BEYOND THE PRINTED WORD: THE USE OF INTERACTIVE PDF FORMATS TO SUPPORT ACCESSIBLE LEARNING
Whilst eagerly embracing blended approaches to learning, the training of health-care professionals, such as nurses, has been cautious about fully online learning approaches. However, the centralisation of nurse-training within large higher education institutions has prompted a reappraisal, in order to maintain the valued link between the student and local health care environment, particularly in countries such as Norway where communities may be geographically and physically removed from large teaching centres. The University of Stavanger has recently offered a fully online nursing programme to students across a wide geographical area. Given the broad nature of the nursing curriculum, the diversity of nursing students and cultural influences on technology adoption within nursing, research has shown the crucial significance of resource design to student’s learning needs and approaches in this area (Child et al, 2005). To this end a series of accessible learning object based resources were developed using the pdf format. Although this format is most often associated with print documents, it also allows for the development of dynamic resources that include audio and interactivity as well as providing the learner with a range of personalised study tools. Furthermore, the accessibility of the format as a development tool means that tutors are able to play a more active role in the development process, potentially allowing a greater level of alignment of the finished product to learners’ needs. Here we will demonstrate and discuss the use of the interactive pdf format for learning resource creation.
In order to objectively assess the resources an independent evaluation was commissioned from the University of Nottingham’s Health, E-learning and Media (HELM) team, who have been developing and evaluating learning objects for a period of 10 years (Windle and Wharrad, 2010). A goal-orientated evaluation strategy was devised and a number of previously validated evaluation tools were adapted to measure effectiveness for student-learning, engagement, design parameters, integration, the development process and sustainability. Initial results from the evaluation show that the students had a high level of satisfaction with the resources which they believed to be appropriate and well integrated with the course. Students reported that not only did they help with content-learning, but also with critical thinking and application. The resources were reported to be accessible and easy to use. Overall the ability to structure and control their own learning appeared to be the thing the students most valued about the resources. Written text, animations and graphics were also rated as highly important for learning. Prior to undertaking the course students suggested that feedback was an important design feature for successful e-learning. In general this was the area that they were least satisfied with in the final resources. Interestingly, the study tools provided by the format, such as annotation, cut and pasting were not rated as highly in terms of importance of the resources. Overall, results show that this format provides an effective and accessible platform for e-learning provision.
Childs, S et al (2005). Health Information Library Journal, 22(Suppl 2), 20-32
Windle, R.J et al (2010) Journal of Interactive Media in Education Available at http://jime.open.ac.uk/jime/article/view/2010-4