Thomas Edison State University By Thomas Edison State University • April 14, 2015

4 Rules for Success in an Online Nursing Program

Written by Maggie Ciocco MS, RN, BC; Ritamarie Giosa MSN, RN, CPN; Lisa Harris PhDc, MSN, MBA, RN; and Holly Leahan MSN, RN, CMSRN

This article originally appeared in Advance for Nurses.

There is no doubt that education plays a key role in helping nurses provide better patient care and advance in their careers. However, for many working nurses, finding time to continue their education can be a challenge. In response, countless RNs have chosen online learning for the convenience, flexibility and efficiency they need to move forward in their nursing careers.

If you are considering an online nursing program, knowing what it takes to thrive in this environment can be fundamental to your success. As experienced advisors who respond to the concerns of more than 2,500 nurses in the University’s online RN/BSN-MSN program, we have four suggestions for success if you are considering an online nursing program. 

1. Be an active participant.

Take note of the available academic resources at your college or university. Pay attention to open houses and the content in your welcome letters. Look for student handbooks, catalogs and notifications about important changes in academic programs and procedures that are typically posted on your school’s website or emailed to you. Check your email daily and make sure your school’s email address is on your ‘safe senders’ list. Also be aware of ancillary services such as library resources, free webinars, tutoring, open student discussion boards and college blogs. Remember too that participation in online courses generally requires weekly discussion board and assignment participation. In completing your assignments, be sure to follow established APA, grammar and punctuation guidelines. Pay special attention to available rubrics (assignment grading guidelines) in your courses.


2. Learn the technology and course requirements.

There are many different online learning management systems. Your school will usually offer website tutorials to help you navigate these platforms and your course space. Remember to save and organize all graded assignments and papers electronically. These may be needed for your capstone courses or portfolios later. For maximum learning, be willing to go beyond the minimum course requirements.


3. Avoid the “no one told me” scenario.

Schedule an advising appointment before registering for your first course. Ask questions about your program and prerequisites, and planning your courses to complete your degree. Avoid relying on information from co-workers, friends or family members as everyone’s degree program is different. Above all, stay in touch with your advisor throughout to obtain the transfer credit you deserve and to avoid taking courses you do not need.


4. Stay connected and know your limits. 

Online learning may seem challenging at first, but through actively engaging with fellow students and your mentors, your degree journey can be rich, full and engaging. Staying in contact with colleagues in your course will help you stay motivated. Throughout the program, take note of your daily obligations including work, family and school commitments and realistically assess how much work you can handle each term.

Most importantly, stay in touch with your academic nursing advisor who can be a valuable resource in planning your degree program.

Maggie Ciocco MS, RN, BC; Ritamarie Giosa MSN, RN, CPN; Lisa Harris PhDc, MSN, MBA, RN; and Holly Leahan MSN, RN, CMSRN are program advisors in the W. Cary Edwards School of Nursing. 

Thomas Edison State University

Written by Thomas Edison State University

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