Are In-Person Nursing Classes Better Than Online Ones?

There has been a growing trend for nursing programs to offer online courses in lieu of, or combined with, in-person (face-to-face) classes. This trend exponentially increased during the COVID-19 pandemic due to in-person classes not being allowed. Even before the pandemic, adult learners or students who also work full-time encountered struggles attending classes in-person due to time and location constraints. For ADN prepared nurses, going back to school to obtain a bachelor’s degree in nursing can be difficult to schedule work around classes. On the other hand, in-person classes offer many benefits that online classes simply can’t match. If you’re trying to decide whether to take online or traditional classes for your continuing education, continue reading to see our perspective. 

Online Class Benefits 

Online classes can be beneficial for a lot of people. If any of the following reasons are especially attractive to you, you may want to consider taking online classes. 

  • Learn anywhere. With online classes, all you need are your computer and a reliable internet connection. Your classes are as mobile as you are, so you can take your work anywhere you want. This is particularly helpful for busy nurses who work unusual hours or varying shifts. If you are a night-shift nurse, take advantage of some of the midnight lulls to do some reading or work on an assignment, then continue seamlessly when you get home. Or, consider hopping over to the local library for free Wi-Fi and all of the reference material you could ask for. 
  • Study at any time. One of the biggest restrictions for in-person classes is that they occur only at certain times on certain days. If you can’t attend a lecture on Wednesday at 3 pm for the entire semester, you may not pass. Nursing work schedules can be sporadic, and sometimes it may be impossible to know when you’ll be free. With online classes, however, there are usually very few requirements for when you have to study or be “in class”. Assignments, readings, and projects will have due dates, but you’ll be free to do the preparation for them in your own time. Occasionally, however, classes will have a few real-time chats or lessons, called “synchronous virtual” sessions.  

In-Person Class Benefits 

There are many reasons that online classes are becoming more popular, especially in today’s world, but there is something to be said for the reliability of traditional education that makes in-person classes a viable (and perhaps much better) option for the nurse looking to continue his education. 

  • Familiar territory. Most people in the United States grew up participating in traditional educational environments during their K-12 education. From kindergarten through college, we’ve grown accustomed to the desk and blackboard version of learning that is found in a face-to-face environment. It can, therefore, be quite helpful to take traditional classes as an adult. Some students who back to school after a long hiatus, find online classes to be difficult due to being unfamiliar with the environment. With online classes, it can often be difficult to focus on studying if you aren’t in an expected “studying” place. 
  • Collaborative learning. For the self-motivated, online classes can be ideal. However, many people learn better in circumstances where they can learn actively from and with peers. Collaborative learning allows students to work together and offer real-time feedback to questions and concerns. If you are a person who prefers meeting face-to-face or working in a classroom setting where you can benefit from the knowledge of peers, in-person classes may be your best option. 
  • Structure. However, many people, especially those with busy lives, benefit greatly from the rigid structure of traditional education. Attending classes is crucial to maintaining stability and motivation for studying. Without it, some people fail to make the best decisions for themselves and might not make time to study on their own.  
  • Less technology. If you take online classes, you absolutely must have a reliable connection to the internet. Any kind of technological snafu may cause you to be unable to complete an assignment on-time and cause grades to suffer. However, in-person classes, have less of a need for technology. Additionally, there won’t be the added learning curve of learning new software or hardware technology.  

Concluding Thoughts 

It is important to note that all BSN programs, even the online ones, do require for some in-person learning for lab and clinical courses. There is no way to completely recreate lab work and working with real patients in an online environment. However, most RN-BSN are solely online and there are BSN programs that offer programs almost completely online. Hopefully, the above points have been helpful in your consideration of which format of classes is right for you!  

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Dr. Jenna Liphart Rhoads, Ph.D, RN, CNE

Dr. Jenna Liphart Rhoads is a registered nurse and a nurse educator. She earned a BSN from Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing and an MS in nursing education from Northern Illinois University. Jenna earned a Ph.D. in education with a concentration in nursing education from Capella University where she researched the moderation effects of emotional intelligence on the relationship of stress and GPA in military veteran nursing students.