I will admit that for quite a few years I was skeptical about the idea of online education. I had received my baccalaureate from a brick and mortar university in the early 2000s, well before online learning gained esteem. As its popularity rose, I remember wondering, how on earth can a person learn without being physically present in a classroom (or auditorium in many cases), being able to raise her hand to ask questions, or taking advantage of a face-to-face with the professor during office hours? What if a student needs the library or help with writing a research paper?
As time quickly went by as it always does, I became increasingly hungry to go back to school. I was eager to further my education in the profession I have been passionate about since I became a registered nurse almost fifteen years ago. As it turned out, the program in which I was interested is offered by many universities through online learning curriculum. I did my research and learned that online learning is not a trend in education. It is here to stay and has a plethora of benefits. I am now working toward my Master of Science in Nursing - Family Nurse Practitioner degree through a Loyola New Orleans online program and I am experiencing the benefits of online education firsthand.
For me, the greatest advantage of taking courses online is flexibility. I am still able to work my regular schedule, spend time with family and friends, go on vacation, etc., all while staying caught up on my coursework. I can dedicate time for studying and completing assignments when it is convenient for me. While my courses still require a considerable amount of time and effort to be successful, the benefit of fitting it all in around my work and personal life has been invaluable.
Another benefit of online learning is the individual attention I receive from topnotch instructors. To my surprise, any questions or concerns I have are always quickly answered one-on-one by text or email. My instructors have happily offered to talk over the telephone or to set up Skype meetings as well. Discussion boards set up for each class to submit questions directed to faculty. These are especially helpful when other students have similar questions. Any issues I have had were resolved within several hours after messaging my instructor.
Student interaction has been a positive experience while taking online courses. The discussion boards for each course are instrumental in promoting a collaborative learning environment for students. Threaded discussions enable virtual conversations so students can learn from each other. In one course, I had a team assignment with two other students. We communicated solely through discussion board messages and successfully completed the project with ease. With my online courses, I feel I am not only learning from my instructors’ lectures and assignments, but also from colleagues who have so much to offer me from their own life experiences. In addition, I am building a network and forming relationships with people from all over the country.
Finally, the resources available to online learners are vast in number. Loyola New Orleans provides students with a multitude of ways to retrieve information from its online library. The concerns I had previously about lacking access to a university library are no longer rational. With just a little effort, I can access journal articles, books, and media services. Online writing assistance is also offered online and over the telephone. It is evident they want me to succeed.
As I am closing in on my second semester of online education, I feel confident that I am receiving a high-quality education from an outstanding university. The benefits of choosing an online curriculum are more than I can briefly list, but I am hopeful that my post can help those considering online education to see its incentives and rewards.