Nurses Share the Pros & Cons of an RN to BSN Online Program

pros and cons rn to bsn online

Working as a nurse, you’ve learned there is rarely a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to meeting people’s needs. That applies to your patients, and of course, it applies to nurses too. If you’ve been thinking of advancing your education as a nurse, there’s no guarantee that a given program will match your needs.

An online RN to BSN program can certainly fit the bill. These specialized tracks allow current registered nurses (RNs) with Associate’s degrees to work toward their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) without having to start from scratch in Nursing school. It’s a great option for some, but you are the only one who can decide if this is the right path for you.

That’s why it’s such a good idea to gather as much information as possible. With all the details in hand, you can make an informed decision. And who better to learn from than other nurses? Read on to see what nurses have to say about the pros and cons of an RN to BSN online program.

The pros and cons of earning an RN to BSN online

Pro: Attending school from home

The online format is pretty spectacular if you’ve never tried it. Instead of worrying about transit or battling traffic to school, you simply log onto your computer. Instead of lugging your bag around a college campus while trying to balance your coffee, you can settle into the comfort of your own kitchen. Instead of arranging childcare or for someone to let the dog outside, you get to stay home with them.

Online RN to BSN programs recognize your existing experience as a nurse and help you bridge the gap to your BSN with as much flexibility and convenience as possible.

Con: Staying organized can be challenging

While you’d also have to stay on schedule in a traditional RN to BSN program, the online platform makes some students think they can complete the courses when they want and how they want. But that isn’t the case.

According to Tami Rogers, PhD, DVM, MSN, CNE, CHSE and associate nursing professor at Rasmussen College, online RN to BSN programs are not like independent studies. Students need to complete courses within certain time frames, and they will still have deadlines for their work.

And it might not always be just you and your homework. “Students often have to work collaboratively to problem solve and complete course projects—much like the real world,” Rogers says.

While this is good news for learning, it can be hard to collaborate if you or other students lose track of their courses. It’s important to take your online classes seriously and keep yourself organized as the semester goes on.

Pro: More control over how you learn

Online programs in general tend to allow students more flexibility in their learning schedules. If you know you work best with a certain schedule, or even with certain resources, then you will have more opportunities to direct your learning in a way you prefer.

“I was homeschooled when I was a kid, so self-directed learning was a natural fit,” says Amelia Roberts, BSN-RN and owner of Solutions by Amelia.  “I need to hear something being said in different ways. For this and other reasons, online learning was a good fit. It gave me the freedom to consume information in a format that was best for me.”

Roberts says people who are focused, self-motivated and goal-oriented are the ideal personalities types for an online RN to BSN program.

Con: You need to be self-motivated

If you procrastinate or forget deadlines, an online RN to BSN program can be difficult. These programs maximize flexibility, and students who need more rules and accountability might have trouble staying on task.

“If someone has trouble with accountability, online learning may be a challenge,” Roberts says. 

It’s certainly possible to fall behind or forget assignments in any format, but for some, the lack of being in the physical presence of an instructor or classmates makes it a little easier for things to slip through the cracks. Online learning requires you to be vigilant and still follow a schedule that is catered to your availability.

Pro: More interaction with technology

The healthcare industry is rapidly changing with technological advances. According to the Department of Labor, technology skills are highly sought-after skills in job listings for RNs.* Nurses who feel comfortable learning new technologies will have plenty of room to expand their value as job candidates, and an online RN to BSN program will definitely help hone that ability.

“My online RN to BSN program taught me online skills that I simply did not have to learn in my Associate's program,” Roberts says. Today’s online platforms are often outfitted with tools that increase student interaction and cater to a variety of learning needs. Learning to navigate the format can foster that important second skill set in technology.

Con: Less face-to-face interaction

If you are a people person, adjusting to a class online might make you feel a little isolated at first. Students who thrive in a face-to-face setting might struggle to feel involved and fully committed in their online classes. There really is an element of positive peer pressure when you see and interact with your classmates every day.

That being said, an online course doesn’t mean you’re shut off from interacting with other students. In fact, interaction between students is encouraged. Online students can help keep themselves engaged by connecting with other online students to create groups that can help set up study sessions or reminders for upcoming assignments or tests.

Pro: You can take baby steps first

If you have any hesitation about doing an online RN to BSN program, Rogers recommends exploring some tools and evaluating your readiness.

“Google one of the many free, online-readiness quizzes and determine if the online learning platform is the right choice for you,” Rogers suggests. “And know your options.” There are online programs, blended programs, competency-based programs and many differences in accreditation statuses, costs and time to completion.

You can also talk with students currently pursuing advanced Nursing degrees in the online learning environment, Rogers says, to learn from their experiences. As you ask around, you’ll get a much better picture of what to expect and what your options are.

Remember your reasons

As you dig in and research your options for an RN to BSN online program, it’s important to consider why you’re returning to school in the first place. Whether it’s broadening your career horizons, providing more for your family or even just personal fulfilment, knowing your “Why?” goes a long way toward keeping you motivated and on track as you make your way toward earning a BSN.

If you’re sure you’ve got your motivations and goals in order, it’s time to start comparing online RN to BSN programs. Check out our article, “8 Things You Didn't Know About the Rasmussen College RN to BSN Online Program, to get a better picture of what to expect at Rasmussen College.

*Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [career information accessed May 2018].

Brianna Flavin

Brianna is a content writer for Collegis Education who writes student focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen College. She earned her MFA in poetry and teaches as an adjunct English instructor. She loves to write, teach and talk about the power of effective communication.

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