Pursuing an MSN program is a big commitment, with a couple of different paths available. Traditional learning, in a classroom setting is one way, but there are also MSN online programs that allow students to obtain a degree quickly, while working around a full time schedule. Each learning style has pros and cons, which helps prospective students determine the right learning environment for them.
For a basic RN or BSN degree, there is no all online option. Much of the coursework must be completed in a clinical, hands-on setting. Transitioning to a master’s degree requires more academic learning, and less hands-on. This opens up the option of an entirely online program. Online programs offer several benefits when compared to traditional learning environments.
- Flexible scheduling – Many prospective students need to maintain full time employment, while pursuing their Bachelor’s degree. Not all nursing programs offered in a classroom setting fit around every schedule. Online classes allow the student to decide on the time spent “in class.”Due dates for projects and assignments exist, but students have full discretion about when to work on assignments, provided all tasks reach the professor on time. This flexibility allows even those on extended shifts or on call to work on a higher degree, while earning a living. The downside of earning an MSN online degree is the lack of interaction between students and the professor, and each other. Learning in a traditional classroom environment is often easier for many students, provided they can meet the scheduling requirements.
- Staying motivated – Part of the challenge of online classes versus traditional lies with motivation. It is difficult to remain motivated without any kind of external pressure to stay engaged. In the classroom, students have little choice but to pay attention, for at least part of the time. Online, students can ignore required reading, leaving them grasping at straws for proctored tests or behind the eight ball on turning in assignments. Self motivation is a big part of what allows online students to succeed.
- Study habits – Many students fail to realize that online courses expect the same level of time commitment, per class, as a traditional in class environment. Students can arrange that time to suit their own schedules, but a four credit class still takes between 12 and 16 hours of concentrated study time each week. For some students, that number may be even higher, since learning from a textbook may take additional repetition.
Earning an MSN online or in a traditional classroom offers students a chance at the same end result: a Masters in the Science of Nursing. Students must carefully assess their capabilities before choosing the best learning method.
The flexibility offered by online courses may make it not only the best, but also the only option, for many prospective students seeking to juggle a full time schedule around their educational goals. As long as they are prepared for the challenges of distance education, an online program may be the exact solution they need.