Earning a bachelor’s degree has its benefits, particularly for nurses. For one, patient outcomes improve when nurses are able to apply new knowledge and skills. A bachelor’s degree can also help open up opportunities for career transition from the bedside in the hospital setting to clinical management, unit-based education and community health.
How does nursing work with the online format?
Online degree completion is a very viable option for nurses. Since nurses who are considering RN to BSN programs already have their nursing licenses, they do not have to be concerned with the type of clinical learning that takes place in entry-level nursing programs. In the program at American Public University, students use their existing workplaces for some of the classroom assignments and do a clinical project in community health. The rest of the course work is managed online.
Isn’t it a disadvantage not to be in class with other students?
Today, online education is quite social, actually. Every classroom has forums or discussion boards that the students log into regularly to discuss and reflect on issues related to the course content. Some programs have “synchronous” classroom events, where students log into the classroom all at the same time. Other schools such as APU have “asynchronous” discussions, in which students can log in any time during the assignment period. Many programs, if not most, also have vibrant social communities on sites such as Facebook. So, students generally do feel part of a group, even though they are not sitting in a classroom.
Is the education in the online programs comparable to campus-based universities?
Yes, it is. Prospective students can be assured of this, particularly in programs that are accredited by the National League of Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The standards that nursing programs must meet are the same regardless of how the course is delivered. Some universities have hybrid programs, which are a blend of classroom and online learning. All are held to the same standards for accreditation.
In broader terms, the Department of Education holds online universities to the same standards as well. The traditional ratio of class-to-homework time, for example, applies just as much to online universities as it does to brick and mortars.
Is it harder or easier to go to school online than in a classroom?
That totally depends on the individual. I will say that, in my opinion, online learning requires a different level of discipline than classroom education, particularly if the learning is completely asynchronous. Students need to have a lot of self-discipline to stay on task and get their work done on time. Another issue that I have seen in students is the temptation to take too heavy a class load in the online environment, thinking that the courses will not require as much time as traditional ones. As I said earlier, this is really a myth. Some students actually find the online environment to be the more challenging of the two.
I have known people who thrive in the online environment because of its flexibility, and others who need the discipline of having to be at a certain place at a certain time. You have to know yourself, how you study, and how you learn.
Are online programs better for nurses who do shift work?
I can’t say whether they are better or worse for any particular person. I do think, though, that online programs offer a degree of flexibility that traditional programs may not have. At APUS, students have said that they do appreciate the flexibility of being able to do their classwork at hours when their classmates may be working or asleep.
So, if your interest is in moving forward with your education, consider the online bachelor’s in nursing. The asynchronous format is a great option for those with hectic shifts at all times of the night.
By Elaine Keavney, RN, MSN
Director, RN to BSN Program at American Public University