Online, go-at-your-own-pace, RN to BSN Option through Capella University

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    Capella University's FlexPath program is a 100% online, go-at-your-own-pace option for an RN to BSN program where you can control the cost per credit based on how many classes you complete in a twelve-week period. Courses are based on completing assessments which consist of writing APA-based research papers and presentations.

    Online, go-at-your-own-pace, RN to BSN Option through Capella University

    I started researching various RN to BSN options while I was going through my associate program to reach the NCLEX-RN. My research included two local universities and several online options. My goal was to find a university that would allow me to finish my RN to BSN in under twelve months. While one of the local options was economical (approximately $10,000 not counting books), neither of the two local options could be completed in twelve months while working 0.8 FTE to 1.0 FTE (the one university could be achieved in twelve months if all you did was go to their classes and not work).

    Online university program layout fell into three distinct categories: discussion groups with APA-based research papers, a hybrid of exams and APA-based research papers, and just APA-based research papers. The top university for the 1st category in my research was Aspen University with its fixed tuition, a little over $10,000.00 and its zero-interest loan to students where you pay only $250.00 per month. The top university in the 2nd category was the only university in that group that I found which was Western Governors University (WGU) – four exams, seven papers – where you pay $3,250 per semester PLUS fees. The top university in the 3rd category was the only university in the group that I found was Capella University and their FlexPath program.

    Aspen University can be completed in twelve months if you double up on courses after you take the first class which they strongly recommend you take by itself. WGU can be completed in as little as five to six months. Capella University's FlexPath program can be completed in as little as seven to nine months.

    While WGU appeared to be the most economical option (the 1st semester, six-months, including fees) would have right slightly under $4,000 I had concerns after talking face-to-face with one instructor as well as face-to-face discussions with a student and two years of following various discussion groups on Facebook where there were many concerns brought up by the one faculty member, the one face-to-face student, and scores upon scores of other students. Those concerns included the following:


    • No guarantee to have a student mentor who will allow you to fast track your classes.
    • Regularly changing class requirements (biochemistry was just one of several) with what appeared to be (based on student perceptions) the goal of making the program last longer.
    • The regular, required, weekly to every other week phone calls with your student mentor.
    • The fees they don't tell you about when you read, "only $3,250" per semester.
    • The first class requiring specific login times and participation times which entirely and utterly removes the entire spirit of being an online program.
    • Another class requires a minimum of 45-hours of interviews and walkthroughs of various facilities with requirements of what can be counted time-wise such that the illusion of an online program you can do on a deserted island with just internet coverage is revealed as just an illusion.


    While I was leery at first that FlexPath was just a more expensive copy of WGU's program -- FlexPath runs $2,700 per three-month semester compared to WGU's $3,250 plus fees per six-month semester), I investigated FlexPath and found it to have many pros which ended up making it easy for me to pick FlexPath as my choice for an RN to BSN program.

    1. FlexPath is 100% online.
    2. FlexPath has no hidden fees (did you know about the $495 fee WGU charges?)
    3. FlexPath doesn't require biochemistry/chemistry
    4. FlexPath involves just writing APA-based research papers and presentations; there are no exams.
    5. FlexPath doesn't require one to purchase a single book.
    6. FlexPath doesn't require any phone calls with a student mentor to discuss your weekly or every other week progress.
    7. FlexPath can be done on a deserted island with just an internet connection; there are no requirements to visit, call, interview, etc. It is an actual online program.
    8. FlexPath doesn't require permission to move onto the next class. Within hours (often the same day) of completing a course, the following course opens. And should you want the next course to open while you are waiting for a paper/presentation to be graded, you can just email or call your coach.

    How does FlexPath work?

    Each class is composed of several assessments of learning. Of the five courses I've taken to date, the classes have four to five assessments of learning (I've read of at least one class – BSN FP 4017 Collaborative Group Process Nursing having six assessments). In each assessment of learning, you are presented with one of several scenarios to address. For example, in my Nursing Leadership and Management, the one assessment involved picking three scenarios out of five where I had to write about change theory, leadership styles, professional and legal standards, and measurement of outcomes. Most of the classes include one assessment that involves creating a presentation with speaker notes. All the writing must be in APA 6th edition format with the primary reference requirements being peer-reviewed, scholarly, references that are within five years of age except for sentinel works where the age of the reference is not relevant. All assessments have a scoring guide (rubric) to help guide the student as to what matters to pass the assessment.

    Faculty grades submitted assessments within two business days where portions of the paper (based on the rubric) can receive one of three grades: non-performance (failed to meet the criteria; zero/F), basic (just met the criteria: C), proficient (met the criteria: B), and distinguished (above and beyond: A). The word-based grades are translated into actual grades upon request as well as through a computer-generated form students can run on demand to submit to employers or for one's knowledge. There's a Competency Map per class where students can see their progress and decide to re-submit an assessment in hopes of improving one's grade. An assessment can be revised (students are encouraged to highlight the changes) and re-submitted two additional times for a total of three submissions.

    There are times the instructions and scoring guide for a given assessment are vague, and that's where the Capella RN to BSN Facebook group and tutors come in handy. Tutors are available via email and through scheduled one-to-one sessions for each class. The tutors are typically MSN and DNP students, fellow nurses, who usually collaborate with those asking for help to assist in learning. In addition to tutors, students have access to SmartThinking, a tutorial group where papers can be reviewed.

    Capella University, like many other universities that require APA-based material, uses a service called Turnitin. Before submitting an assessment of learning for review by faculty, students must submit their paper/presentation to Turnitin via an easy-to-use web-based interface. Turnitin then grades the paper regarding the percentage of originality regarding the potential for plagiarism. The lower the percentage, the more original the work. Most faculties want an originality score of 20% or less. In my experience, it's easy to be under 10% by following three simple rules: 1) paraphrase often vs. quoting, 2) cite correctly using APA standards, and 3) remove the title and reference page(s) before submission. One can also use filters within TurnItIn to take care of number three for you, but I've found that to be hit and miss even though I do recommend using TurnItIn filters even when doing the three steps mentioned.

    How does Capella University's FlexPath program stack up regarding cost?


    The FlexPath program costs $2,700 every 12-weeks and does not have any additional fees or cost requirements such as books. At first glance, this does look expensive (at least it did for me). But when you consider you can complete three to five classes within that period, and look at the cost per credit, FlexPath is economical. If you complete three classes, the cost per credit is $300 per credit. If you finish five courses in that period, the cost per credit comes down to $180 per credit. If you work for a facility that partners with Capella, such as UPMC Pinnacle, the tuition runs $2,430 every 12 weeks reducing the per credit down to $270 per credit if you complete three classes and $162 per credit if you complete five classes.

    How many classes can you complete every twelve weeks?

    That's up to you as FlexPath is a 100% go-at-your-own-pace program. At the time of this writing, I'm on track to complete five classes within my first term for a cost of $162 per credit. From what I've read, surveyed, and studied, most students complete the FlexPath program in twelve months or less. Currently, I'm on track to complete the program in a seven to nine-month period.
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    15 Comments

  3. by   SummitRN
    Did OP or AN receive financial consideration from Capella for this featured adticle? Interesting that the only things discussed are how easy and cheap it is to go to this online-only for-profit (publicly traded company - $1 billion in market cap). No mention of academic content or quality...
    Last edit by SummitRN on Nov 30
  4. by   NICUMurse87
    Yeah, I don't know if I'd want a nurse who went to a school whose main selling point was how easy it was. I don't think difficulty is necessarily a measure of quality, but I certainly don't think ease is a positive point in any program's reputation.
  5. by   pmabraham
    I am a Capella student receiving no financial reimbursement from Capella. SummitRN did you have any specific questions concerning accreditation, academic content, or academic quality?
    Last edit by pmabraham on Dec 1
  6. by   pmabraham
    NICUMurse87, There are many considerations for picking a BSN programs. I enjoy that most of the assessments of learning can be tied to what I do at work. During the 5th class, which I completed within the three month time frame, two of the assessments had to do with starting a heart failure clinic. As a cardiac telemetry RN, I enjoyed the challenge of learning how heart failure clinics can reduce 30-day readmissions for heart failure patients.

    Given that the research for BSN degrees are skewed (i.e. those for it state less mortality yet cannot provide separation of experience vs. education as a control factor), how did you pick the school for your BSN? There are many factors why people go to one school vs. another. Are you biased because someone used different criteria than your own for picking a school?
    Last edit by pmabraham on Dec 1
  7. by   SummitRN
    Quote from pmabraham
    SummitRN did you have any specific questions concerning accreditation, academic content, or academic quality?
    I find it comical that you wrote 1500 words and didn't mention those things. It sends a very strong message about what you think is important vs unimportant. I think that reflects poorly on your for-profit school which you were trying to promote. That even now you don't think it is worth mentioning unless I ask specific questions drives home the point.
  8. by   pmabraham
    You are welcome to your opinion and your biases. Since you have no questions, I'll take it that you just like being judgemental and bullying. Nurses eat their young, so I'm not surprised as the very negative, arrogant, and judgemental attitude.
  9. by   featherzRN
    I'll just add that I have three degrees from WGU and never once have I gotten a surprise fee. Everything was spelled out in the beginning before I enrolled and I paid no more. But I am glad you liked capella and it sounds like a decent program - each to his/her own!
  10. by   SummitRN
    Quote from pmabraham
    You are welcome to your opinion and your biases. Since you have no questions, I'll take it that you just like being judgemental and bullying. Nurses eat their young, so I'm not surprised as the very negative, arrogant, and judgemental attitude.
    You wrote a promo piece on your for-profit school... one that doesn't even have a campus... and went on at length about how much easier it is than WGU. So your point of comparison was a non-profit school which is embroiled in scandal for being too easy. A US Dept of Education OIG Fraud Audit (September 2017) of WGU found, "at least 69 of the 102 courses were not designed to offer regular and substantive interaction with an instructor and, therefore, did not meet the regulatory definition of distance education" which will cause the school to have to pay back over 700 million dollars to the US government. But Capella is easier than WGU with less demanding interaction?

    You don't think quality is worth mentioning, but you accuse me of arrogance for providing critical analysis?

    I call it valuing quality along with convenience and cost.
    I call it making students aware of what they are getting into.

    You call critical thinking mere arrogance and bullying. I will now be blunt: that is not a professional reaction.
    Last edit by SummitRN on Dec 1 : Reason: hot links
  11. by   NICUMurse87
    Quote from pmabraham
    NICUMurse87, There are many considerations for picking a BSN programs. I enjoy that most of the assessments of learning can be tied to what I do at work. During the 5th class, which I completed within the three month time frame, two of the assessments had to do with starting a heart failure clinic. As a cardiac telemetry RN, I enjoyed the challenge of learning how heart failure clinics can reduce 30-day readmissions for heart failure patients.

    Given that the research for BSN degrees are skewed (i.e. those for it state less mortality yet cannot provide separation of experience vs. education as a control factor), how did you pick the school for your BSN? There are many factors why people go to one school vs. another. Are you biased because someone used different criteria than your own for picking a school?
    I did a mostly online program myself and my wife as looked into online only programs for her MSN, so I'm not biased against online, if anything, I'm for it. But your article appeared to denote that the only real selling point for Capella was that it's cheap and easy, which, to me, are not good selling points for a school that is supposed to be teaching you to be a professional nurse, at least the easy part. I don't know much about Capella, so all I really have to go on is what you wrote, which doesn't paint it in the most sympathetic light for those already in the field or about to be.
  12. by   pmabraham
    Quote from SummitRN
    You wrote a promo piece on your for-profit school.
    As I shared, you are entitled to your very biased opinions. You radically assume I wrote a promo piece; you assumed in your opening response there may have even been some type of financial motive.

    The fact is I'm a happy student. Pinnacle Health, now UPMC Pinnacle, a rather large hospital system partners with Capella. The experienced nurse leader who runs the entire Dauphin County branch of the nurse residency program is going for her Masters at Capella through their Guided Path option. As I shared in the article I wrote expressing my feelings about Capella as a student, Fresh RN – an author, blogger, and podcast content creator – is also going there for her Masters as well.

    Capella is accredited per University Accreditation - Capella University and per my article is an option for those students who want a complete online experience that is affordable.

    Now, you can keep on bullying to get in the last word, or move on and troll someone else!
    Last edit by pmabraham on Dec 3
  13. by   pmabraham
    Quote from NICUMurse87
    But your article appeared to denote that the only real selling point for Capella was that it's cheap and easy, which, to me, are not good selling points for a school that is supposed to be teaching you to be a professional nurse
    How many posts about happy WGU students talk about how hard it is to complete their BSN in six months? Or are they sharing how economical it is to get degree with ease within the six-month period?

    Personally, I graduated at the very top of my class achieving highest honors; so easy for me isn't necessarily easy for others. That's why I gave the range of completing three classes in three months (which happens to be the more common) compared to my completing five classes in three months (doable, but less common).

    Now, I've had conversations with my coworkers who are getting their BSN from various venues both locally, blended, and completely online. It's interesting that EVERYONE SINGLE ONE OF THEM talk about how easy the classes are for them to take with the only complaint being that few like APA. To come down on someone who writes their school is easy as if that's a bad thing isn't reality in terms of the scores of coworkers I work with who have yet to talk about their BSN program being hard, not doable, intense, etc.

    As I shared, everyone has their points as to why they pick one program vs. another. For me, I didn't go to Capella for easy or hard, I went because I wanted a 100% online program that was online that could be done anywhere in the world at my own pace. That was the selling point for me with the ability to complete in one year. The secondary point was the ability to control the price point by how much I applied myself (go at one's own pace).

    Thank you.
    Last edit by pmabraham on Dec 3
  14. by   caliotter3
    There is easy in terms of a person finding that academic endeavors come easily to him/her, and then there is easy in terms of a program lacking in academic rigor. Sometimes people need to explain which type of easy they are discussing. This thought jumped out at me after reading only the last post. Now, I will read the rest of the thread.

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