When the Covid-19 pandemic started to spread around the world, the situation became difficult for the many societal institutions that had to adapt their usual way of business to completely new circumstances. Education was one of the sectors that was particularly affected (Robbins, 2020) since many academic institutions had to change the way that they provided education, often in a very rapid manner. In many cases this involved going from campus and face-to-face education to digital and online education essentially overnight. This resulted in staff and students having to adapt to a rapid digitalization of both the curriculum as well as ways of teaching (Antonakou, 2020; Luyben et al, 2020).
While accommodating to the new situation, a “business as usual” approach has also been necessary to, as much as possible, support students to fulfill the needed educational requirements for their programs. Many programs have therefore taken an approach where they have modified their courses to offer the more theoretical components of their teaching via pre-recorded lectures on online platforms (Luyben et al, 2020). Adjustments in teaching have facilitated asynchronous learning; meaning that material has not been delivered at a specific time, but rather previously recorded and posted online for on-demand access. Student participation and progress has been assured through online appointments to discuss particular needs or questions that arise as they work through the material (Daniel, 2020).
It is clear that in many cases academic staff have put in many hours to facilitate this change to enable education to continue in a seamless manner for students. This has involved a rather stressful situation for many having to rethink how education could be best provided using distance education tools including the need for staff to quickly educate themselves on these new tools and ways of teaching. For some, this change to digital and online education has represented a tremendous challenge, while others with prior experience or more familiarity with these tools have been able to manage the transition rather easily (Luyben et al, 2020).
Despite the many negative aspects related to having to essentially rethink how education should be performed, one of the more positive aspects of the current difficult situation is the giant leap forward that many academic institutions and staff have taken in becoming more familiar and comfortable in working more digitally overall when it comes to education. The type of learning has provided teachers and students a flexibility, in preparing learning materials and in studying, which they may not have experienced before (Daniel, 2020).
Naturally it is also the case that not all parts of nursing education, for example, can be done digitally such as the more practical aspects but some subject areas lend themselves very well to this concept. Nursing informatics is one of those subjects that can be adapted very well to distance learning and online education. This is due to the fact that many of the nursing students that study it have an interest in developing their knowledge in health informatics and the available tools and since many are also often working while they study, online learning is a very convenient option for them to continue their education. The definition for nursing informatics as provided by the American Nursing Association (2014) particularly emphasizes:
“Nursing informatics (NI) is the specialty that integrates nursing science with multiple information management and analytical sciences to identify, define, manage, and communicate data, information, knowledge, and wisdom in nursing practice. NI supports nurses, consumers, patients, the interprofessional healthcare team, and other stakeholders in their decision-making in all roles and settings to achieve desired outcomes. This support is accomplished through the use of information structures, information processes, and information technology.”
Many state that COVID-19 is probably one of the greatest challenges that education systems the world over have ever faced (Daniel, 2020). This has also resulted in the application of numerous innovative digital health solutions to provide educational content (Robbins et al., 2020). Some speak of a “new digital dawn” emphasizing that it is important to now take advantage of these new ways of working and see to that they are sustained and utilized in future health practice and education (Robbins et al., 2020).
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American Nurses Association. (2014). Nursing informatics: Scope and standards of practice (2nd ed.). American Nurses Association.
Daniel, S. J. (2020) Education and the COVID‑19 pandemic. Prospects, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11125-020-09464-3
Luyben, A., Fleming, V., & Vermeulen, J. (2020). Midwifery education in COVID-19- time: Challenges and opportunities. Midwifery, 89(2020), 102776. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.midw.2020.102776
Robbins, T., Hudson, S., Ray, P., Sankar, S., Patel, K., Randeva H., & Arvanitis, T. N. (2020). COVID-19: A new digital dawn? Digital Health, 6, 1–3. https://doi.org/ 10.1177/2055207620920083
Mattias Georgsson, PhD, MSc, MPH, RN has a Master of Science degree in Nursing and Master degrees in Health Informatics and Interaction Design. He completed his PhD in Applied Health Technology in the Spring of 2018. He currently holds a position as a Post Doctoral Research Fellow in eHealth at University West, Sweden.