Online degree programs in nursing can help you further your education usually without you ever having to set foot in a traditional classroom. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expect clinicals to be a part of your training, giving you on-the-job, hands-on experience in a real-life medical facility. For the non-clinical part of your courses, though, most students take their classes entirely online. How you experience these classes will depend on which online school you choose. It is important to realize that not only will you at some point need to take part in clinicals, but also know that some online programs may require a limited amount of time on a campus, e.g., for certain key exams.
Online courses are similar to traditional courses, covering the same required topics, but are typically hosted on a website, through a program where a professor posts course materials and assignments for students to easily access. Students can often post comments and questions on the site’s bulletin board or other discussion forum. Professors communicate with students via e-mail or designated online chat sessions (virtual office hours). Many programs allow students to log in and work at any time. Students can e-mail their assignments to their professor on designated due dates. Sometimes professors let written work substitute for traditional exams, if it can adequately show that you are digesting the material provided. In other cases, exams are offered online. It simply depends on the preference of your professor.
Online courses from an accredited online nursing program are just as rigorous as you would expect traditional courses to be. Do not expect earning your nursing degree online to be any easier than in a brick-and-mortar institution. Online colleges and traditional colleges are accredited in the same way they both must meet the criteria set by independent accrediting bodies to receive recognition by that body.
If your online university program is affiliated with a traditional university, you may not be able to work at your own pace or start any time of the year; you may have to finish at the same pace as an on-campus student would and start on typical spring/fall/summer semesters. This allows larger groups of students to be able to go through the program together. Even though you may never meet your fellow classmates in person, you can still get help from each other and share study tips through e-mail and chat.
Like a traditional degree program, online degree programs have students work closely with an academic advisor to map out the courses you will need to take each semester to graduate, but some online programs, like those offered at Kaplan University, allow you to tailor your own curriculum and plan class and study time to fit your particular schedule. Kaplan’s online programs also allow special remote access to library resources to help you with your studies.