Fortunately, the answer is yes. More and more schools are adding online nursing programs to their college catalogs, and as the technology improves, it’s clear that these programs are just as high in quality as a program completed on campus.
In this article, we’ll look at some of the factors you’ll want to consider when choosing your online program. You’ll want to ensure you’re setting yourself up for the best possible nursing education.
How Online Nursing Classes Work
Most schools use the same professors for their online programs as those who teach in the classroom, which is one way to ensure that the quality of education is high across the board. The technology has also improved. Students can watch classes on their computers, tablets, or smartphones and interact with other students and their professors. Group projects are common, and teachers can use the technology to their benefit. For example, branching exercises that lead students through a series of choices to gain an understanding of a nursing scenario are common. Live Zoom lectures, online discussion boards, and online faculty office hours allow teachers and students to interact.
The Clinical Component
Many nursing programs require clinical work. Some of this can be completed online through simulations or with the help of family and friends acting the role of the patient. However, in most circumstances, programs may require in-person work. If a student is currently working in the nursing field, some of that time may be used to fulfill clinical hours.
If a school requires in-person clinical hours, they should have staff to help online students find a placement in their region. Students should not have difficulty earning the hands-on experience they need to complete their programs. If you have questions about the process for clinical placements, an admissions counselor at the school you’re considering should be able to fill you in on how it works.
How to Select an Online Nursing Program
When looking for a good nursing program, you’ll want to find the best possible placement in a school that will help you learn and guide you along the pathway to competence in nursing care. Here are a few of the considerations you may want to think about when you’re choosing your school.
As a general rule, public institutions are funded at least partly by the state where they are located and thus can afford to charge less tuition for their programs. On the other hand, private schools must pass on the total cost of the degree program to their students, so it often costs more.
Public institutions, however, may charge a higher tuition rate for students living outside their state, though, this is not universally true. Some state schools charge the same no matter where you live. You should be able to find out the tuition costs on the institution’s website or by asking an admissions counselor. There may also be additional fees for technology support or online student services. Take all possible costs into account when you are planning how you will pay for your education.
It’s also worth talking to an admissions staff member about possible scholarships, grants, or loans, which can lower your education costs considerably. Some of these are need-based, whereas others are based on other factors, such as your membership in a particular organization. It’s a good idea to apply for financial aid wherever you attend.
You’ll also want to familiarize yourself with the student services available at your chosen institution. In fact, you should be aware of well before you make your final decision. Does the program you’re considering, for example, offer career counseling services for online students? Is there tutoring available if you need help with a course? How will you get academic advice on what courses you should take for the maximum benefit?
All these questions should be easily answered by admissions counselors or via the college’s website. Your program should have a support structure that provides you with all the help you’ll need to succeed in your education. If support services are unavailable to you as an online student, you may want to consider a different program.
How these services are delivered may vary from school to school. Some schools offer support mainly through phone calls, whereas others feature video chat rooms or Zoom connections so you can see the person you’re talking to during the conversation. Your interactions with admissions staff should give you a clue as to how the college manages its online support services.
A final factor that should be on your list of considerations is whether or not the school and your program are accredited. Accreditation indicates the standards a school is held to, whose programs combine academic rigor, accountability, and ethical standards. If your program is accredited, you can be sure it is reviewed regularly (usually every five to 10 years) by academic officials with knowledge in your field to ensure that students receive a solid, well-rounded, and practical education.
To determine whether your school is properly accredited, you can check out the recognized accreditation agencies on the Council for Higher Education Accreditation website. Most nonprofit colleges and universities are accredited. Programs that aren’t accredited are not as highly considered by hiring managers, so attending an accredited school for your education is a good idea.
Common accreditations come from organizations such as the Higher Learning Commission, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Nursing accreditation agencies include:
- The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
- The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing
- The Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs
- The American College of Nurse-Midwives Division of Accreditation
If you don’t see signs of accreditation on your school’s website, ask an admissions counselor or program director about the school’s accreditation status.
Interested in another degree instead?
Learn more about online degrees, their start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.