If you’re considering advancing your nursing career, there has never been a better time to do it. Distance learning/online programs are better than ever in that they’re incredibly engaging, convenient, and flexible. The distance learning option is is particularly useful if you’re already an RN trying to expand your options by achieving a BSN – it’s difficult to work a nurse’s hours while getting a degree, but not when you do it online!
The distance learning landscape for nurses is growing at an amazing pace – more than 3.5 million students are currently taking advantage of online courses, and more and more schools are offering online degrees in order to keep up. While that means that there is plenty of opportunity for you to acquire an online nursing degree, it also means it can be difficult to choose the right school to attend.
Here are a few things to think about when choosing an online nursing program.
Is the school accredited?
One of the biggest fears of prospective online students is getting a degree that won’t be worth anything. Unfortunately, there are a lot of schools out there that aren’t accredited, and many employers don’t consider their degrees to be worthy of their positions. It’s important to do your research before enrolling anywhere, because non-accredited schools are often just as expensive as accredited schools. A good school will be accredited by an agency that is recognized by either the CHEA (the Council for Higher Education Accreditation) or the U.S. Department of Education. Nursing accreditation organizations include the National League of Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Ask about whether the school AND the degree program are accredited.
How well does the school communicate?
When most of your communication is going to be done electronically, it can be a pitfall if your professors and/or the school’s administrators don’t offer speedy responses. Engage conversations prior to enrolling in a school in order to gauge whether or not the communication will be consistent enough to keep you on top of your work and facilitate your self-discipline.
Technology – what are you expected to know?
If you’re a computer whiz, then you’re in good shape. However, some online courses use special learning systems and other technology that may need to be learned. Do they offer information and training on how to use their programs? Do they have 24/7 tech support? Is it easy to get in touch with support? These are things you want to know before enrolling – the last thing you want is to go to turn in a project only to have the system be down, causing you to be late.
What types of students graduate from this college?
If possible, look to see where graduates from the college you’re looking at end up. What’s the post-graduate hire rate? Do the professors seem to expect the students to complete all work without reminders or assistance, or do they seem very hands-on? At the end of the day, you do need to find a school that suits your learning sytle.