Online Learning for Nursing Students: What You Need to Know

What's your learning path?

Thinking about switching careers to nursing and already have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree? Marquette University’s Direct Entry Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program could be your path to a new future, allowing you to earn a master’s in nursing in five semesters or less than 21 months. That’s not much more time than it would take you to get a second bachelor’s degree, and puts you one degree closer to an advanced practice nursing certification — something you may end up wanting later in your career.

Whatever your needs, Marquette University has a Direct Entry MSN program for you. For a more traditional on-campus experience, our Milwaukee program offers a summer start which begins in May. For a hybrid, online learning-based experience, we offer January and August starts at our Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin location.

While we all have experience with traditional classroom learning, many of us have never experienced eLearning and understandably have some questions. Today, we’ll be discussing our Pleasant Prairie Direct Entry MSN program — what it’s like and whether it’s right for you.

How Marquette’s Pleasant Prairie Direct Entry MSN Program Works

Before anything else, it should be noted that no accelerated nursing program is completely online. Nurses have to be able to think on their feet, applying medical knowledge while at the same time quickly responding to what could be a life-or-death situation. This makes experience essential to any quality nursing education, which is why a significant portion of our nursing curriculum is, in fact, hands-on.

Here’s how it works:

  • Online coursework provides you crucial nursing theory instruction through our learning management system (LMS), Canvas, where you’ll find course lecture videos, interactive activities, discussion forums, quizzes, and even virtual “office hours” where you can ask your instructors questions.
  • Skills and simulation labs at our Pleasant Prairie learning site offer a safe place to practice what you’re learning on high-tech medical manikins and task trainers that look, feel, and even respond like real people. In skills labs, you’ll learn basic nursing skills such as inserting a catheter and locating an arterial pulse. Simulation labs build on skills labs by simulating actual medical scenarios, such as a patient having a heart attack.
  • Clinical rotations allow you to not only watch practicing nurses in action, but also to interact with patients directly under the watchful eye of experienced clinical instructors in a variety of healthcare settings — so you enter the nursing workforce confident in your abilities.

Together, these three components will prepare you to sit for the NCLEX-RN and for a successful career in nursing.

How Online Learning Works

Now that you have a better understanding of the three components that make up our program, let’s take a more in-depth look at how the online portion works.

Online Coursework Offers Convenience and Flexibility

Perhaps the most frequently touted benefit of eLearning is the convenience factor, and it’s easy to see why. Not everyone has the time to spend several hours a day on campus, and while there’s no way of getting around labs and clinicals, having the flexibility to access your coursework at any time of the day and from wherever is most conducive to your success is pretty great. Also great? The ability to go through the coursework at your own pace.

marquette student studying
Meet Ruben, a Marquette Direct Entry MSN student in Pleasant Prairie

“When you’re in a classroom, you’re going according to the professor’s pace,” says Ruben, a May 2018 graduate of the Direct Entry MSN program in Pleasant Prairie. “You can ask questions, but then there’s also other people asking questions, and oftentimes you kind of get bogged down with that. With this online program, you’re able to watch your lectures online, pause at any time, go take a break, come back, rewind, watch a prior slide.”

Just keep in mind that this doesn’t mean you can complete your assignments whenever you want … meeting your deadlines is critical, as is staying current on your coursework. Online learning requires a certain level of self-discipline, and you need to be good at managing your own time. If you’re the type who needs the external motivation of having a class to attend to, say, finish your assigned readings each week, the convenience of online learning might actually be a hindrance to your success. Before making a choice, be honest with yourself about whether you have self-study in you.

Our Canvas LMS Has Something for Learners of All Preferences

Some students learn best from watching or listening; others learn best when they take a more active role in their learning. Our online coursework accommodates different learning styles by presenting material in a variety of formats.

For example, in one week you might:

  • Watch a series of video lectures.
  • Learn to identify auscultating lung sounds in an interactive course.
  • Follow through an animated case study.
  • Complete textbook readings and write posts about the content in the online discussion forums.
  • Participate in exam review sessions with your cohort through the use of web conferencing.

Not only that, online coursework allows you to go back and review content as many times as you’d like, which further helps you to remember the content. Additionally, to really drive home lessons, labs and clinicals often reflect the content being taught online that same week, creating an immersive learning experience.

“It’s nice because whatever we’re working on that week — whether it’s a heart failure week, respiratory week, or an oncology week — your simulation is geared toward that type of patient,” says Allysa, a current Pleasant Prairie Direct Entry MSN student.

Online Learning Lets You Connect with Your Professors Virtually and In Person

There’s a misconception that students enrolled in online learning programs won’t have contact with their professors. While this might be the case with some programs, this is far from the case with our Direct Entry MSN program. We all want to see our students succeed, and it shows. Marquette instructors make themselves available to students through a variety of means. Students can reach out to their teachers through email, phone, text, and even virtual “office hours” and question-and-answer sessions accessible through Canvas. Not to mention, professors routinely meet up with students in person to talk over issues they’re having.

Marquette student, Allysa, with a simulation maninkin

“I feel so supported by the faculty here,” says Allysa. “Coming into an online program, I was nervous about whether or not I would be able to get the help that I needed, if I needed it, and they are so prompt when replying to emails. They’ve set up phone calls with me, conference calls with me, and I just can’t believe how engaged they are in an online environment. You can tell they want us to succeed by how engaged they are.”

Ready to Earn Your MSN?

If our Direct Entry MSN program in Pleasant Prairie seems like a good fit for you, give us a call to talk to an admissions adviser about whether you could earn your MSN in 19–21 months.

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