Online courses offer nursing students more flexibility

Jason Howard

Practicing nurses working 12-hour days in hospitals, clinics, and emergency rooms around the US can struggle if they are also going to class for more advanced nursing degrees in a university campus.

Starting Sept. 3, nurses who want to expand their education can do so online when UNF begins its foray into online postgraduate education by offering four graduate degree programs online.

Currently, the university offers a hybrid program for RN-BSN which is for registered nurses (RN’s) who would like to earn a Bachelor of Science Nursing (BSN). Graduate students in the degree programs offered enter the programs in cohorts, that is, they can only take certain classes at specific times over the course of their degree.

“We have found with RN-BSN cohorts that students have a difficult time carving out the time to go to school and do their homework while still being professionals. We are hoping that with the online environment, although it will take just as much time, they can carve out the time to meet their needs,” said Li Loriz, Director for the School of Nursing.

Vianca Cabrera, nursing senior. Photo by Jason Howard.
Vianca Cabrera, nursing senior. Photo by Jason Howard.

The degree programs, RN-BSN and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics (MS, Nutrition and Dietetics) will begin on Sept. 3. The Master of Education in Special Education with a focus on Autism (MEd, Special Education) is already available this Spring.

Practicing nurses who enroll in the degree programs will be able to further their education and abilities without the problems of campus learning.

“Over a year ago we had decided that we wanted to go online to meet the needs for so many nurses out in the community that need the degree,” Loriz said.

The courses could potentially expand the notoriety and reach of UNF by offering degree programs to students not just in Jacksonville, Fl.

Loriz said it has been a lot of work reshaping the online curriculum. She said the nursing faculty has worked hard at developing 15-week courses into 7-week courses while still keeping the same outcomes.

The other degree programs that will be offered online, from the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the Department of Education, will also be taken in cohorts where 15 week semesters are condensed into seven weeks.

However enticing an online graduate program may be for a student who doesn’t want to leave home, Loriz said they will need to remember that they will cover the same material, but in less time.

“Distance learning is not easy and quick, it takes a lot of time and effort,” said Loriz.

UNF is not the first university in Florida to offer such programs.

Loriz said UCF probably has 1,500 students in their online nursing programs. She was in contact with UCF when developing the program for the nursing department, though this curriculum will be particular to UNF.

Vianca Cabrera, nursing senior, said she thinks it’s great that the school will be offering online programs for those nurses already in the field.

Alex Otti, English junior. Photo by Jason Howard.
Alex Otti, English junior. Photo by Jason Howard.

“Nurses are very, very, very busy individuals with work schedules that don’t mirror a nine-to-five. Having that option for an online curriculum really is great from a student’s perspective,” said Cabrera.

Academic Partnerships (AP), an organization that will help UNF convert the degree programs to an online curriculum, will act as a liaison between faculty and students.

Loriz said AP will assist with marketing and recruitment, keeping up with students on their activities by checking when they sign in, and contacting students when they fall behind.

Loriz also said that the classes will be offered through Blackboard.

Alex Otti, english junior said, “Nurses’ time is precious and they should be able to open time to study if they need to.”

The School of Nursing and the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics are currently both flagship programs of the university.

Email Jason Howard at [email protected]