Systematic program evaluation of online nursing education at the master’s degree leve
Horne, Eva Mae
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Online education is a relatively recent innovation in nursing education and warrants being evaluated for its effectiveness and impact on teaching and learning. The purpose of this study was to investigate current practice and use of systematic program evaluation of master’s degree level online education in schools of nursing. An 84 item questionnaire was developed to measure: (1) to what extent are schools of nursing systematically evaluating their online education activities at the master’s degree level; (2) what are the sources of evaluation data; (3) what are the areas of evaluation; (4) to what extent are the evaluation results utilized in schools of nursing; and (5) to what extent do institutional and program characteristics affect evaluation. The population sample included 383 schools of nursing with master’s degree level programs accredited by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission and the Commission on Colleges in Nursing Education. One hundred seven (107/31%) schools of nursing responded to the Internet or mail and paper survey. Using frequencies, means, standard deviations, and simple bivariate analysis, data analysis showed the most common source of evaluation data is from students (M = 2.80). Respondents reported evaluation practices focused on process most frequently than any other area (M = 2.63). Frequency results indicated that all utilization activities were being done to some extent of agreement, that is, no respondents reported zero for any response. Finally, more mature master’s degree level nursing programs are more apt to seek a variety of sources of evaluation data. Four conclusions are drawn from this study. First, systematic program evaluation appears to be a pervasive practice in schools of nursing. Second, there is a discrepancy between espoused utilization of evaluation data and reported practices related to the predominant source of evaluation data (students) and primary focus of evaluation (process). Third, two major stakeholder groups, employers who hire program graduates and staff members who help implement the program, are not included in program evaluation practices and utilization activities. Finally, use of two program evaluation approaches to frame and conceptualize the study resulted in a comprehensive and coherent measurement of evaluation practice and utilization.