Digital explanations and nursing students' perception of learning science
A thorough understanding of human physiology and anatomy are pivotal in the preparation of competent nursing students for clinical practice. However, anatomy and physiology are among the most conceptually perplexing subjects that nursing students will encounter throughout the duration of their course. Research in other science-based contexts has demonstrated a positive relationship between student-generated digital media and learning scientific concepts. Therefore, the aim of this study was to explore nursing students' experience in learning science concepts through a formative assessment task which was based on making a 'digital explanation'. Our work was guided by semiotic theory and the study design was a mixed method study where 428 first-year nursing students across five campuses volunteered to complete self-reported surveys during the first and last week of the academic session. Students who consented for an interview were invited to attend one of five focus groups. More than half of the participating cohort had prior experience with science (66%), but only 24% had previous experience with making digital media. After completion of the assessment task, two-thirds of the students strongly agreed or agreed that they learned more about science and fewer students agreed that searching for scientific knowledge could be boring. The qualitative findings confirmed the presence of learning about science and four themes were identified: 'learning about science', 'linking knowledge to practice', 'using technology', and 'making it real'. A key point was that the students began to see connections between science knowledge and nursing practice. But many students were challenged by the technology and the fact that the task was ungraded. Although the digital explanation was an overall positive experience for the nursing students, there is a need for a flexible and graded assessment task to achieve its potential benefits as a teaching and learning task in nursing. We conclude that additional intervention studies are warranted.