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How Online Learning Accelerates Education for Nurses and Helps Patients

Online learning has revolutionized education. With the increase in digital literacy skills worldwide, online learning has been on the rise for years. The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns accelerated the use of online learning platforms around the world. Students studying a range of subjects and disciplines could not attend classrooms in person. Online learning therefore became essential for pupils and students to continue their studies. Its popularity and use have been maintained despite the lifting of lockdowns and the easing of restrictions put in place during the pandemic. Both educational institutions and students recognize the value of online learning.

Whether you call it online learning, distance learning, or e-learning, the meaning is much the same. Many educational institutions and organizations give students the option to learn remotely, which means that they don’t have to be physically present in classrooms. Students enrolled in a course that offers asynchronous learning are able to benefit from an education that allows them to learn at a time and place of their own choosing. Many programs also offer blended (or hybrid) learning, which is a combination of online and traditional offline classroom instruction.

One profession that has reaped the benefits of online learning is nursing. Online learning has improved the situation for those nurses who wish to continue their studies. This article explores the benefits of online learning for nurses, with an emphasis on the accessibility and flexibility that online learning offers.


Nurses are often at a disadvantage with traditional learning models. Learning that is classroom-based and synchronous (meaning that students engage in learning at the same time in a group) is at odds with the demands of nursing. Nursing is a practical discipline. Nurses have demanding schedules, and they’re often required to do shift work. The window of opportunity for a nurse to study a synchronous learning model based in a classroom while working at the same time is small. Given the demands of nursing, many nurses would find it difficult to even consider studying, let alone showing up for classes before or after a shift or on days off.

Online learning enables nurses to access educational content at their convenience. Online learning programs help nurses fit their studies around their work commitments, whether it’s during the day or night. Online learning gives nurses the opportunity to integrate their education, training, and professional responsibilities, and may encourage a more harmonious and balanced relationship between work and study.

Learn at a time that suits you

The self-paced nature of asynchronous online learning can be a game changer for those nurses who are short on time. If a course is self-paced, you can progress through it and the course materials when it’s most convenient for you. This could be in the morning, at night, or even on your lunch break. It also allows you to spend more time on the subjects you find difficult and less time on the subjects you find easier. As you’re studying on your own at a time that suits you, there’s no danger of being sidetracked by other students. Studying too slowly or too quickly isn’t a problem with self-paced learning. The flexibility of self-paced learning is ideal for nurses trying to balance work commitments and continuing education.

Study the courses that most interest you

In terms of the curriculum, online programs offer a wide range of courses and modules. Online learning gives more freedom to students who want to customize their course of study. Rather than accept courses that don’t reflect their interests and aspirations, nurses can choose subjects that more closely align with their personal and professional goals. If you want to specialize in a particular field, pursue advanced certifications, or develop leadership skills, online learning gives you the flexibility and scope to tailor your training pathway to the way that you want it to be. Developing your knowledge and skills in a targeted way can help you advance your career, contribute to job satisfaction and retention, and boost your overall professional development.


Besides the greater flexibility that online learning enables, another major benefit of this learning model is its accessibility. Remote learning isn’t restricted to geographical location. A nurse living in the Southeastern US can enroll in an online program at an institution based on the other side of the country – for instance, the Pacific Northwest – and vice versa. Access to a good education and quality training can be limited for those living in remote locations, such as those living in rural areas or outside the major metropolitan hubs. Online learning levels the playing field in that sense. Aspiring nurses living in more remote locations can receive the same education as those living in the country’s major population centers.

Diverse and inclusive learning models make for a diverse and inclusive workforce

Online learning eliminates not only geographical barriers but also socioeconomic ones. If you wanted to enroll in a program at a school or university that’s far from home, you would have to account for what it costs to travel there. Online nursing programs give students access to quality training, all from the comfort of their own homes. With no extensive travel and the expenses that come with it, there is a wider pool of talent to draw from.

With online learning, nurses from lower socioeconomic backgrounds can attend universities that once seemed out of reach, both geographically and economically. Online learning improves accessibility and therefore promotes more diversity and inclusion, not only in educational institutions but also in the workforce. This accessibility builds a healthcare workforce that is more representative of society in 21st-century America. It empowers nurses to expand their knowledge base and remain up to date with the latest advancements in healthcare.

Online learning is cost-effective

Another aspect of online learning that is closely linked to accessibility is affordability. Online learning is often more affordable than traditional on-campus education. Although there are exceptions, and every school has its own pricing structure, online learning is cheaper because of the lower overheads required to operate online programs for institutions. The majority of online programs are still a significant investment, but in a lot of cases, students can expect savings when compared to classroom-based on-campus options. This makes the prospect of higher education much more achievable. Online learning, along with financial aid, opens the door for more aspiring nurses than ever before.

Enhance your digital literacy skills for future use

Online learning will enhance your digital literacy skills. As technology evolves and reliance on digital platforms grows, it’s now more important than ever to develop skills in the digital realm. By using learning management systems, virtual simulations, and communication tools in an educational setting, aspiring nurses are familiarizing themselves with technology commonly used in healthcare settings. This, of course, means that they are more prepared to transfer those skills into real-life scenarios at work.

Stay up to date with the latest advancements in nursing

Another benefit of online learning is that you will always receive the most up-to-date information. Healthcare is always changing, with new research, treatments, and technologies emerging regularly. Online nursing programs reflect these advancements, ensuring that students get the most current and relevant information. This means that nurses can maintain the highest standards of care, regardless of their location.

Accelerate your education with an online nursing program

If you already hold a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, are licensed as a registered nurse (RN), and are interested in advanced online nursing programs, then a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program could be the right career path for you to take. With Wilkes University’s DNP online program, you can maximize your potential as a nurse by achieving the terminal degree for advanced practice registered nurses.

Wilkes University’s post-master’s DNP program gives you the opportunity to learn the essential skills and the highest level of nursing expertise required to work in a clinical setting or in a leadership role. There are 10 courses in the DNP program, and these are completed over the course of six terms, which is less than two years of schooling. Apart from the nursing clinical and residencies, all of the coursework is 100% online, which grants you a higher degree of flexibility.

DNP vs. PhD programs

Whereas a PhD in nursing is research-focused, a DNP is practice-focused. The DNP program objective is to prepare nurse leaders at the highest level of nursing practice to improve patient outcomes. Rather than developing new nursing knowledge and scientific inquiry, the program orients students toward improving the outcomes of patient care and population health. With a DNP degree, it is possible to make real-world contributions to healthcare improvements via practice, policy change, and practice scholarship. You will also receive accreditation from a nursing accreditor.

The subjects you can study with Wilkes University’s online DNP program

The Wilkes University online DNP program curriculum includes courses on Nursing Informatics, Biostatistics, Ethical Principles for Advanced Nursing Practice, and Application of Nursing Research. There are also two elective DNP program practicums that prepare students as experts in a specific area for advancing nursing practice for the final DNP project.

Outcomes of the DNP program

  • The application of scientific inquiry, innovation, and technology to become a leader in advanced nursing practice.
  • The integration and dissemination of knowledge for quality improvement and advocacy for patient and population health outcomes while engaging in healthcare policy.
  • The application of scholarship and research to implement solutions to the nation’s complex health problems and translate evidence-based research into clinical practice.

Online learning: better for both nurses and patients

Online learning continues to transform the nursing profession. It gives nursing students the opportunity to have a more interactive and engaging learning experience, as well as making education more convenient, more accessible, and more efficient. Videos, simulations, and virtual reality applications are online learning resources that give students the chance to engage in realistic patient scenarios. With such tools, students are able to develop clinical skills in safe environments that prepare them for real-world nursing situations. Advancements in technology help to improve the quality of care that nurses provide to their patients, which improves patient outcomes.

Technologies such as online learning improve accessibility not only for nurses but also for patients. Patients can also take advantage of new technologies that improve their access to healthcare while empowering them to take charge of their health. Improving accessibility for patients in this way can reduce healthcare costs, advance research and evidence-based practice, and promote health and well-being.

More flexibility and accessibility in nursing programs make for a better-educated, more diverse workforce. With online learning, there are fewer demands on a nurse’s time, which means that they can focus their efforts on improving patient outcomes. With more options, resources, and tools than ever before, now is a great time to consider an online nursing program.

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