Developing nursing ethical competences online versus in the traditional classroom

Irena Trobec, Andreja Istenic Starcic*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    26 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: The development of society and science, especially medical science, gives rise to new moral and ethical challenges in healthcare. Research question/objectives/hypothesis: In order to respond to the contemporary challenges that require autonomous decision-making in different work contexts, a pedagogical experiment was conducted to identify the readiness and responsiveness of current organisation of nursing higher education in Slovenia. It compared the successfulness of active learning methods online (experimental group) and in the traditional classroom (control group) and their impact on the ethical competences of nursing students. The hypothesis set in the experiment, hypothesis 1 (the experimental groupwill be successful and will have good achievements in comprehension and application of ethical principles) was confirmed based on pre-tests and post-tests. The hypothesis tested by the questionnaire, hypothesis 2 (according to the students, the active learning methods online in the experimental group have a positive impact on the development of ethical competences) was confirmed. Research design: The pedagogical experiment was supported by a multiple-case study that enabled the indepth analysis of the students’ attitudes towards the active learning methods in both settings. Participants and research context: The study included Slovenian first-year nursing students (N = 211) of all the enrolled students (N = 225) at the University of Ljubljana and University of Primorska in the academic year 2010/2011. Ethical considerations: Before the study ethical permission was obtained from the managements of both participating faculties. The students were given all the necessary information of the experiment before the tutorials. Findings: No significant difference was found between the two learning settings and both had a positive mpact upon learning. The results of the content analysis show that the students’ active engagement with the active learning methods in the group enables the development of ethical competences and the related communicative competences, interpersonal skills, collaboration and critical thinking. Discussion: Active learning methods in the settings compared, online and the traditional classroom, enabled the development of a higher level of knowledge defined by the ability of critical thinking and reflective response, the core of ethical competences. Students develop ethical competence through active engagement in a group work, role play and discussion, and there is no difference between online or traditional learning settings. Conclusion: In the healthcare, it is crucial for providers to be capable of making autonomous decisions and managing various communication situations and contexts in which the moral attitudes and ethical sensibility are essential.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)352-366
    Number of pages15
    JournalNursing Ethics
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2015


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