Beginning any kind of learning program is a challenge. Not only will you be studying to improve your knowledge, skills and career prospects, but you will also be dealing with new people and different subjects, as well as developing an understanding of what’s expected of you.
All of this means that working out how best to make the most of your time by ensuring that your learning habits are well established before you start will pay dividends in the long term.
Whether you are embarking on a doctor of nursing practice program or enrolling for another course, thinking ahead will definitely help you progress more easily through your studies.
As well as distance learning, there is clinical placement support, which combines the benefits of practical work and the virtual course, so students get to experience both.
According to research, nurse practitioner jobs are expected to increase by 52% through 2030, and between 2010 and 2018, the number of nurses employed within the US with a doctoral degree rose by over 235%. This means that, having made the decision to take this career path, ensuring that you make the most of your course, your study time and the resources available to you is a long-term investment in you and your future.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, online learning has become even more accessible than it already was. People who had never experienced it before have been able to understand the benefits as well as the pitfalls, meaning that studying for an online degree or master’s program may well seem less daunting and much more achievable.
Many educators have been looking at how virtual learning can enhance a student’s experience by allowing for more flexibility than simply face-to-face, in-class teaching. Many more students are realizing that online learning may be the best fit for them.
However, it’s important to understand the differences between virtual and in-house studying as well as hybrid models before you start. This means that you can adapt your own learning styles right at the beginning of your course.
The reason you have chosen online learning could be that it fits in with your work or family more than attending physical premises. The flexibility that this learning offers means that you may take semesters off in order to fit in your other commitments. So, being disciplined when you can study is key to making the most of your time.
Some crossover skills you need to work in healthcare
Thinking about preparing yourself for online learning even before you begin your course may seem a waste of time, but if you look at the skills you need to work in healthcare, you will realize that there are some that cross over into how you study.
According to nursingprocess.org, flexibility is important in any role as a nurse practitioner, and this is also relevant to learning. Being able to adapt to a changing situation within your course, such as dealing with a family crisis, technical issue or illness, means that you will learn resilience when confronted with similar events at work.
Being able to take a good medical history is an essential part of many healthcare positions. It involves gathering information from patients whether in person or via the phone. Take the opportunity when studying to utilize the experience of finding out and interpreting information from your lessons, from webinars, online lectures, tutorials or practical classes, in order to use this both for your course and within your workplace in the future.
Telemedicine involves delivering healthcare from a distance using technology to deal with patients. As with learning, more providers than ever are using this method to care for those who do not need to be seen in person. Therefore, becoming familiar with distance courses and your experience as a user will enable you to not only employ this method within your job with more confidence, but also have more understanding of being the client in this scenario due to your time as an online student yourself.
Computer literacy is vital for almost any role within any organization, and for nurse practitioners, it will involve dealing with electronic medical resources and working with online resources. Therefore, enhancing your technical understanding throughout your course will prove extremely useful.
Critical skills are learned and refined when studying and used constantly throughout your career. It’s the process of analyzing and evaluating information gathered from a variety of sources in order to make a decision.
So, by taking all of this into account when preparing yourself for study, you will feel the benefit of your course to a higher degree in the understanding that the skills you are using and developing throughout will be carried forward into your career.
Different learning styles
While we can all adapt how we take in information, for some, understanding the basic learning styles can give an insight into how to design our studying programs. For example, visual learners find retaining information easier when it’s presented in a graphical way, including the use of pictures, charts and diagrams. Aural learners find listening to information more beneficial and may gain more from working in group settings, whereas those who focus on reading and writing learn better with worksheets, presentations and other text-heavy resources. Kinesthetic learners are hands-on and get the most out of engaging all of their senses during coursework and undertaking practical tasks.
It is best not to get too attached to which style suits overall as for some, the subjects studied inform their preferred style, and can be mixed and matched and utilized in a more flexible way.
Do your research before your course
Find out how your course is structured, what the deadlines are, and what support is on offer as you progress so that you can think about what you need to do in advance.
Try to look ahead and plan what to do and when to do it. Find out what is needed to pass each module, what the learning outcomes are, and how much time you think you need to allocate to each step. These will evolve as you progress, but if you begin your studies with all this in mind, you will be more mentally prepared to succeed.
Also, as we learn, we can always appreciate new ideas and approaches that will help us, so it’s useful to look up websites and other resources that may give you hints and tips as well as a general overview of educational developments and what other people are doing.
Getting the technical aspects right
Ensuring that you have the right equipment and access to software is vital before you even begin your online studying. Do you have a good internet connection? If not, is there somewhere you can go where it is more reliable? What does your course provider expect you to be able to do, and can you access the correct software on which to write essays or participate in online classes?
If there are issues with any of these, getting advice and assistance from your college or university before your first semester is important in order to iron out any small problems so that you can start with confidence.
If you are studying any kind of further education, you will have developed skills at high school and beyond already, so you can take those foundations and build on them in the future.
Starting with achievable, small steps could help you develop a useful structure that suits you and the way that you learn. For instance, creating a study schedule is an easy way to order your mind and organize your days ahead of actually beginning your course.
If you are studying from home, creating a dedicated workspace, whether it’s a room, or a corner of a room, will help you mentally divide your time and could help you to switch on and off when you move between the two. You could also use a public library or coffee shop. Some people find it easier to work around people and away from the usual distractions of the home.
You don’t have to stick to one place – there are studies that show that changing where you work can help with the retention of information. When you’re feeling stuck or in need of some stimulation, moving to another area can help.
During the course
Once you have embarked on your learning, there are plenty of ways to ensure that you keep on track, such as connecting with other students. Working online means that you will have to make more effort to find other people on your course to chat to as you won’t be physically there with them, and therefore finding like-minded people organically will take more time. However, being around people you study with, even if it is remotely, will help motivate you throughout your course.
Studying with a friend or two, whether you are on the same course or not, can also help keep you focused.
You may find that listening to music when you are working can help. For some, this would be a distraction, whereas for others, it may help boost their mood or help with stress. Finding the right music is key if you decide to do it though, so research which music fits best for what you want.
It’s very easy to get distracted, especially if you’re not in a traditional classroom setting, so switching off your phone, and resisting the temptation to browse websites when you’re working on your computer, is a discipline that will pay dividends.
Take advantage of all the online resources that are available to you and find the best that fit your needs, such as timed practice quizzes, phone apps or flash cards.
Physical and mental health
Look after your physical and mental health. Learning online has many benefits, but it’s easy to just stay staring at your computer all day, so make sure that you go for walks, for example, and don’t stay up working until the early hours of the morning. Studies have linked lack of sleep to a decrease in cognitive functions such as reduced attention span and doing badly in tests, so getting enough rest will mean that you are more likely to be alert enough to make the most of your course.
Rewarding yourself with treats has been linked to better self-control and can help to form good habits. It can be anything from watching a favorite TV show to a visit to your favorite coffee shop or eating a candy bar. Knowing that if you finish a particular task, you will enjoy something nice is a very easy way to motivate yourself.
Exercise helps to lower blood pressure, reduce mental stress, and increase oxygen to the part of your brain responsible for thought, and it also helps with mental wellbeing. This is important because it enables us to deal with stress better, helps our relationships with others, and makes us more productive. Other ways of improving our general wellbeing include eating well and practicing meditation.
The first steps
Connect with an admission counselor before you begin your journey to check which program is best for you. They will be able to guide you through what’s expected throughout your time studying. Think about how you will fit the demands of your day-to-day life with your course, and ensure that you know who you need to contact if you require help and assistance along the way once you have begun. If you think about all these things right at the beginning, it will enable you to look forward with confidence.