These days lots of people consider making a career change later in life, but find that the prospect of combining college study with their existing work and family obligations is too daunting. This is where online study comes in. Distance learning enables you to earn a degree without having to attend classes on campus, making it much easier to fit your studies around your other commitments. It’s not only purely academic subjects such as history and English, either. Now you can also study more vocational programs, such as nursing, from the comfort of your own home.
This article will walk you through the experience of studying for a nursing degree online, as well as the specific advantages and potential downsides of doing so. If you’re tempted to enroll, there are also some tips at the end for how to successfully study online.
What’s great about online nursing degrees is that there are options out there for everyone. You can choose between a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), as well as accelerated versions of both programs for people who already have an undergraduate degree in another subject. For those of you who wish to take their learning to the highest level, you can even study for doctoral degrees such as the DNP online. Many programs give you the choice between studying full time and part time, so you can choose the appropriate workload for your personal circumstances.
In addition to full degree programs, there are also specialist nursing certifications that you can study for online. These are generally aimed at those who already have an MSN and wish to concentrate on building their skills and knowledge in a particular area of nursing, such as women’s health, mental health, leadership, oncology or forensic nursing.
When you study for a degree online in any subject, you will receive the same high standard of education as you would with a traditional course held on campus. The only difference is that teaching and learning will take place virtually. There are many different methods that colleges can use, including:
- live and prerecorded lectures
- live seminars on video chat
- online discussion boards and forums
- interactive quizzes
- audio and visual materials
- reading lists
- written assignments
- case studies
- group projects
Your professors will be available to help you via phone calls, video chat, instant message or email, and you’ll also have access to other college support services in similar ways. All of your assignments will be submitted electronically, for example via email or through virtual learning software, and you’ll receive feedback in the same manner.
When it comes to online degrees in nursing, there is a slight difference in comparison to purely academic subjects because you will still complete your clinical placements in person. Unlike campus programs, however, you will do these at a suitable location near to where you live rather than near your college. This means that you still get valuable hands-on experience in nursing and the chance to receive feedback directly from experienced professionals – something critical for your training as a nurse – but it’s combined with the convenience of distance learning.
There are a whole wealth of advantages to be gained from taking your nursing degree online rather than in person. The most evident of these is the greater flexibility it offers. With the exception of live lectures or seminars, you can choose the precise study schedule that suits your current circumstances and existing commitments. For example, you could study first thing in the morning before work, on your lunch break, or late in the evening once everyone else has gone to bed. You could study a little bit every day, or in larger chunks of time on the weekends. Thus it’s a convenient option for those who wish to work while they study, or have other responsibilities such as children or elderly parents to care for.
Similarly, you can study at a location that fits your personal preferences. This could be the sanctuary of a home office with some inspiring classical music playing, the creative hustle and bustle of your favorite coffee shop, or the peace and quiet of your local library. You can also study at your own pace, revisiting materials whenever you need to, and utilizing the learning methods and tools that help you the most.
Another advantage of online learning is that it can often be cheaper than a traditional campus program. This is firstly because the tuition fees tend to be lower, but also because you don’t have to fret about extra costs such as commuting to class or finding accommodation near campus during the semester. In addition, you’re no longer restricted to enrolling on courses at colleges that you can comfortably commute to or are in an area that you can relocate to. You could even enroll on a program with an institution abroad!
Lastly, studying online involves using lots of state-of-the-art software and cutting-edge digital technologies. This is of course beneficial to your learning, but it can also give you an advantage by enabling you to get used to using this technology in a supportive environment. Seeing as many workplaces are now incorporating this sort of software – especially with the increase in remote working due to the COVID-19 pandemic – this can be a big help when it comes to starting work as a nurse after you qualify.
The consensus is that there are no major disadvantages to studying for a degree program online in terms of employability after graduation. Although in the past employers might have been skeptical, these days distance learning is common and no longer looked down on as less valid. Having said that, there are some key differences to online degrees that you should be aware of before you choose to enroll on one.
For example, the social side of your college experience will be quite different with a distance course, as you won’t be able to take part in activities like attending your school’s sports games or having late night study sessions in the library with your classmates. That’s not to say that you can’t make friends or network when studying online – it just means that your interactions will be virtual rather than in person. Therefore as long as your main concern is your academic studies rather than going to college parties, distance learning won’t be a problem.
The other factor to bear in mind is that you may need to take greater personal responsibility for your studies as an online student. This is because you won’t have other students and professors around you checking that you’ve done your assignments. However, many mature students actually find this to be a positive thanks to the greater freedom and independence. Plus, it teaches you some key time management and organization skills that will prove very valuable in your nursing career!
Now that we’ve covered the pros and cons of distance learning, it’s time to talk about how you can prepare for your online nursing degree. If you’ve never completed any online study before you might be a bit intimidated by the idea, but luckily we have some top tips to help you out:
- Consider signing up to a free short course before your first semester in order to get a better idea of how online learning works and how to get the most out of it, as well as how you personally learn best. This doesn’t have to be in a subject related to nursing, but it will be extra helpful if it is!
- Set up a dedicated study space at home for learning. A home office is ideal, but even a desk in the corner of your living room or bedroom will work. Make sure you have an ergonomic chair to protect your back, good lighting to prevent eye strain, and enough room for your laptop, notes, and other materials.
- Do some advance reading on the topics that you’ll be studying. This will help prepare you for what you’re going to learn on the program, and prevent you from becoming overwhelmed in the first week. You can ask your college for a reading list, do your own research online, or get some books from your local library.
- Figure out a schedule that works for you and try to stick to it. Take into account your existing home and work commitments, then see where you can slot in dedicated study sessions. This will be more effective than simply trying to fit in your learning randomly as and when you can.
- Ask for help if you need it. Whether it’s from friends and family or your college’s specialist services, don’t be shy about requesting support. It’s important to take care of your physical and mental health throughout your degree program, as this will prevent you from burning out and ensure you get the best grades you can.