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Do you currently work as a registered nurse (RN) but aspire to complete your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)? Then enrolling in an RN to BSN program can be an excellent way to apply your nursing experience to complete your degree and advance your career. 

A traditional BSN program isn't right for everyone, however. Taking online classes for RN to BSN may make more sense if you’re already busy with your RN work or have other obligations in your schedule. 

With an online RN to BSN program, you can work toward your bachelor's degree with the flexibility, versatility, and convenience you need to succeed. Before you enroll in online RN to BSN classes, there are some things you should know to prepare for the experience. 

The Virtual Classroom Environment for RN to BSN Online 

One of the most common questions prospective RN to BSN students have about an online program is how well the experience replicates that of being in a real classroom. Ultimately, this all depends on the specific program you select (and the quality of that program). In general, though, a great RN to BSN program has certain features that make the experience as enriching as possible. 

Overview of the Virtual Classroom 

Virtual RN to BSN classes may be offered in both synchronous and asynchronous formats. With a synchronous class, you'll meet with your professor and classmates live, likely at the same times every week. The class may be held over a video chat with the professor lecturing and holding discussions in real-time. 

With an asynchronous class, on the other hand, students complete coursework on their own time and do not meet live. This type of class setting tends to offer greater flexibility (especially for those who work odd hours or have busy schedules), but it does take some of the "human" component out of the experience. For this reason, many nursing students prefer RN to BSN classes that are offered synchronously or at least have an occasional synchronous component. 

Key Features of the Virtual Classroom 

Each virtual nursing classroom may have different features depending on the scope and subject matter of the class itself. Certain classes may be heavier on lectures, whereas others may be more research-intensive. Most online RN to BSN programs might also include some kind of seminar and/or clinical placement. 

Ideally, a virtual nursing classroom will incorporate plenty of real-world examples of quality patient care in action. This could include authentic case studies and other materials that mimic the hands-on work of a nurse as closely as possible. 

Interactive Components in RN to BSN Online Classrooms 

In nursing, interactive learning tools and components are essential to applying theory to real-world practice. When choosing an online RN to BSN program, it's crucial to select a program that offers interactive learning tools to help maximize your experience. 

Role of Interactive Learning Tools 

Interactive learning tools such as virtual reality and 3D modeling resources make it possible for students to replicate realistic experiences that would otherwise not be possible in a digital format. 

Examples of interactive learning tools on which RN to BSN programs may rely include: 

  • Interactive 3D images of the human body and physiology 
  • Game-based trivia and testing tools 
  • Online nursing libraries and directories 

Benefits of Interactive Learning 

Interactive learning tools are useful across all disciplines, particularly for students in an online RN to BSN program. These students may not get a chance to start their clinicals until later in their programs, so having interactive and real-time ways to apply what they're learning can make it easier to understand theory and other broader concepts. 

Similarly, interactive learning platforms can help nursing students study for important exams while having the information they need right at their fingertips. This can also make it easier for students to stay engaged in their respective classes. 

Technological Tools Utilized in RN to BSN Online Programs 

These days, more online nursing programs have begun implementing new technological tools that help enhance the overall collegiate nursing education experience. When searching for the right online RN to BSN program, you'll want to be on the lookout for programs that offer tools that will be most helpful to you. 

Essential Tech Tools for Online Learning 

So, what key technological tools and resources are today's online nursing programs using? Some examples include: 

  • Virtual simulation and virtual reality 
  • Video capture software 
  • Electronic portfolios 
  • Electronic Health Records (EHR) systems 

How Tech Tools Enhance Learning Experience 

There are many ways these different tech tools can improve the student learning experience when they're properly incorporated into an online nursing curriculum. 

For example, virtual reality and simulation software can provide nursing students with realistic care simulations, exposing them to scenarios they might face in practice. This approach improves preparation for actual nursing work and enhances learning accessibility. 

Additionally, more online nursing programs are turning to ePortfolios as a means of preparing nursing students for success on the job market after they complete their respective programs. Using reputable electronic portfolio platforms in the medical field (such as Portfolium and Pathbrite) can help students enter the workforce with greater confidence. 

Transitioning From RN to BSN Online 

If you're already working as a registered nurse, then you have at least some experience with nursing education. Transitioning to an online nursing program may seem a bit daunting if your previous nursing education was in-person on a college campus. You might wonder if you'll be able to adjust to an online nursing education or if the experience will be too challenging. 

The good news? With a little foresight and preparation, you can transition to an online learning environment feeling more assured. 

Steps to Transitioning to an Online Learning Environment 

There's a lot to think about as you plan your entry to an online RN to BSN program. First, consider whether you'll be enrolling part or full time. Should you plan to keep working while in school, then enrolling in classes part time will typically be the best option. This way, you can avoid overworking yourself and make sure you're giving yourself the proper time needed to complete your studies and coursework. 

From there, make sure you have the technological tools and resources to complete your program. This will include a laptop or computer with a reliable internet connection, as you'll need your computer to attend lectures, complete coursework, and take exams. 

In addition, you'll want to focus on sharpening your time management skills when you enroll in an online nursing program. This means keeping a detailed schedule or calendar with all your assignment due dates, exam dates, and other key deadlines so they are not overlooked. A schedule will also help you block time out for studying and planning your coursework as needed. 

Finally, rely on the tools and resources your nursing program provides. Many schools that offer online nursing programs also offer special resources for students when it comes to IT support, tutoring, professional development, and more. 

Overcoming Challenges in the Transition 

If you're used to an in-person learning experience, there may be a bit of an adjustment period as you make the transition to online RN to BSN classes. One of the biggest challenges that many students face is staying accountable and motivated. 

With online classes, you must demonstrate discipline and time management skills to stay on top of your studies. Even if your online classes don't meet synchronously, it can be helpful to block out specific times throughout the week where you can focus on each class. This can help you stay on track and accountable for your workload. 

Some students in online nursing programs may also struggle with asking for help when they need it. However, it's critical to understand that the same resources are available to you as an online student as they are on a physical campus. Your professors and instructors will hold office hours and work with you to meet (whether via phone call or video chat) and discuss any concepts with which you are struggling. It's important to take advantage of these resources throughout your program to avoid falling behind. 

Curriculum Details for RN to BSN Online Program 

The exact structure and curriculum of an online RN to BSN program can vary depending on the exact school and program you're considering. Still, there are some basic courses and requirements you can expect to find in an online RN to BSN program. 

Course Structure and Requirements 

Usually, RN to BSN programs consist of 38 credit hours. Depending on your level of experience and prior education, you may be eligible for some transfer credits. The completion time for an RN to BSN program can be as short as 12 months. This is influenced by your transfer credits and whether you choose to enroll part or full time. 

As part of an online RN to BSN program, you can expect to build upon your existing nursing knowledge and skills in topics like leadership, evidence-based nursing practice, nursing informatics, professionalism, and more. While specific courses may vary from one program to the next, most include the following topics: 

  • Nursing statistics 
  • Research and nursing practice 
  • Healthcare communication 
  • Community healthcare 
  • Nursing management 

You may also be required to complete a senior seminar or other capstone project. 

Portfolio Assessment and Credits 

In some online RN to BSN programs, you might need to build a portfolio as well. This portfolio may be assessed by professors or nursing department heads before you are approved to graduate with your degree. These portfolios can be a great way to enter the workforce with your BSN and may make it easier to find a job in your field once you obtain your degree. 

Admission Process for RN to BSN Online Program 

Before you apply for an online RN to BSN program, it's imperative to look closely at the admission requirements so you can make sure you meet all the criteria before putting your time and effort into submitting an application. The exact requirements and application process for a nursing program can vary depending on the school. 

Admission Requirements and Deadlines 

Generally, an online RN to BSN program is only available to students who already have some foundational nursing knowledge and experience working as an RN in the field. This may include prior completion of an ADN program and a current, unrestricted RN license. 

Application deadlines for an online nursing program can also vary, but it's important to get all your application paperwork and documentation submitted on time. Oftentimes, late applications cannot be accepted—and depending on how often new terms start, missing an application deadline may mean you have to wait weeks or even months for the next term to start. 

Step-by-Step Guide to the Application Process 

When applying for an online RN to BSN program, you can typically complete the formal application online. Here, you'll be required to provide information on your past nursing experience and education as well as proof of your current RN license. 

In some cases, transcripts from a previous school or nursing program may also need to be submitted with your application. If the program for which you're applying charges an application fee, be sure to take this into consideration, too. 

Once you're accepted into an online RN to BSN program, you can enroll as soon as class registration begins. 

Support System for RN to BSN Online Students 

Enrolling in an online nursing program can be quite an adjustment for students who haven't taken a lot of online courses in the past. This is exactly why it's so important to rely on support systems and other resources to get the most out of your experience. 

Accessing Academic Counselors and Support Services 

Many schools these days offer a wide range of support services like academic advising and counseling to those in online programs. This can help you plan your classes, estimate your completion time, and check if you have any transfer credits. Be sure to set up a virtual meeting with an academic counselor as soon as possible after getting accepted into an online nursing program. 

Building a Community in a Virtual Learning Environment 

Just because you won't be attending classes on an actual campus doesn't mean you can't still build a sense of community and belonging in an online nursing program. Make an effort to connect with fellow classmates in a virtual learning environment to make the most out of your experience. You might even consider hosting virtual study groups or meeting with classmates in person (if they live close enough). Building a strong support community can make all the difference in staying motivated throughout an online nursing program. 

Ready to Continue Your Nursing Journey? 

An online RN to BSN program can be an excellent solution for many busy RNs who want to advance their careers but may not necessarily have time to commute to a physical campus each week. With these tips and best practices in mind, students can prepare themselves for success in an online learning environment. 

Still seeking the ideal online RN to BSN program for your needs? University of the Cumberlands offers a fully online RN to BSN program that can be completed in as little as 12 months. In this program, you'll build on your existing skills and prepare for leadership roles in this rewarding field. Get in touch with us to learn more about this program, or start your online application today.