?

To ensure quality, a continuous quality improvement plan was implemented.  The project mandated that all faculty become certified as distance educators.  Faculty were given two options to obtain this certification.  First, an experienced curriculum developer and distance educator expert provided one-on-one consultation.  Or, alternatively, faculty participated in an online course of interactive learning events that was provided by our Instructional Designer (otherwise know as the Geek).  Before each distance course went live, the course was reviewed by an online-curriculum team from the School of Nursing, each of whom received endorsement as a course reviewer through the PUC Distance Education Certification Program.

Podcasting in-services for faculty were provided by Apple and ProfCast as well as the Computer Information Technology (CIT) department from Purdue University Calumet.  . Faculty received training on the use of Macintosh computers as well as the programs GarageBand and ProfCast.  The CIT project team oriented faculty to the technology during a two-day podcasting workshop. Faculty learned how to develop and access online podcasts that could be incorporated in the online classroom settings.  They also learned how to use ProfCast which is an alternative to GarageBand for developing podcasts.

 Figure 1: Program Qualities

Figure 1: Program Qualities

Program qualities are visualized in Figure 1. Removal of time and space barriers led to increased enrollments and retention by making graduate study more feasible for a diverse group of graduate students.  It enhanced nursing education and practice by increasing access to knowledge and application of new clinical skills.  Advantages to the students included not only elimination of time and space barriers, but also tuition rates.  Tuition rates are a flat fee (regardless of residency) for distance learning students.  Overall, on-line distance courses are 35% higher than Indiana resident tuition but, as a flat fee, it is significantly lower than non-Indiana resident tuition.

During the three year grant phase, 88 students were accepted into the online program.  During the third academic year, there were a total of 55 NPs and 11 CNS students, for a total of 66 enrolled in the program. A 75% retention rate of all enrolled students was noted since the inception of the grant.  Students who dropped out of the advanced practice nursing program did so for various reasons.  For example, at least seven remained as students at PUCSON, they just converted their plan of study to the Nurse Executive track at PUCSON.


Within 18 months of the project’s start, all graduate courses offered at PUCSON were transformed to a web-based distance format.  Faculty in each area of study were responsible for converting their respective courses to support online learning.  During this transformation stage, faculty received a one-semester 25% release time in which they participated in the PUC Distance Education Certification Program.

Identifying and investing in appropriate equipment was also essential to the program’s success. Purdue’s Digital Video Technician, Production Coordinator / Radio TV Studio Supervisor, and the Supervisor, Audio Visual Services was consulted to help PUCSON determine what equipment was needed to meet the program goals.  All consultants were University resource personnel.  As a result, as shown in Table 1, the consultants identified the following basic equipment necessary for course enhancement.



Basic Equipment

Computer’s (PC and MAC)
I-Life Series
Servers/Netware support
Microsoft Office Suites
Blackboard VISTA Course Management System
Sound Systems
Originally TurnItIn, now SafeAssign
Audio support
Video support
Adobe Connect

Table 1: basic Equipment Used

Some of the equipment that was purchased included: 2 Apple iMac 24-in 2.93-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo computers, a ProLine 17 Studio teleprompter, a Panasonic HMC150 AVCCAM Camcorder and 3MacBook Pro 15-in laptop computers for faculty use for podcast development.

In the final funding period, eight netbooks were purchased for purposes of establishing an emergency-borrowing computer program for online graduate students.  The netbooks were purchased to increase access to information for students and preceptors at the point of care. Students come to campus to check out the netbook or the instructor takes the netbook to the clinical site for student and instructor to use.  Netbooks allowed students to have access to evidence-based practice information readily available via the netbooks, in places where computers may not have been readily available.  The use of netbooks helped to provide education to student groups and preceptors at training facilities.  And an additional wireless microphone was also purchased, to allow for more than one presenter to develop a podcast at a time.

This online program opened advanced education to more students and optimized faculty time; but then, it was financed by a grant of $436,192.  You might ask how you can do this without a grant.  The information in Table 2 offers some suggestions.


Suggestions on How to Develop a Program without a Grant
Write the cost of the iPods into the tuition
Set aside funds for faculty release for training and course preparation
Negotiate space for the iPod studio with other departments
To help to defray the cost of a dedicated counselor, use existing student counseling services

Table 2: Suggestions on How to Develop a Program without a Grant

In addition to the above, Tables 3 and 4 reflect other equipment and costs that we found necessary for the podcast lab and studio in order to heighten the quality of podcast productions.

Additional Equipment to Enhance the Podcast Lab Productions Cost
32 Gb iPods $299 each
32 iPod protection Plans $59 each
2 Apple iMac 24-in 2.93-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo computers $3,398 for both
ProLine 17 Studio teleprompter $2,249
PanasonicHMC150 AVCCAM Camcorder $3,759
3MacBook Pro 15-in laptop computers for faculty use for podcast development. $7034.67

Table 3: Additional Equipment to Enhance Podcast Lab Productions

Studio Equipment Cost
Tripod $109
Shotgun microphone $789.09
Nikon Zoom telephoto lens $258.38
UHF lavaliere microphone $476.
2 LED 500 lights $499.
2 LED 500 lights $499.
2 Light stands, medium duty 8Ft. $50
1 Microbeam LED 128 light with Panasonic battery plate $329.
Drapery: black velour fire-retardant stage curtain. $995.

Table 4: Studio Equipment

While timing is everything, Table 5 illustrates the grant timeline focusing on equipment purchasing and initial staff training.


Grant Timeline
July 2008 Grant received
August 2008 Consultations with our on-campus technical personnel
August 2008 iPod Touch units were ordered for incoming students
September 2008 Started ordering equipment
October 2008 Laptops were received
February 2009 Still camera was received
June 2009 Podcasting and studio equipment was ordered
August 2009 Podcasting and studio equipment was received
Summer 2009 University personnel provided Apple and ProfCast training
Summer 2009 Equipment assembled with the help of university personnel
Fall 2009 Podcast training was provided to faculty
Spring 2010 Copyright training workshop provided for faculty

Table 5 Grant Timeline

The Instructional Designer suggested that when creating a podcast someone needs to run the teleprompter, someone needs to be the talent, and, if available…an additional person to film the session using the camera.  Alternatively, the individual operating the teleprompter can double as the camera person.  Documentation for podcast preparation was created by the Instructional Designer.  The Instructional Designer wrote instructions that are stored on the teleprompter computer and are always available.  The Instructional Designer offers clothing and makeup recommendations and is available for consultation and support during video podcasts.  Faculty also have the options to create audio only podcasts on or off campus.  The Instructional Designer trained and coached faculty to export podcasts to courses or to iTunesU.  Such technical assistance is available from the Instructional Designer, who is on staff in the School of Nursing.

Despite the different changes associated with converting graduate-level courses into an on-line platform, faculty bought into this project.  For example, faculty also recognized the time and spaces barriers to nursing graduate education and wanted to help reduce these obstacles. Faculty also welcomed the release time that was devoted to course development.  The faculty received training early in the project and continued to receive assistance and consulting throughout the grant period.  In addition, faculty have commented that distance learning lets them deliver course content in different media, and thus appeal to different learning styles.  Faculty can access ongoing training in technology and course delivery modes.  Training offered to faculty included a copyright seminar as well as instruction on using the podcast lab.

As part of the grant requirements, information about the grant was circulated in various formats including peer-reviewed national and international conferences, advertisements in a minority journal and website advertising the online program made available by the grant, and information about the grant was also published in an article in a peer-reviewed nursing journal.  Faculty and advisors also recruited students and disseminated print materials at local, national and international conferences, local and regional schools of nursing, and various professional web pages.

Students stated they were attracted to the program because it afforded them the opportunity to attend school using a nontraditional format.  Additionally, because technical support was provided to students throughout their program, student attitudes and their points of view towards distance education were reported as very positive.

The first cohort of students graduated in August of 2011.  Feedback from this initial group of students was very positive.  Students voiced overall satisfaction with the online program quality, platform and format, as well as the availability and support of instructors and the Instructional Design Specialist.  The overall retention rate over the grant period proved to be 75%. The minority admissions over the three year grant period met and/or exceed national standards as documented by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

As the grant has now ended, the faculty are not only enjoying the technology that the grant has afforded them, but they are also enjoying the publicity they have received because of the program’s dedicated online format.  The current faculty maintain a full faculty load.  The number of inquiries about the program has far exceeded expectations.  The Purdue University Calumet School of Nursing is operating at capacity, but is currently investigating new ways to accommodate an influx of future students.


Diversity in Nursing Education Resource Center. (2009). American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Race/Ethnicity Data on Students Enrolled in Nursing Programs 10-Year Data on Minority Students in Baccalaureate and Graduate Programs. Retrieved from https://www.aacn.nche.edu/Diversity/index.htm

Ginsberg, G., Taylor, T. & Barr, M. (2009).  Nurse Practitioners in Primary Care. American College of Physicians. A Policy Monograph of the American College of Physicians.  Retrieved from  http://www.acponline.org/advocacy/where_we_stand/policy/np_pc.pdf

Jeffries P. (2005). Technology trends in nursing education: Next steps. Journal of Nursing  Education 44(1):3-4.

 Wexler, R. (2010). The primary care shortage, nurse practitioners, and the patient-centered medical home. American Medical Association Journal of Ethics 12(1): 36-40. Retrieved from http://virtualmentor.ama-assn.org/2010/01/pfor1-1001.html


Author Bios

Charlene C. Gyurko, Ph.D., R.N., C.N.E.
Assistant Professor
Purdue University North Central

Department of Nursing

Department of Nursing – Tech 378
1401 S. U.S. 421
Westville, IN. 46391

Dr. Gyurko has been a nurse since 1973. She has been teaching in an academic setting in an undergraduate and graduate level since 1991. Dr. Gyurko is an Assistant Professor of Nursing at Purdue University North Central in the Department of Nursing. She was Co-PI of an Advanced Education Nursing Grant awarded to Purdue University Calumet that was made possible by an Advanced Education Nursing Grant through the Division of Nursing (DN) Bureau of Health Professions (BHPr), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).  Dr. Gyurko’s interests focus on Educational Mobility and on the Global Nursing Faculty Shortage.

Jill Ullmann, B.S., M.S.
Coordinator of Instructional Design/Technology
Purdue University Calumet
School of Nursing

Since 2001, Jill Ullmann has served as the Coordinator of Instructional Design/Technology in the School of Nursing at Purdue University Calumet . Prior to her present position, she earned her Master’s Degree in Instructional Technology and Telecommunications from Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois while working as the Documentation/Training Specialist at Monmouth College . She did her undergraduate work at Wayne State College in Wayne, Nebraska in Business Administration with an emphasis in Data Processing .


Back to Issue Index

Back to Issue Index

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.