Background: Students regard biological science as one of the most difficult components of the nursing curriculum. However, a good understanding of this area is essential for effective nursing practice. The aim of this study was to explore nursing students' perceptions of the usefulness of supplementary biology podcasts for their learning.
Methods: Biological science podcasts (n = 9) were made available to first-year nursing students (n = 189) as supplementary learning tools. On completion of their first year, students were asked to complete a survey which investigated the frequency of their podcast use, reasons for use and their perception of the usefulness of podcasts as a learning tool. 153 of these students participated in the survey study (80.9%). Two focus groups were conducted with students (n = 6) to gain a detailed understanding of student experiences of the usefulness of the podcasts for their learning.
Results: Survey data demonstrated that most students (71%) accessed at least one podcast. The majority of students who reported accessing podcasts agreed that they were useful as learning tools (83%), revision aids (83%) and that they helped promote understanding of course materials (72%). Focus group participants discussed how they found podcasts especially useful in terms of revision. Students valued being able to repeatedly access the lecture materials, and appreciated having access to podcasts from a range of lecturers. Focus group members discussed the benefits of live recordings, in terms of valuing the information gleaned from questions asked during the lecture sessions, although there were concerns about the level of background noise in live recordings. Lack of awareness of the availability of podcasts was an issue raised by participants in both the survey component and the focus groups and this negatively impacted on podcast use.
Conclusions: Nursing students found the availability of biology podcasts helpful for their learning. Successful implementation of these tools to support learning requires teaching staff to understand and promote the importance of these tools.