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New Nursing Students and Online Education

New Nursing Students and Online Education

Kristina Lilleberg | Rasmussen College

There is a new breed of students preparing to enter the healthcare field. Armed with laptops, graduates of nursing degrees are changing the landscape of nursing education and the expectations of the next generation of nursing students.

The current nursing shortage may be a supporting factor in the growth of online nursing programs; however, students seeking online nursing degrees may also be looking for the benefits gained from learning online.

According to Dr. Leila McKinney, Dean of Online Education at Rasmussen College School of Nursing, "Online nursing programs are often viewed as a second choice when we don’t have residential faculty when in fact residential classes should be a second choice when we don’t have the technology for online. In an online course limitless amounts of knowledge can be provided without the restrictions that can be found in a residential classroom.”

The online nursing classroom can provide students links to numerous resources from online databases, e-books, e-journals, drug resources, medical dictionaries, simulations, and study support. Blogs and Wikis can allow nursing students to share best practices and provide avenues for career development. Students within an online nursing course can learn collaboratively with other students creating a global platform for sharing practical experiences that may differ regionally due to shortages and funding.

Online simulations and technology can also prepare nursing students before they step foot in a lab or clinical setting. With the Internet linked to the virtual classroom, faculty can direct students to online simulations while they learn their course work and prepare them for interacting with patients. For example, students can watch and listen to the human heart online before listening to an actual patient’s heart. This type of preparation can help students become more proficient in detecting cardiac abnormalities in a clinical setting.

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With the resources and knowledge available in online courses, new skills are required of nursing students graduating from online programs. Attending an online nursing program can allow students the freedom to complete course work asynchronously, which means students may work on weekly deadlines on their own time, but do not have to attend a residential classroom for all of their courses. Due to the structure of an online course, students must be self directed and dedicated to learning. They must also practice time management to balance personal, work and educational commitments.

The online nursing student must also be able to navigate the virtual environment in which they are learning. Online courses may include audio, podcasts, videos, and collaborative learning spaces that students need to master in order to succeed in their online courses. Learning these skills will help a nurse feel comfortable and proficient using various technologies within the healthcare setting. Being comfortable learning online also provides nursing students opportunities to advance their degrees, as many online institutions offer degrees in master and doctorate level studies.

Dr. Leila McKinney concludes, "The nature of learning in an online environment is one of investigation which allows students to become more fully evolved as nurses. Nurses need to go beyond accepting the obvious and become consumers of knowledge.”

About the Author: Kristina Lilleberg is a Curriculum Development Coordinator for the Design Team at Rasmussen College in Illinois. She has worked in the field of instructional design for more than five years. Kristina also has a Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Minnesota State University.

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