A supportive institution can make all the difference for online students

support-blog

When students make the decision to enroll in an online program, they frequently have apprehension. Perhaps they have been out of school awhile or have never taken an online class. Maybe they are nervous about writing a paper or taking a math class, or simply feel that they will be isolated and on their own in an online program.

At Linfield, we know that it can be overwhelming to take this step and coming into a supportive environment can make a big difference. In our Online and Continuing Education program, we celebrate our students and know that they are often balancing a heavy load of responsibilities.  We know that their lives are often very different from our residential students and have tailored our program to address their unique needs.  The many staff who work with online students at Linfield are enthusiastic about helping them take these next steps in their lives.   Assistant Director of Admission Reese Zimmer genuinely appreciates working with students who are so driven towards their goals, especially when so many of them have to balance their education with having a career and/or family.

This admiration is echoed by Academic Advisor Ann Sukalac who says, “I love to getting to know the students, learn about their goals and dreams and then help them to meet the academic part of those goals.  Online students are generally working (most of them full time) and balancing work and family life with their schooling.  Their dedication is a wonderful thing to behold.”

From the time students fill out a request for information form, it is our goal to make the online learning process easy and worry-free. Academic Advisor Joanne Swenson works with our RN to BSN students and focuses on customer service. “We answer emails within 24 hours, offer phone call appointments for students out of the area, or meet in-person with students who can or who want to,” said Joanne.

Joanne also cares about how the students are doing emotionally, as well. “I often have to put on my ‘counselor hat’ to talk students through difficult situations or personal issues they are dealing with.”

Admission Counselor Deanna Fairchild knows that “returning to college can be stressful and cause some apprehension…” and she always tries to put a student’s worries to rest in their first conversations by discussing their concerns and answering any potential questions that may arise about their education.

When comparing Linfield to other online learning programs, our liberal arts core sets us apart because of how it develops students’ skill set. Instructional Designer Jane Wilde noted that “Linfield’s commitment to liberal arts ideals is the hallmark of what we offer. Regardless of the subjects we teach, or the professional credentials we offer, we emphasize critical thinking, and the ability to see the problems from multiple points of view.”

The other thing that sets Linfield apart is a strong sense of community which carries over to our online classrooms.  Advisors like Ann notice that the successful students are the ones who find an avenue to connect in the online environment.

“The most surprising thing to me about online students is how they manage to personalize the environment for themselves.  When I first worked with online, I was concerned that the environment would be cold and lack the collegial aspect of the classroom.  And a student who doesn’t take advantage of the possibilities could still find it to be that way. But so many students actually do take my advice and form study groups, or just have particular study-buddies that they work with via phone, or Skype, or chat and some great friendships have been formed,” says Ann.  “If a students will put out a virtual hand, there are people there to virtually take it:  faculty, advisors and fellow students.”

All of our staff members are committed to making the student experience as rewarding as possible. As students strive to meet their educational goals, the staff at Linfield will be here to support them every step of the way.

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Learning through Collaboration, Sharing, and Faculty Support – Linfield’s RN to BSN Students

By Melissa Jones, PhD, RN, CHPN, COI
Associate Professor of Nursing
Coordinator of Online Programs in Nursing

The Linfield RN to BSN degree is an online program that is designed for nurses who want advance their career through higher education and obtain a baccalaureate degree, but are also juggling work, family and personal responsibilities. To ensure that students can be successful and maximize their learning through collaboration and sharing, faculty have designed a curriculum that is flexible, asynchronous, and requires that students work closely with groups of their nursing colleagues to develop and expand their professional practice.

In the online classroom, students and faculty discuss current healthcare issues and the most recent scientific literature to strategize solutions that will improve the health of individuals, communities, and populations. They discuss components of healthy work environments, develop their skills in professional communication, and make recommendations for ways that nurses can influence quality patient care outcomes, staff satisfaction, and the function of health care systems. Based on a strong commitment to a community-based curriculum and an education that is grounded in the liberal arts, the RN to BSN program is designed to develop the nurse’s skills in advocacy, critical thinking, leadership, and reflective practice. Curricular concepts include community health promotion, culture and diversity, evidence-based practice, and global health disparities.

One of the key features of the Linfield RN to BSN program and an important component of student success includes faculty support. The RN to BSN faculty are passionate about teaching nurses who are already licensed, practicing, and wish to transition to the next level in their career.

Dr. Henny Breen has identified the following key areas of support:

“I teach practicing nurses who have completed their diploma or associate degree in nursing. I have had nurses in their early twenties who have recently completed their associate degree to nurses in their early sixties who completed their initial nursing education up to forty years ago. They each have varied years of experience in nursing and have been in very diverse roles throughout their nursing career. This makes for a rich online learning community.

It is my desire to support nurses in advancing their learning in order to prepare them for the complexity of today’s health care environment. It is important to build on the experience and knowledge they have coming into the program while keeping in mind they have multiple responsibilities as adult learners. This could be the new graduate starting his or her first nursing job, which is a very stressful time, to a student who has full time work commitments and a family. Conflicting demands on time are understood and I make every effort to work with students to help them be successful in meeting their goal of earning a BSN.

Different students have different needs to be successful -for example, some need more help with navigating the online learning environment, others need help with time management, and others need more help in developing writing or critical thinking skills.  Regardless, it is my goal to build on where they are when they enter the program in the subject areas I teach using the different experiences of the students to help build a rich virtual learning community.”

Faculty members work closely with students and their academic advisor to support their success throughout the program. They also look forward to celebrating their successes along the way and encouraging students to even look beyond the BSN. Many of our graduates are attending prestigious graduate programs throughout the country. It is our goal to support the current and future goals of our students through close mentoring and supportive advising relationships.

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We Have a New Director and New Organization at the Division of Continuing Education

How can we run the Division of Continuing Education (DCE) more efficiently while still maintaining the highest quality of services for students? This has been an important question at the DCE for several years. Continue reading

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