By Kim Stock
The University of Calgary Faculty of Nursing is offering Canada’s first on-line post-diploma Baccalaureate of Nursing program.
"This faculty is on the leading edge with respect to web development for nursing education," said Faculty of Nursing Associate Dean (Undergraduate Studies) Dr. James Rankin. "This is the first program to my knowledge that is a post-diploma B.N. in its entirety."
Having offered post-diploma education in the past for nurses with a college or hospital school diploma, the Faculty of Nursing found that student enrolment was dwindling.
"The faculty had to make a decision–to phase out the program, or see if there was some way to boost numbers," explained Rankin.
Thirty students are currently enrolled in the program: nine from Ontario and 21 from Calgary and surrounding areas.
The U of C is offering this program in a joint financial effort with Centennial College in Scarborough, Ontario because Centennial wants to offer a B.N. to its graduates.
"Initially we thought that there would be more [interest] in this province, but then we started talking with Centennial and realized that there’s 22 community colleges in Ontario that have diploma programs," said Rankin. "And with [the program] being web-based, we could potentially market the program to anywhere in the world."
Rankin pointed out that although the program allows students from other provinces or countries to enroll, it keeps it alive for local students.
Like any other program, there are advantages and disadvantages to an online B.N..
One advantage is that it is tailored to the needs of the students involved.
"It’s a good step forward for offering programs and degrees for students who are juggling work and family at the same time as their schooling," said Students’ Union Vice-president Academic Heather Clitheroe.
On the downside, she added, students are evidently not on campus.
"There is always an inherent risk in taking programs to a web-based medium, as students are physically separated from their classmates and on-campus services," said Clitheroe.
The Faculty of Nursing is trying to remedy that.
"It’s important to us that they feel connected to the U of C," said Rankin. "We’re sending them souvenirs from the bookstore."
According to Rankin, one of the perceived disadvantages is that students have less contact with their professors.
"In fact, I’ve found that not to be the case," he said. "I did a pilot study with a small group who took my research course, and they said they couldn’t believe how much contact over e-mail they had with me. They felt they had more communication with me than in an on-campus course."
Currently operating with a budget of approximately $250,000, the faculty hopes to increase this number and take on more students in the future.
"We’re quite enthused at the prospect of it being launched later this month," said Rankin. "The web has become a part of many other aspects of life. I would see [this] as a normal evolution that education would become a part of it."