Dr. Elaine Foster, Ph.D., MSN, RN, Dean of Nursing and Healthcare Programs at American Sentinel University is here to give you and your career a quick check-up (no blood draw necessary)! The Career Check-Up with Dr. Elaine Foster outlines advice and insight on going back to school to earn your MSN or DNP degree.
Nurses know better than almost anyone: old myths die hard, no matter how much evidence you throw at them. Let’s take the common cold, for example; viruses and weak immune systems are the culprits, not wet hair and drafty windows. Yet even nurses can cling to outdated notions when it comes to how they will earn their advanced degrees. For example, a traditional “brick and mortar” classroom is often perceived to be of higher quality than its online counterpart despite evidence to the contrary. But before you decide where you will earn your MSN or DNP, let’s separate a few facts from the fiction.
Myth #1 – Real learning happens in real classrooms
Classrooms are merely the containers or conduits for learning and collaboration, not the education itself. Once you discover that a virtual classroom allows you to converse with your professors and learn from other students taking the same courses, you’ll start to rethink this whole bricks and mortar thing. Do you remember the first time someone told you to deposit a paper check into your bank account using your smartphone? My first reaction was to say “no thanks, I prefer the old fashioned way.” But when I saw how accurate and easy it was, the idea of driving to a physical bank to deposit a check seemed like a ridiculous waste of precious time. Real learning happens online the same way that real banking does: by completing specific tasks with specific objectives. It’s how we learned to walk and talk: by doing, not merely by reading and listening.
Myth #2 – Online programs are “just as good” as traditional programs
It depends. An online program may even be a far better choice if it was purposefully designed for interactive learning like the Master of Science Nursing or the Doctor of Nursing Practice programs at American Sentinel University. Another important factor is whether the institution of higher learning is focused on nursing, or if nursing is just one of the many advanced degrees that are being offered. American Sentinel is one of the few online universities focused solely on healthcare. Our programs are designed by working healthcare professionals for working healthcare professionals. Furthermore, our curriculum has always been designed specifically for online learning versus a digitized lecture series.
A traditional classroom approach generally consists of four parts: the reading, the lecture on the reading, homework assignments (application of learning) and studying for testing. In a well-designed interactive curriculum, the application of learning (aka homework) and studying for testing are “baked in” to every online session. This is a practical, hands-on way of learning that nursing professionals respond very well to, mainly because it mimics actual nursing experience.
Myth #3 – Online learning is boring
Quite the contrary! American Sentinel University is constantly designing fun and interactive modules that mimic real-life situations in creative ways. For example, we’ve built entire virtual cities to bring real-world problems such as infection control to the forefront of our classrooms. While this may be an engaging approach that enhances learning, it is really meant to blur the lines between work and school. Our students literally bring their lessons to life “on the floor” and vice versa: the floor informs the classroom with a steady supply of real-life situations.
Myth #4 – “I’m too ____ to learn online”
Go ahead and try your luck at filling in the blank with a solid answer. You are never too old, too busy, too tired, or too broke to invest in yourself. If you don’t, who will? The fact of the matter is this: you cannot possibly know what the future holds in store for your career. But you can be very sure that the more education you have, the better your own career prospects will be.
Looking back on my own career path, there was a good long time when I thought I would never want to leave the community college where I was working. But then things changed. Thanks to my advanced degrees, not only did I land on my feet, I ended up finding even more fulfillment in my life’s work.
Stay tuned to The Career Check-Up for more helpful tips on going back to school.