Differences in Online Education – My Experience as a Student

I love learning. I love teaching and I’m a better teacher when I’m also learning. Despite a terminal degree, in my mind an additional Masters made perfect sense. I’ve put that specific degree on hold, for now, but I learned that private, non-profit is not necessarily better.

I began exploring online BSN and MSN programs several years ago. Through my employer, I could do the BSN at minimal cost but it would take at least two years because of transfer credit requirements. I didn’t want to spend two years and I was enticed by the idea that Wilkes University could get me further, faster. The admissions rep painted a picture of good instruction with superior faculty and the ability to complete the program in two years. I was looking at the MSN as my backup plan and perhaps as an opportunity to teach in a field that I love. I’ll always be a nurse, regardless of whatever else I happen to be.

I didn’t start out with the intent to ever be a nurse. I only ever wanted to be an airline pilot, but I needed a Plan B. I couldn’t get any job as a commercial pilot in 1972, other than flight instructor, and I didn’t want to do that forever. Things were tight during the oil embargo and I knew I needed some stability. Airlines weren’t hiring women and women weren’t allowed in military flight training programs. Nursing school offered me stability. I was fortunate to have fabulous instructors who inspired me and I embraced this new direction with a passion. After my RN, I earned a bachelors in general students, perhaps with the most undergraduate credits ever, then I earned a Masters in Health Policy and Administration from Mercer University.   I was fortunate enough to retire at age 43 when my company was purchased by Cigna, and I started a flight school. But that’s another story for another day. I’ve been teaching online since 2007 and I love it. I love my students and my colleagues, and I think I’m good at what I do. I think my job is relatively stable but the MSN was insurance. So I jumped in with both feet.

My first course was 16 weeks long and the extent of interaction with the professor was “Good job.” I received 100’s on everything I did. I was satisfied that the work I did was deserving of 100, but I wanted to know specifically what was good and where I could improve. This was brand new for me! The admissions rep had not painted an accurate picture of the requirements for the clinical courses, and this was frustrating. I was fingerprinted four times but the FBI was unable to read the fingerprints. I’m pretty sure the Bibb County Sheriff’s Department knows how to fingerprint people and the FBI knows how to read fingerprints, so I couldn’t tell where the breakdown was occurring. Wilkes made an exception and allowed me to take a graduate Nursing Theory course that did not require clinicals, and this was a great experience. I worked hard and my final grade of 98.9 was well earned. The feedback was comprehensive and the instructor was engaging. If I was her faculty supervisor, I would have given her the highest rating.

My final course was a disaster and the entire experience was disappointing. My father entered hospice care. The instructor stated that late work would not be accepted, no matter what. I contacted her and told her I did not anticipate problems, but my father was unstable at the time. I provided medical records to support my request, but she suggested I drop the course. She would not work with me under any circumstances. I contacted Student Services and complained. My advisor tap danced around and basically said, “Oh well.” I asked to speak with a supervisor and was told I probably needed to take the time off, anyway.

I work for a university that is student centric. We also care about our faculty. While my father was dying, I got tremendous support from my university. We are passionate about student success and we are passionate about teaching excellence. I had only seen teaching excellence in the nursing theory course. I was misled by admissions and advising, and there was no compassion. No one cared.

I’m done with the pursuit of the MSN, but I’m not done learning. Who knows what is next!

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