If you have been accepted into an online nursing school, perhaps seeking to obtain your RN-to-BSN degree, or a graduate degree, you may be wondering about the online learning experience. Perhaps you obtained your undergraduate degree, or your RN, by attending a bricks-and-mortar institution, and you have questions about the differences between learning in person, in real time, and the online learning model. To that end, we have assembled a few suggestions to maximize your online learning experience.
Step One: Choose Wisely
Select the online nursing program that is just right for you. Consider whether a given program allows you to work at your own pace, on your own schedule, or if it expects you to view video lectures at specific, assigned times. The former is more flexible, providing you the ability to juggle a busy work schedule, for instance, while also furthering your education. You may also wish to consider class sizes.
While your interactions with instructors and other students will necessarily be virtual, some classes are limited in size, while others may include hundreds of students at a time. Even in cyberspace, large class sizes mean you will receive less attention from your instructor(s). Smaller, more manageable class sizes (of, say, 20-30 students) mean your instructor will have more bandwidth to interact in a meaningful fashion with individual students.
Step Two: Investigate the Faculty
Look into a given institution’s faculty. What are their credentials? Have they published? How much experience do they have teaching in their given area of expertise? Are there PhD level instructors on staff? Have former students provided positive feedback? Try to get a sense of the faculty; their experience, credentials and dedication to the mission of training qualified new nurses.
Step Three: Try the Tech
Online nursing schools must provide a platform for interaction and learning. It usually involves a learning management system. That is software similar to an online social network, where assignments are posted, lectures may be viewed, students can interact with one another, and you can securely send and receive email communications, while collaborating with other students. These management systems typically feature the ability to turn in assignments and take tests.
Obviously, a well-designed, functional learning management system is important to your ultimate success as an online nursing student. Does the educator have plenty of resources available online? Is the system secure? If possible, try making use of the various features of the technology, in order to become familiar with it before you actually begin. There may be a bit of a learning curve as you become familiar with the system’s functionality.
Step Four: Establish a Routine
After years of structured, real-world schooling, you will be familiar with the in-person model of learning. Getting accustomed to the online learning model may take some time. Experienced online learners have discovered that the freedom and flexibility of the system can be both a blessing and a curse. It is obviously a blessing to have the freedom to view lectures on your schedule, rather than having to be present in a particular space at a specific time. But it also puts more pressure on you to be more self-disciplined about your actions. Staying motivated to keep up with the work can be more challenging when it is all up to you. Experts suggest you adopt new routines, and develop a new, reliable schedule that allows you to take advantage of the system’s flexibility, while also establishing a comfortable pattern of study and assignment completion/submission.
Keep in mind that despite the flexibility of the learning model, you must still focus on the material and get the work done in a timely manner. It may be tempting to fall behind, thinking you can always catch up later. But this is seldom the case when it comes to a challenging discipline such nursing. Stay up to date and maintain a predictable pattern of study, and assignment completion.
Step Five: Identify Clear Expectations
Expectations should be crystal clear from the start. If you feel they are not, ask your instructor for clarification. You should have a sense of how often you are required to post on the discussion board, for example. Are deadlines flexible at all? How can you obtain additional help or guidance, if needed? To ensure your ultimate success, it helps to have answers to these and other questions sooner, rather than later.
Step Six: Know Your EducatorYou might be surprised to learn that it can be easier to get to know a professor in the virtual environment of an online nursing program than it might be in person. Try to build a rapport with your instructor by interacting in class, asking questions, engaging in online discussions and other forms of collaboration, etc. The learning platform may be virtual, but the people involved are all real humans. For more information, check out this article.