How do online classes work?

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An online student studies while on break at work.

You know you want to pursue an advanced degree, but a variety of factors can make it difficult for working professionals to return to a traditional learning environment. Whether it’s not being able to attend an on-campus university for financial reasons or the difficulty of taking time from work or family commitments to go back to school, finding the right program can be a challenge. For these reasons, an asynchronous online learning environment may be right for you.

Because it has allowed people of all walks of life to pursue their career dreams, online learning is an advance in contemporary education, according to eLearning Industry contributor and freelance tutor Stephanie Norman. Whether you’re an experienced professional wanting to continue your education or a recent nursing graduate who wants to work full time while earning a master’s degree, online learning may be the right choice.

If you’re interested in enrolling in Bradley University’s online Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner program but still need to learn more about how online classes work, here are a few helpful tips, suggestions and facts about online learning.

Differences and similarities between online and on-campus learning

The primary difference between on-campus (synchronous) and online (asynchronous) learning environments is timing. Online programs like Bradley’s are asynchronous, meaning that students can complete their assignments at their own pace with only weekly or monthly deadlines. Instead of needing to log in at particular times to view lectures or complete quizzes, students can log in on their own time and finish their work when it’s convenient.

Instructors may post videos, give out assignments, post tests and more, but students experience far more flexibility and autonomy than they would in an on-campus classroom. However, just because it’s online, it’s important for prospective students to not fall for the completely inaccurate myth that the course structure and assignments are easier than an on-campus program.

Most online learners report spending at least 15 to 20 hours a week on coursework, or even six hours per credit hour, according to Jordan Friedman of U.S. News & World Report. While the amount of time spent studying or working depends on the discipline or difficulty level of the class, students should expect to complete assignments, exams and readings that are the same or similar to those in on-campus programs.

The primary differences, then, are how these assignments are completed, submitted or presented, as group projects must be collaborated on virtually, and interactions with instructors typically take place through email, communication portals or video conferencing applications.

Daily working environment, technology and peer interactions of online learning

Every online program is different, but Friedman writes that most online students log into a learning management portal or system where they can view their grades, interact with classmates and instructors, access support services, see course materials and keep track of their overall progress. Many on-campus students use similar portals, such as Canvas, Moodle or Blackboard, to do the same.

Online students must rely on their computer to tackle assignments or view lectures, and they need reliable internet access to complete their studies. That’s because all peer and instructor interactions are done through the online learning portal, social media platforms, video or voice conferencing tools, mobile phones, email and more.

Instead of having to sit in a classroom or log on at specific times, the online learning classroom is flexible and ideal for anyone looking to advance their career. Learning is self-paced, meaning that students set aside times to study, learn and take exams. While it may seem challenging to balance your schedule at first, once you establish your routine and make conscious efforts to work toward your degree, the payoffs are well worth the effort.

Finally, interacting with peers and your instructors will take more effort than it would if your professor or group project member were sitting right across from you. However, don’t let this difference keep you from collaborating and networking with your peers and seeking help from your instructor. Many online learners enjoy communicating through email, discussion forums, social media and other tools.

Make an effort to introduce yourself to your instructor and classmates and remain active on your learning portal or other communication channels throughout your semesters. After all, getting a degree isn’t just about earning your diploma; it’s also about making professional connections that can help you land your dream job in the future.

Is Bradley University’s online MSN-FNP program right for you?

Now that you’re aware of what a typical online class is like, how do you know that the MSN-FNP program is right for you? Bradley’s program is well-suited to those who are passionate about family medicine and want to become a leader in primary care. It can help you gain the skills to advance your nursing career and prepare to pursue your Doctorate of Nursing Practice or earn advanced credentials to further set yourself apart.

What makes us stand out from other offerings is our flexible online learning environment, skilled staff of passionate and experienced clinicians, and unique learning environment where you can collaborate and learn from other aspiring nursing professionals. If you’re passionate about the work, want to learn at your own pace, and hope to rise in your field, Bradley may be the right choice for you.

At Bradley, your learning will be 100 percent online, and you will be able to complete your clinical in your local community, making it a smart choice for busy professionals or students with families. To learn more about our curriculum offerings, program requirements, professional network or more, please contact one of our program representatives today.

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