JACKSONVILLE, Fla.— Earning a graduate degree from the comfort of your living room may sound a bit outlandish.
But it is possible.
In fact, not only does Jacksonville University offer the opportunity for nursing students to earn a master’s degree online, but the school has received national recognition for its program.
The U.S. News & World Report listed JU’s online Master of Science and Nursing program among the “2018’s Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs” list. JU’s program is ranked 31st.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” says Director of Graduate Programs Hilary Morgan. “It’s very much a reflection of the work that the faculty has put in, as well as a reflection of our graduates.”
Morgan says her predecessor, Teresa MacGregor, was mostly responsible for much of the work that built the program up to where it is today.
The program doesn’t offer every specialization online. For instance, a clinical certification, such as a nurse practitioner license, requires the student to be on campus. A student can, however, get specializations in clinical nurse education, leadership in healthcare systems, and informatics, according to the JU website.
So why might a student decide to pursue his or her degree online rather than in person?
According to the U.S. News website, worldwide access is one reason.
Morgan says that some students are JU alumni who have relocated but still wish to obtain a degree from JU. She also points out that some students have a very busy family or work life that could make it difficult to physically attend classes.
“Many students have never stepped foot on campus until graduation,” she says.
So, what is it that makes JU’s online MSN program stand out?
Morgan says that the online MSN program stands out because JU recognizes that many students are working in the nursing profession as they attend school. She says they like to allow students to feel connected, so they hold routine live class sessions with students. The sessions are recorded, so if a student is busy and cannot attend the session, they can still listen to the recordings later.
“We make our program appealing to students in that way,” she says. “They want the ability to be autonomous and asynchronous. I think that’s really the key.”
In addition to allowing students to have flexibility, the program strives to integrate feedback.
Morgan says they have annual meetings with stakeholders, where they discuss what community needs are being met and what needs could be met in the future. She says this is what led them to adopt the informatics specialization.
“It’s a big appeal for our program,” she says.
And a master’s degree isn’t the only degree you can obtain online.
The Registered Nurse – Bachelor of Science in Nursing program allows students who already have their licensure to advance to a baccalaureate degree.
Dorcas Kunkel, the coordinator for the RN-BSN program, says the program can be completed in 20 months altogether, although students are allowed to take breaks in between.
“It’s good for the working student,” she says.
Kunkel adds that completing the RN-BSN program online allows students to transition into the online MSN program with more ease.
“With our system, the student can complete the RN-BSN program and move quite seamlessly into the MSN program,” she says.
Regardless of what degree you are seeking, one thing is clear: JU strives for connectivity, even within online programs.
Morgan stresses the importance of making students feel accomplished and included, even though they may not even be studying in the same state.
“They want that connection,” she says. “We’ve really focused on catering to students’ desires and needs.”