During COVID, educational programs at all levels found themselves scrambling to educate the nation’s students. At one point, 70% of educational institutions across the country had closed, at a time when not only nurse educators were badly needed but nursing professionals were as well. However, the great thing for students entering the profession is that many nursing programs had already transitioned to the online platform years before the onset of the pandemic.
Today, nurses still have many options in terms of educational programs. Online programs offer the student nurse, on top of other benefits, the convenience of watching lectures, reading over course material, and engaging the online community when it is possible for them to do so, preventing the student from having to stop working or reduce the hours they work. Sometimes, these programs allow the professional to learn from an academic program some distance from them without having to be physically on campus, thus also saving them money.
Many of these programs offer nurses the chance to earn an associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate, and prepare them to take the requisite exams to become licensed nurses. In addition to teaching them subject matter, some programs can also help student graduates with job placements. Online nursing programs such as Baylor University Online have achieved a high ranking by publications such as US News and World Report because of their commitment to helping students become nurses.
So, how does online learning help you become a nurse?
Many academic institutions realize that in order to retain students, it is necessary to create favorable conditions for learning. For this reason, many programs have implemented programs and policies that set the stage for learning. Below are a few ways that many universities have gone about making being admitted to, studying at, and graduating from a nursing program possible for many students.
Coursework and schedule
Unlike many degree programs where students might find themselves choosing courses randomly, many programs have course schedules/outlines that structure the student’s educational progress. In this way, students do not find themselves trying to figure out what courses are appropriate or delaying their education because they were not given proper guidance on what courses to take. Moreover, because of the nature of the work, students not only take courses virtually but many nursing programs require students to participate in practicums or experiential learning that places students in the healthcare setting so they can apply what they have learned online in a real-world setting.
Usually, academic programs are structured where students can take courses every quarter, semester, and depending on the program, all year long. This allows students to finish their coursework and practicum in a reasonable amount of time. A student with prior nursing experience and some coursework in the area might qualify to enroll in bridge programs, which allows them to apply some of the courses and work experience as credits toward the new program’s requirements. Moreover, the work experience might be applied to some of the required clinical hours that are needed to earn the degree. In this way, the student finishes the nursing program quickly to enter the workforce.
As stated previously, some online programs help students with becoming prepared to enter the healthcare workforce after graduation. While nursing students are in the program, some institutions also provide support for online students such as tutoring services for students who might be having problems with certain subjects. In addition to academic tutoring, students can access the programs’ online library and other educational resources made available to students.
Support services also provide academic and personal counseling for students. Academic counselors help students resolve issues related to decisions about which courses to take if they want to follow a specific career path. Because nursing is a very demanding discipline, students can struggle with the stresses of a hectic professional, personal and academic life. Many educational institutions provide students with counselors who serve as outlets for navigating the more stressful parts of getting an online education.
Optimal learning environment
Some of the better programs focus on student-centered learning and creating the best learning environment possible for nurses. Depending on the program, students might find themselves being taught in courses with a low student–faculty ratio. In a nutshell, this ratio means that there are fewer students in each class per instructor, for example 20 students to one faculty member. With fewer students enrolled in the class, chances are students get more personalized attention from the professor, which always helps in getting students to master new information.
So, you have decided to begin training to be a nurse by getting your degree online. In doing so, one of the things you should consider is whether the state boards have approved the academic program. This is very important because the state boards govern the licensing agencies in the state, which issue credentials that allow nurses to work. Furthermore, without the approval of the state board, nurses cannot sit for state board exams, which is, again, essential to becoming employed in the state.
You also want to make sure that the program has the appropriate accreditation. Accreditation is important because it reflects that the academic institution meets basic educational standards. Plus, while a nursing student might technically be able to get licensed, many employers require prospective hires to hold a degree from schools with certain accreditations. This ultimately can interfere with an employer hiring a nurse, no matter how impeccable their application.
Finally, the prospective student should consider their life circumstance and whether the program they seek to be admitted to is the right fit. Factors to consider are whether the online courses are asynchronous (log on to course shell at specific times) or asynchronous (log on to course shell at your convenience), communication with faculty, ability to work with an advisor, and the number of clinical hours required. All these considerations are important in finding an online program that increases your chance of graduating with your degree in nursing.