Are online nursing degree programs up to scratch when it comes to community, friendship, and social interaction? The biggest gripe naysayers have with online education is that it's "less personal." This may have been true in the 1980's when online education was a text input only sort of thing, but it is still a relevant issue today?
Online Education Communities in the Modern Era
Let's put it this way: anyone who's ever used Facebook, YouTube or Skype would have a good laugh over the idea that online education communities are "impersonal." The best online degree programs are using every interactive technology available to connect students, instructors and mentors. Nowadays, nursing students at accredited online nursing programs can watch video lectures, download podcasts, voice-chat with peers, and participate in live webcasts just to name a few possibilities. Virtual classrooms are populated by real people - just like yourself- that live in diverse geographic locations.
Online nursing students enjoy the ability to get to get to know and network with a far wider selection of fellow students than would be possible in a traditional classroom setting. In fact, now that many online nursing programs are using Second Life and its 3-D virtual world to hold lectures, run clinical simulations, and other learning activities, it's easier than ever to meet new friends and enjoy a rich college experience while earning your nursing degree online, and thanks to the transparency of 21st century software, you don't need to be a geek to master the tools.
So what's the verdict when it comes to comparing online nursing programs with traditional programs? According to one student enrolled in Georgetown University's online Master of Science in Nursing program, the sense of community is just as strong. "Plus, it's not limited to the hours you're in class, like at a normal school," adds the student. "I can connect with my teachers and classmates throughout the day or night."
A Matter of Choice
On the other hand, nursing students do need to make an effort to engage with their online education communities. This shouldn't surprise you; after all, in a brick-and-mortar nursing classroom, the student who sits silently in class, doesn't ask questions, and rushes home without stopping to chat is unlikely to form meaningful friendships. In the same way, the online nursing student who never participates in forum discussions, skips all the webcasts, and chooses email over video chatting may feel isolated. As a motivated online student, it's up to you to actually take advantage of the social connection tools that your program provides. But how? The next section will answer that question.
Helpful Tips for Online Nursing Students
1. Learn the Tools Quickly.
Don't wait until the end of semester to master the technology. Otherwise, the simplest tasks – sending an email, posting on the forum, or uploading a photo to your profile page – will be unnecessarily frustrating. Also, the busier you get, the less time you'll have to spend troubleshooting tech problems. So take some time during the beginning of your online nursing program and get familiar with any software or hardware you'll be using. This will save you oodles of time, you'll get more out of the course, and you'll be able to socialize and network more easily with your nursing peers from across the country.
2. Ask Questions Publicly.
No need to be shy: if you can't figure out how to download a podcast, move your avatar around in second life, if you need to check the due date for an assignment, or if you need clarification on chapter 6, just ask! However, you should share most questions on your online nursing school's student forum or bulletin board, rather than contacting your professor privately. When you share your questions with the group, everyone benefits from the answer. Plus, it's a great way for students to help each other out and share ideas. The more questions you ask and answer, the more confident you'll feel in your online nursing community.
3. Open Up.
An online student community isn't reserved for dry academic discussions or queries about class material. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make close friends and network with your future nursing colleagues. Admit your anxieties about life after graduation. Confess to silly mistakes. Share snapshots of your children. The more honest and personal you are, the more genuine your relationships will be and the more supported you'll feel in your academic journey. So don't hold back: share the real you, and be a real friend to your fellow online nursing students. You never know when one of the nurses you met through your online nursing program might know of a nursing position that comes available and think of you, or when you may be able to do the same for one of them!
Whether you're pursing an online degree in nursing, engineering, or photography, the same principles apply. If you make the effort to connect with your online learning community, you'll be more motivated to put in the work, you'll feel more confident participating, and you'll take more enjoyment in the class. In the years to come, you may not recall the minute details of your final exam, but you'll still be trading emotional support and career tips with fellow online nursing program graduates!