An exploration of the experiences of mature learners (post-qualified nurses) using a managed learning environment for the first time
This mixed methods study aimed to explore the experiences of mature learners (post-qualified nurses) using a managed learning environment (MLE) for the first time. The ex-perience of using MLEs in education is still relatively unexplored with research to date tending to focus on the experiences of technologically capable students whilst little atten-tion has been given to the less confident, less competent users of technology. One group of learners who typically present with these characteristics are part-time, mature students who attend post-qualifying courses in nurse education. The quantitative (survey) findings of this study indicate that many of these students (41% of survey respondents) com-mence their Higher Education studies with no prior experience of using an MLE and with widely varying information and communication technology (ICT) skills, factors which im-pacted on their ability to use the MLE effectively, despite it being an integral part of their curriculum provision. Interview participants (5) described a variety of problems including a lack of pre-course preparation and limited organisational support; the feelings they ex-pressed included anxiety, fear and frustration. Problems were further compounded by the complications of balancing family, work and study commitments. The difficulty of dealing with varying levels of ICT skill in a large class group and the consequential impact on core content was also evident in the discussions. The key message from this piece of work is that MLEs may have a negative impact on the learning experience if students do not possess the skills to use them and do not receive ongoing support to cope with difficulties encountered. The provision of pre-course preparation and early recognition of ICT skill level along with using ongoing support strategies such as „buddy‟ systems are included in the recommen-dations. A need for large scale research into the student experience is required to deter-mine the relevance of the findings to the general student population.