Nursing classes go online

Online classes are helping working adults earn nursing degrees, reports Community College Times. Only labs and clinical practice require in-person attendance.

Alice Koinange, a technical sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, kept up with her nursing studies at the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) in Maryland, even while deployed to Afghanistan for six months in 2010.  She is on track to earn an associate degree in nursing in May 2011.

Program administrators devised a flexible schedule, allowing Koinange to complete her clinical work before leaving last spring for Bagram Airfield. While there, she worked six days a week and spent her day off taking a course on maternal/newborn nursing and volunteering in the base hospital.

Without the flexibility of online learning, “there is no other way I could have pursued my dream of becoming a nurse,” Koinange says.

The typical online student is a 35-year-old woman with a full-time or part-time job, says Shawn McNamara, who runs the nursing program at CCBC. About 15 percent of the students in the online program are men, often paramedics,  nearly twice as many as in the traditional nursing program.

Online lessons teach a concept using case studies.  Learning modules can include short videos.

Using a federal grant, Whatcom Community College (WCC) in Washington piloted the Transitions to RN (registered nurse) online program last summer.

Most of the students in the program are already working in health care, but they want an associate degree to get a higher paying job as a registered nurse. Lab and clinical experiences take place on weekends.

Madisonville Community College (MCC) in Kentucky has moved its nursing classes  online. Students qualify as a Licensed Practical Nurse; those who wish can go on to earn an associate’s degree in nursing.

Only two of the 84 students enrolled this semester have come to the community college directly after graduating from college. Some are already LPNs who have been working for years in hospitals or as home health aides and want to earn their RN certification. Others already have bachelor’s degrees and are looking for a career change.

Students must have an iPod or iTouch so “they can download clinical information and look up medications, diagnoses or other references at a patient’s bedside,” reports Community College Times.

Some instructors ask all students to go online at the same time for a live chat, but most classes can be taken at any time of day.  Skype is used for office hours.

Online student success rates are as good or better than traditional programs.

Monroe Community College in Michigan offers an online program for LPNs who want to become nurses. New students attend a three-day “boot camp” to learn “how to use Blackboard, e-mail etiquette, Microsoft Office functions and how to prepare research papers.”