The impact of a virtual community on student engagement and academic performance among baccalaureate nursing students. Academic Article uri icon


  • The purpose of this article is to present findings from a study which evaluated the effectiveness of a virtual community (an emerging pedagogical application) on student engagement and academic performance. Virtual communities mirror real-life through unfolding patient histories and relationship development over time. Students also become more engaged in learning by creating personally meaningful knowledge of a concept (Rogers & Stone, 2007). Virtual communities offer one teaching strategy to assist students in learning complex, health-related content in a contextualized manner. This quasi-experimental study involved first-semester baccalaureate nursing students enrolled in a course at two campuses of a nursing program at a large university in the Southwest. Three key strategies assessed the impact of the virtual community on student engagement and learning: third-party observational measurement, end-of-class student/faculty surveys, and use of knowledge items in student exams for the class. Significant differences between the control and experimental group were found regarding learning engagement and communication exchanges; the groups appeared similar in ratings of quality of instruction and academic performance. Use of virtual communities can help nursing educators address the recent Carnegie Foundation study's (Benner, Sutphen, Leonard & Day, 2010) counsel to implement "pedagogies of contextualization" in which theoretical and factual information about diseases and conditions are placed in the context of a patient's experience.Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.