Remote learning is an increasingly common option for American students of all ages. According to a 2014 report by Babson Survey Research Group, approximately one in every three college students takes at least one online course for credit. The National Center for Education Statistics further estimated that, in 2013, there were more than 5.5 million students enrolled remotely in postsecondary educational institutions across the country.
Online learning can be an invaluable option for busy nursing professionals, particularly those who wish to work full- or part-time while pursuing a higher degree. While a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree can open doors for job opportunities and promotions that can take a career to the next level, not everyone is able to take time off or move to a new location to enroll in a program at a campus location. By pursuing the degree remotely, nurses are able to grow their careers while furthering their education simultaneously.
Despite the numerous advantages of online degrees, some students hesitate when making the decision because of misconceptions that they have about remote learning. When it comes to choosing whether to pursue your education online or at a physical location, do not be influenced by these five myths:
1. The quality is not the same.
When you make the decision to pursue a degree, you understandably want to be sure that you receive a quality education. A common misconception is that an online degree does not provide the same standard of instruction that you receive when physically attending classes. However, that is simply not the case. When it comes to earning a degree in any setting, accreditation is key. If your online program is accredited, you can be assured that you will receive a quality education. While quality is important for any program, it especially is critical when you pursue an online MSN degree, where the instruction you receive will eventually affect the care you provide to patients.
Not only can remote learning offer the same quality as an on-campus option, but some online courses may even provide better instruction than their in-person counterparts, according to Ramin Sedehi, the Berkeley Research Group’s director of Higher Education Consulting.
“It requires the instructors to communicate differently,” Sedehi told U.S. News & World Report. “Some instructors suggest it forces them to think about effectiveness and engagement far more actively and makes them better teachers.”
As an added bonus, saving time on your commute also will give you extra hours to dedicate to your studies. Why drive to campus when you could be spending the time at home prepping for your next exam?
2. You will not receive hands-on experience.
Hands-on learning is an important component of nursing education. Consequently, you may worry that an online degree will neglect this important part of your degree. However, an online MSN does not mean that you will not receive hands-on training. In most online advanced practice nursing degree programs, you will partner with a local health care provider to gain clinical experience while completing your degree online.
If you are working while pursuing your degree, you even may be able to complete your practicum hours at the institution where you already are employed.
3. Time with the instructor is limited.
As a student, extra time with your instructor is important when you are trying to understand difficult materials or find yourself with unanswered questions. While you may not be able to be in the same room as your instructor when you pursue a degree online, you still will be able to interact in meaningful ways through the online platform that you use for your coursework, as well as via email and video call.
You also typically will have access to additional student services as you would at a campus location. Most schools will have career counselors, academic advisors and others that you can schedule phone calls or video conference with to talk about your academic path and post-graduation plans.
4. Employers do not accept online degrees.
Ultimately, when you invest time and effort into pursuing your MSN, you want to know that it will help advance your career. A common myth about online degrees is that they are frowned upon by hiring managers. While some workplaces may have been hesitant about degrees earned in this manner when online degrees first became popular, that belief is far from the truth today. As remote learning becomes more popular, employers increasingly are recognizing the value of online degrees.
This shift is especially true for master’s degrees. It is not uncommon for nursing professionals to pursue an MSN while also working full- or part-time. Employers typically understand that most nurses are not able to take time off from work to earn an advanced degree at a physical location. An online program allows the flexibility to gain workplace experience and a degree simultaneously. Sometimes, this arrangement can be appealing in and of itself to a hiring manager. The fact that you earned a degree while also working illustrates an ability to multitask and manage your time wisely, both of which are valuable traits in a nurse.
5. The community is less connected.
Connecting with other students can be easy when you are sitting next to each other, but what about when you all are learning from separate locations? If you are concerned that you will not feel like a part of a community if you pursue a degree online, think again. Depending on the program in which you are enrolled, you typically will have opportunities to have discussions and collaborate with fellow classmates regularly. After all, how many friends and families do you connect with regularly online? You can build the same kind of remote camaraderie with your virtual classmates.
Additionally, some schools may have alumni groups in your area where you can connect in person with former students. No matter how you earn your degree, you will be a proud alum once the program is completed.