You've decided the time is right. It's time to pull out your notebooks, sharpen up your pencils, and go back to nursing school to earn a better degree. There's only one problem: you haven't been in school for ten, fifteen, even twenty years. Everything in your life has changed, and you have no idea how you're going to be able to fit in the demands of a traditional nursing program around work, kids, marriage, and all the other responsibilities that suck up your time.
Online nursing degree programs provide an excellent alternative for busy working nurses. Made popular by pioneers such as University of Phoenix, online nursing classes are now offered by a growing number of universities and nursing schools. Today's online nursing students can take their choice of nursing program- from LPN to RN, to RN-BSN, and even nurse practitioner programs from some of the most prestigious universities in the world.
What makes online nursing courses a better option than traditional classes? For starters they cost less and are more time-efficient, plus there's no worry about fitting a class around your already hectic work schedule, driving to campus, struggling finding a place to park, and spending three hours in a classroom. Instead, the commute time is only as long as it takes for your computer to boot up and log on. Your classroom can be your living room, a local coffee shop, the nurse's lounge at work, or anywhere that's convenient for you. Assignments are provided throughout the semester and can be completed by the student as his or her schedule allows whenever and wherever it's convenient for them.
Sounds easy, right? It can be. However, prospective online nursing students need to understand a few things before deciding to take their nursing classes online.
1. Time management is the number one factor that causes online nursing students to stumble
Most online instructors will provide a list of assignments and deadlines on the class website at the beginning of the semester. It's up to you, the student, to monitor and meet those deadlines. In a virtual classroom, it can be easy to procrastinate getting started on those assignments when you don't have the weekly face-to-face motivation that a traditional classroom can provide. It's a good idea to set up a schedule for yourself at the beginning of the semester, and post it somewhere you will see it regularly. Be sure to check the online class page as frequently as you need – even daily – to keep on track with your assignments.
2. Online nursing classes are made possible because of technology
The class itself is web-based. Online instructors do the majority of their communication with students through streaming video lectures, webcasts, podcasts, email, live chat sessions, virtual message boards, and in some cases through interactive virtual world such as second life. Prospective online nursing students should make sure their computer has enough memory to process multimedia presentations, that they have the software they need to do their assignments, and possess a rudimentary knowledge of email, chat, and message boards usage.
3. Myth: You might miss the social interaction provided by a traditional classroom
If you enjoy the give and take of a traditional classroom, you may worry about feeling "isolated". 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.
4. Communication is essential
Online education promote more communication. Students are no longer confined to asking questions during a class. Instructors and other students are easily available through posting on message boards, instant messages and email. Since online nursing instructors are unable to physically take attendance, the participation of students is the only way to know if a student is active in the class. This makes interaction and communication from students extremely valuable. Much like a traditional campus, today's virtual campus offers a rich, engaging social and educational atmosphere for those who keep engaged.
5. Online education levels the playing field
Another benefit to online nursing degree programs is that each student has the same opportunity to "speak up" by posting messages without typical distractions such as seating arrangements, volume of student voices, and gender biases. Shy and anxious students feel more comfortable expressing ideas and backing up facts when posting online instead of speaking in a lecture room. Studies prove that online discussions provoke more confrontational and direct communication between students. Online communication also benefits students by providing additional layer of instructor accessibility. Students in online nursing courses no longer have to worry if they cannot make an instructor's regular office hours, as they still have the ability to submit inquiries via e-mail at any time.
The advantages of online nursing education make a significant impact today and, as technology evolves, promise to deliver even greater benefits in the future!