Online Nursing Classes: Gear Yourself Up for Online Classes With These Essential Tips

By Sarah Collins

05/9/2022

  • Online classes are becoming more popular, but there are benefits and drawbacks to taking classes online.
  • As you take online classes, ensure you have the right tools and an environment that sets you up for success. 
  • You have to go the extra mile to engage in online classes. Your success depends on you putting in the hard work.  

Online classes are becoming more popular. Even if you pursue your nursing degree through a traditional program, you might still take a few online courses. For example, if you’re in a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program, you might take some of your classes online and the rest in person. 

Online classes offer convenience and flexibility, but they can be your downfall if you don’t practice self-discipline and put in the right effort. 

Here are tips to learn how to prepare and engage in online classes.

The Popularity of Online Classes

The minimum degree you need to practice as an RN is an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). Some ADN programs are available online, but these programs are less common because of the clinical components required for an ADN degree. 

However, for your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or higher, one of the most popular formats is online. These classes have lecture material, assignments, and discussion boards available a few clicks away. 

These online programs help working nurses work towards higher degrees. For example, the RN-to-BSN program is quite popular, and many places of employment will help cover the costs for nurses who want to get their BSN.

Pros and Cons of an Online Course

Everything has pluses and minuses, and it’s important to understand these as you prepare to take online classes. While the pros can draw you in, understanding the downsides can help you know where you need to compensate.

Pros of Online Classes

Online classes make it easier for you to take on a workload that fits your schedule. For example, you can take one class at a time or take several courses. Thus, you can work around your other responsibilities. 

You can also set a timeline to work on course material. Are your evenings open? Spend time working on your classes then. Do mornings work better for you? No problem.

Additionally, you can take classes over shorter time frames in an online format. For example, you can partake in shorter courses over the winter break, and these are often available online.

Online classes also offer many cost-saving opportunities. For example, you save money on gas, textbooks, and campus fees. Sometimes, the cost per college credit is cheaper for online courses than for in-person classes, but it depends on which school you’re attending. 

Cons of Online Classes

With more flexibility comes potential pitfalls. For example, if you can work on your classes at any time, you might procrastinate and not put in the same amount of effort you’d put in for an in-person course. 

It can be harder for you to connect with other students and your professors online. Also, learning is different when you don’t have a teacher physically in the room helping you learn the material. 

To counterbalance these downfalls, you need to be disciplined and make a conscious effort to actively engage in online classes. You also need to understand your unique learning style needs and engage with the material in a way that works for you. 

Getting Ready: What to Do as You Start to Prepare for Online Classes

For some people, online classes are easy to navigate and straightforward. For others, it can feel complicated and confusing. It’s important to know yourself and spend the right amount of time preparing for your online class. 

For example, go over the setup for your online class. What sites does the college make available for you to access course materials and communicate with your professors? It can be helpful to visit these sites and familiarize yourself with the tools you’ll be using. Make sure to download anything required for the course.

Knowing how your tech works can save you time later. If you know what you’re using works, it can help you feel more confident and free up your time to focus on the subject matter for the course.  

What About My Laptop?

While it’s essential to save money where you can, your laptop is a crucial tool that you’ll need for online classes. You’ll need a laptop in good working condition to get your work done.

Evaluate what you have and purchase a new laptop if needed. Make sure that your computer meets the requirements for the course. It can be helpful to spend time familiarizing yourself with your new laptop. You should feel comfortable using it; this can help you feel more at ease in your online courses. 

Taking care of your laptop can help prolong the time you can use it. For example, keep it away from food and handle it gently. 

Internet

Online courses are, well, online. So, you must have a reliable Internet connection. Making sure you have this setup can ensure success and decrease your stress. When you aren’t worried about the Internet, you can spend more time focusing on your class. 

Talk With the Special People in Your Life

The appeal of online courses is the flexibility, allowing you to work around various responsibilities. However, you still need to be committed and be in open communication with those around you. 

Time management and focus are core components of online classes. It’s hard to practice these if the people in your life aren’t on board. Talk with the people you live with and set out your expectations for your online courses. 

What time do you want to devote to your schoolwork? What accommodations will you need? Is there a space in your house that you want to turn into a workspace? How will your priorities shift during this class, and what duties might you need to let someone else cover? 

Setting Up an Ideal Working Environment

You know yourself, what you need, and what will help you best study and focus. Some universities recommend setting up a study environment separate from other areas so that you’re more likely to focus on the work you need to do. 

For example, have a specific room in your house where you work on your online classes. Keep the materials you need nearby. For online courses, you’ll need to make sure you have a solid Internet connection. 

Need to get out of your house? Go to your local coffee shop or library, but make sure the environment is one where you can focus. 

Keep the following in mind as you set up your workspace: 

  • Have Plenty of Table Space

You’ll need space for your laptop, notes, and any books. Plus, you’ll need room for your latest cup of coffee, where it won’t spill on any important papers. 

  • Get Rid of Distractions

You know what you find distracting. They could be certain music genres, phone notifications, or reminders of other responsibilities. While you can’t eliminate them, you can minimize them to increase your ability to focus and get work done. 

  • Surround Yourself With What Helps You Focus

Why do you want this degree? Keeping reminders around you of your end goals can help you stay focused and motivated. Put an inspirational quote on the wall, have a chair that offers you good back support, and keep pens that make you want to take notes. 

Engaging: You Have to Put in the Work

It’s harder to engage with people in an online class. Online communication lacks all the tone and inflection of an in-person conversation. Sometimes, professors won’t respond to your questions or may take days to reply to your email. 

Take note of who your teachers are for your online courses. Be in open communication with them throughout the course. Email questions to clarify what you don’t understand. Remember, how well you do in the course is your responsibility, and the excuse “the teacher never got back to me” isn’t valid in most cases. 

There may also be opportunities to engage with other students. For example, you may participate in a group project where you’ll work with your peers in an online format. Some schools offer ways for students to engage online with interest groups. Research your school and see what options you have available. 

What About Discussion Boards?

Discussion boards are popular in online classes. It’s a form of engagement similar to the discussion in the classroom, but it requires everyone to engage. For example, you’ll need to create an initial post and reply to other students’ posts. Your teacher should lay out the specifics in your course syllabus. 

It can sometimes be hard to engage, but following these essential tips from The US News and World Report and the University of Nevada can help:

  • Follow the Directions

Most online courses will have a guideline rubric or instructions for your discussion boards. The rubric might include guidelines like the expected word count, the due date, and how many sources are required in your post. Following all directions sets you up for a good grade. 

  • Clarify What You Don’t Understand

If you have questions, ask your professor. You want to make sure you understand the assignment. Asking the questions upfront can save you confusion and a poor grade later. 

  • State Your Stance and Why You Have Come to That Viewpoint

This point is where your research comes in; back up your opinion with the evidence available. In nursing, you can also discuss what you’ve learned from your experience in your work as a nurse. 

  • Correct Grammar Errors Before Posting

Think about your discussion post as a mini-paper. It should be thought-out, clear, and well-written. Your tone should be respectful; understand that your fellow students might disagree with you. How do you want others to act when you disagree with them? Reading your work aloud or using tools like Grammarly can make your writing smooth and professional. 

  • Add to Other People’s Posts

Your comments should add to the discussion. It can be easier to do this on posts with which you disagree. Okay, you disagree. Why? What evidence do you have to back up your argument? If you agree, why? What additional evidence or experience led you to reach the same conclusion?

As with other components of online classes, you’ll receive what you put in. Make efforts to engage, understand where others are coming from, and add to the overall discussion so that the whole class can understand the topic more. 

Putting in the Work: You Will Get Out What You Put in

As with any education, you’ll get out what you put in, and this is particularly true in the online format. So much depends on you, your discipline, and your engagement. 

Consider the following as you set up for success:

  • Be Consistent

Give yourself time to work on your lessons. While schedules change and things come up, it can make all the difference if you can devote specific blocks of time to your classes. Being consistent ensures that you don’t fall behind. 

  • Follow Course Guidelines

Go over what you need to do to pass the class. How is the professor grading your coursework? What’s most vital for you to learn? From writing papers to quizzes and discussion boards, following instructions sets you up for success. You don’t want your grade to suffer because you ignored directives. 

  • Remember It’s More Than Just Passing

Work to find the subject exciting and learn it for more than the grade. Digging into the supplemental material, reading your textbook, and actively engaging with it can help you remember what you learn. It promotes long-term learning rather than short-term studying to pass the class. 

Remember: It’s on You

Online classes allow you to take control of your education. With all the flexibility, it puts more responsibility on you to study, learn the material, and succeed. While this is exciting, it can also be a little scary. 

It’s important to remember your goals and what you want. You didn’t make it this far by being passive or blaming other people. You’ve got this, and you can do very well with your online classes. 

Ready to get started? 

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