Higher Learning Through Online Education for Oncology Nurses

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In this era of increasing technology, as well as the limited time available for educational endeavors, I think we will be seeing more and more use of online education.

I recently earned a Master of Science degree in Nursing in an Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist program. I had not been back in a structured educational program since earning my Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree fifteen years earlier. Needless to say, things have changed considerably.

In order to meet the changing needs of nurses who were pursuing an advanced degree, many of the classes that I was required to take were online. I wasn’t sure at first how I would like this new form of learning. One might think that there is less work involved in an online class because of the nature of the educational format. I can tell you by first-hand experience that this is not true. In fact, I found that it often took much more discipline to complete the requirements of the online class than the face-to-face classes. There was no one there checking off if I were in class, and there was no one checking up to see if I was completing the assignments in a timely manner. I had to take responsibility to listen to the lectures, ask appropriate questions, participate in discussion boards, and keep up on readings and other assignments. At times, I felt it was much more difficult to listen to a two-hour lecture that was being given online rather than being able to interact with the instructor during that two-hour period. On the other hand, the flexibility of being able to listen to the classes or do the assignments on my own time and not a preset time was quite appealing. There were times when everyone in the class “met” together online for a live online class. Often these sessions were used for student presentations and discussions.

Again, there were pros and cons. Being an experienced speaker, I rely a lot on my audience to help me determine how the lecture is going, where I may need to change things or if I need to move on to other things. Not being able to get feedback from visualizing an audience was something I had to get used to. But again, there is an upside. Presenting a program or listening to one while you’re in your most comfortable clothes and floppy slippers is much less restricting than in your best suit and heels.

With the advent of long distance learning, people trying to complete advanced education while continuing to work their full-time jobs and meeting the needs of the technologically savvy consumer of education, providers of higher education must continue to use technology to address the demands facing them.

In addition to higher education, many nurses are searching for alternate means of acquiring continuing education that is required by many licensing bodies as well as for specialty certification. Nurses are scrambling for ways to find quality educational programs that will afford them the opportunity to gain much needed continuing education units at their own convenience. More and more organizations are offering online continuing education credits. Two useful sites that I’ve utilized are WorldWideLearn and Meniscus. The worldwide learn site offers CE credits that are accepted by most states on a variety of nursing topics. The meniscus site has some very good offerings specific to oncology nursing as well as topics that are of interest to oncology nurses.

In this era of increasing technology and familiarity with the World Wide Web as well as the limited time available for educational endeavors while nurses are at work, I think we will be seeing more and more use of online education. Nurses will be involved in distance learning earning degrees from universities they may never step foot in and will be able to continue learning a variety of topics that may not be available to them in their own institutions.

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