How Online Nursing Education Transforms Learning In The Digital Age

Nursing remains one of the most popular career choices for young Americans as well as professionals who are seeking a change to something more meaningful and rewarding. It is full of opportunities, has impressive job growth prospects, and, above all, it is considered one of the most fulfilling professions.

According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, more than 36,000 practitioners graduated from nursing programs in 2020. Of these, a little over 70% had studied family nursing and 8.7% specialized in adult gerontology primary care. The rest were distributed among many different specialties including psychiatry and mental health, pediatrics, and acute care.

The switch to online learning

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, most nurses chose to attend nursing school, with only about 30% involved in online learning. When the pandemic happened, this changed quite drastically. Most nursing students opted to take online courses rather than defer learning until they could go back to campuses. 

Most entry nursing programs that lead to Registered Nurse (RN) licensure still conduct on-campus training, and students are required to attend face-to-face classes, with just a small proportion of their learning conducted online. However, as they progress in their careers, most RNs who would like to gain a BSN or similar degree must switch to online learning, with just a small percentage of their classes offered in person. By 2016, more than half of all RN to BSN courses were offered completely online

As students prepare to start nursing training, they must think through their choices carefully. Not only do they have to choose a reputable school that offers accredited courses, but they also must decide whether they want to enroll in online or in-person classes. 

It is also important to think about eventual employment, questioning: where do family nurse practitioners work? Thinking about the long-term career trajectory helps learners decide what specialty to take and where their focus should be. If they enroll in a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) program at Texas Woman’s University, for example, they can work in outpatient clinics, private practice, urgent and immediate care facilities, rural health clinics, and community health clinics. The Texas Woman’s University course covers several areas of theoretical foundations and the advanced nursing role, evidence-based practice for better outcomes, health policy and healthcare delivery, and foundational concepts for nursing practice, among others.

All material is delivered online, and students can complete the course in as little as two years. To join, one needs to have a BSN degree, a 3.0 GPA average, and be a licensed RN. They should also have completed an undergraduate or graduate-level statistics course. 

Some nurses who undertake this particular FNP course end up working in corporate clinics, schools and universities, specialty clinics and even telemedicine and travel nursing.

Students who know where they would like to work have an easier time choosing a discipline, and there are many for FNPs. They include addiction care, emergency medicine, oncology, cardiology, palliative care, and many others. 

It is important for students to fully understand the benefits and challenges of online nursing education. It helps them decide whether online learning would be suitable for them, and they know what difficulties they are likely to encounter along the way. 

How did online learning come about?

Online learning has gained popularity not just in nursing but in almost all other courses as well. Most universities offer some form of it, and students may enroll in hybrid online courses or choose to take all their instruction online. 

The growth of online learning was facilitated by the rapid development of platforms that support this type of instruction. In the past, students who couldn’t make it to classes took correspondence courses, but they were slow. Learners had to wait to receive their material through the post, and there wasn’t much interaction between learners and teachers. 

The development of the internet changed all this, and online learning was born; it is easier to access learning material and it facilitates interaction between learners as well as learners and instructors. Anyone who has an internet connection can access their online portal, and the best thing about this mode of learning is that it offers convenience. Enrollees could study when it suited them, and they could complete their courses as fast or as slowly as they wished.

Today’s online platforms are much more advanced, and they can do many things that the original ones could not. For example, learners can now attend live lectures and have live chats with classmates and instructors.

What are the benefits of online learning for nurses?

Although traditional classroom learning for nursing courses still exists in many universities across the US, most of them have an online option. But why should prospective nurses enroll in e-learning courses? What do they offer that traditional learning doesn’t?

It is convenient

This is always cited as the biggest advantage of online learning, not just for nursing students but for all others who are involved in this form of instruction.

When a student registers for an online course they are issued a username and password that they can use to log into their learning portal at any time. They can go online when they have time, and they can study for as long as they wish. 

Unlike face-to-face classes, where students must turn up at a given time, online learning allows them to receive instruction when it is convenient. Day or night, any day of the week, they can log into their portal, read notes, do assignments, and talk to their fellow students and instructors. 

All materials are always available

When course material is put on the university server, it remains available to all students who are registered for the program throughout the semester. This is another convenience of online nursing courses, as learners don’t have to worry about missing a lesson. They can log into their portal at any time that is convenient for them, download and print the material, or view it online. 

The classes are interactive

New advancements in online learning platforms allow classes to be interactive. Students can talk to one another and share opinions, and they can also talk to their instructors. 

Some courses are designed to include live lectures, and students are asked to log in to view these. Those who may not be able to join the live class don’t have to worry about missing out; it is posted on the portal, and they can view it at their convenience. 

Students can access support easily

One of the biggest worries for those who haven’t done online learning before is what they should do if they need support. In the best nursing schools, support is available to students throughout their course. Upon enrollment, they are assigned a supervisor who is available to them throughout the semester. They can help them choose specialties, provide tips on how to succeed, and even provide career advice. 

Students also have access to email, phone, and chat support, and they can get assistance any time they reach out. 

Online courses tend to be cheaper

Image by Thomas Breher from Pixabay

As the cost of education continues to increase, this has proved to be one of the main selling points for online learning. 

Online classes tend to be cheaper because they are less resource-intensive. Students don’t occupy classrooms and they don’t consume university resources. They also don’t have to spend money commuting to school, and they don’t have to pay for accommodation. 

Those who feel that traditional nursing programs are too expensive ought to explore different online courses and compare costs. If they still find that they cannot afford whatever courses they would like to undertake, they can talk to the university about scholarships and other funds that may be available to help them cover tuition costs. 

Working professionals ought to check with their employers about facilities for continuing education. Many healthcare institutions have them, or they have access to grants that they can tap into for continuing education for employees. 

Students can complete their courses faster

The typical online course takes less time to complete than face-to-face instruction, and those who are keen to graduate quickly should seriously consider e-learning. The average traditional nursing course takes at least three years from start to finish, but an online course can take two years or even 18 months for those who would like to fast-track and graduate quickly. 

Courses can be tailored to different learning styles

As the material is offered in different formats, students can choose the style that suits them best. Some find that lectures work better, and they listen to the instructor and take notes. Others find that presentations are best, and they retain more material that way. In a nutshell, students are not tied to one style of learning; they can choose what they feel works best for them.

They facilitate group learning

Group learning is important; not only does it allow students to exchange ideas, but it also helps with retention. It is easier to remember something that they discussed than something that they read or watched. 

At the beginning of every semester, students are advised to form groups where they can discuss various topics, exchange experiences, and learn from one another. They can also get in touch with their instructors to talk about any topics they may be having difficulties with. 

Students are more independent

As young people train for careers, they must practice independence. They should be self-driven and highly disciplined, and they should learn to take their responsibilities seriously even when they are unsupervised.

Online learning offers students a chance to develop this important quality. No one tells them what to do, but if they want to qualify, they must be highly disciplined and do the right thing at the right time. It is excellent preparation for employment, and it helps learners become responsible, resourceful, and self-driven. 

What are the challenges of online learning?

This type of learning is designed to help students succeed; they have all the material they need, they can access it at any time, and they have the necessary resources available to them throughout, including their instructors. 

However, it is important to note that it also comes with some challenges. The drop-out rate for online learners is notable. According to a study by eLearning Industry, it is usually between 40% and 80%, and some of the reasons given for this include the following.

Expectations do not meet reality

Some enrollees assume that online courses are easier because they take a shorter time to complete. It is true that they can finish their course faster, but the course material isn’t any easier than in a traditional class. Students must cover the same course material without direct supervision, and they have to complete tests, assignments and projects on time.

Students lack enough time

Many professionals opt for online learning because they don’t have time to attend in-person classes. However, they don’t allocate enough time to go through coursework and complete assignments, and they often find themselves so far behind that they cannot catch up. 

Sometimes learners lack motivation

Most people are used to the traditional way of learning where they have a teacher who checks on them constantly. Online learning requires that students be self-driven. There is no one to tell them what to do, and they must learn to make the right decisions about when to study, do assignments, complete projects, and participate in group discussions. This isn’t very easy, and sometimes students are so unmotivated that they drop out of their courses.

Some courses are poorly designed

Not all universities have well-designed online nursing courses, like the highly-rated course at Texas Woman’s University. Some universities do not facilitate learning, and students may have a difficult time understanding the course material. In some cases, platforms are not well-designed, and this can discourage learners from engaging.

The best way to avoid these pitfalls is to make sure that learners understand what is at stake. They should outline their goals and remind themselves frequently what they are and what they will get after graduating successfully. 

Tips for online nursing school students

Online edugation
Photo by Unseen Studio on Unsplash

Online nursing courses require discipline and dedication, and many have graduated and gone on to have brilliant careers. Below are some tips to help those who choose this type of learning.

Understand the curriculum 

What material are students expected to cover, and when should they have covered it? Are there certain milestones to be met, and what is the timeframe? 

One of the most common causes for dropping out of online courses is projects. Many students don’t start early enough and run out of time, yet the project counts for a significant portion of their overall grade. 

All who enroll in online courses should take some time before learning to understand what material they are expected to cover. If there is a project to be completed, students should start early enough and set aside enough time to complete it. 

Develop a timetable and stick to it

This is especially important for working professionals who may find themselves struggling for time. A timetable allows students to set aside enough time to cover course material, complete assignments, and participate in group discussions. 

Keep in touch with instructors

Instructors can provide guidance where it is needed, and they may have tips and strategies to help students succeed. Students can get in touch with them to arrange online meetings. They should prepare all their questions and concerns in advance so that they can make the most of the meeting. 

A mentor is a good idea

It is wise for students to have a mentor, especially someone who has experience with online instruction. They can help set priorities straight, and they may have useful tips that the student can apply to help them succeed in their course. 

Allow others to help

This is especially important for busy professionals who have families. It can be difficult to juggle everything, and they need all the help they can get. They can talk to their employers about a work schedule that allows time for learning, and make arrangements with family members for routine tasks like chores and babysitting. 


Online learning has revolutionized nursing courses. It introduces convenience, and students can learn at whatever pace they are comfortable with. For those who want to fast-track their careers, they are an excellent way to get the necessary qualifications.

As students enroll in different programs, they should be aware of the resources that are at their disposal and how best to use them for success.

Featured Photo by Josefa nDiaz on Unsplash