eIslander Takes the Distance out of Distance Education for Nursing Students

Published: July 10, 2015

eIslander Takes the Distance out of Distance Education for Nursing Students

CORPUS CHRISTI – On Tuesday, July 2, The College of Nursing and Health Sciences (CONHS) at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi held a demonstration of its eIslander technology, a teaching tool that uses multiple iPads to help online classes and clinical skills become more engaging and accessible to students from all backgrounds and situations. eIslander was developed by Dr. Jason E. Saladiner, CONHS Director of Innovative Programs.

“One of the goals of eIslander is to involve the student at whatever level they need to be successful,” stated Saladiner. “Some students have to work, have other obligations, or the student may be serving in the military. The eIslander provides a tailored level of interaction, with both professors and fellow students.”

The general lab configuration of eIslander consists of two (or more) iPads, retractable carbon fiber wheelchair mounts, one microphone stand, and one external microphone. eIslander utilizes the WebEX app and configures the iPad as a network camera. The recording capability of the WebEX app also allows for archiving demonstrations, which allows students to view the lab at a later time.

Cathy Harrel, Assistant Clinical Professor, says that eIslander has not only increased interactivity between faculty and students, but it has also increased the number of students completing the nursing program in a timely manner, and has boosted enrollment numbers in the online nursing program.

“I would say that what we did that first semester with eIslander was 100 percent better than what had been doing before, but I think what we’re doing right now is 100 percent better than what we did the first semester,” Harrel said. “Unlike the old style online classes, we can see what students are doing, and either reinforce immediately what they’re doing correctly, or if there is a bad habit or something being done incorrectly, we can fix it immediately, instead of at the end of the semester.”

Heather DeGrande, Assistant Clinical Professor, says that eIslander is helping to change the misconception of that “old style” online course.

“People have this misunderstanding that online education is flat, but with the use of eIslander, we are having an actual exchange of ideas, live and in real time.” said DeGrande. “eIslander brings life to a textbook, and even to a computer screen. It’s actual interaction with faculty, and students, just like in a regular classroom.”

eIslander has been a helpful tool for online nursing student Elizabeth Armstrong, who currently lives in Virginia, with her military serviceman husband. She is taking online nursing classes at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in order to get her nursing license in Texas, since she and her husband eventually plan to return to Texas.

“With all the clinicals, and with eIslander, I feel like I’m getting the same experience that a face-to-face student would get,” Armstrong said, “I don’t feel cheated at all. I feel like I’m getting a great education, and I feel like an Islander.”

Cezar Martinez, a 20 year retiree of the United States Navy, and current online nursing student, lives in the small town of Bluntzer, about a 40 minute drive from campus. He says eIslander makes it easier for him to focus on his courses.

“Through my military career, I did online classes, but nothing compares to eIslander,” said Martinez. “eIslander makes it easy to get to know my professors, and my fellow students. Not only do I know their name, I know their face, and they have become my support system.”

Online nursing student Clinton Buttler lives in Corpus Christi, but works full-time.

“The flexibility of eIslander, especially being able to record the sessions, lets you complete assignments at your own pace,” Buttler said. “Classes are not easier, but at least you can do them on your own time.”

eIslander is entering its second year of use at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.