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How To Succeed With Your Online Nursing Courses


Specializes in Clinical Leadership, Staff Development, Education. Has 28 years experience.

Are you getting the most out of your online nursing courses?

Do you prefer in-person classes and do all you can to avoid online learning?  Due to COVID-19, the option of traditional classes has been taken away from many college students.  Read on to learn tips for meeting the challenges of online learning head-on.

How To Succeed With Your Online Nursing Courses

With the COVID-19 pandemic, many students are having to leave behind in-person classes for online. Although online courses are not new, students often feel they’re not getting what they need. It’s true, these courses can be challenging, but there are effective strategies you can use to be successful.

Treat It Like A Traditional Course

Online courses require discipline and a good strategy is treating them just as you would an in-person class. Without discipline, it is easy to put off coursework until later, adding unnecessary stress.

Be Persistent

You will meet challenges in on-line classes, such as:

  • Technical difficulties
  • Time management issues
  • Feeling isolated from your classmates

Persistence is a big key to online success. When you’re faced with a problem, keep trying, ask for help and persist through the challenges.

Be Accountable

Students are routinely given reminders for assignment due dates and exams during in-person classes. But in on-line courses, it is up to you to know due dates and allow yourself enough time to complete assignments. It may help to have an “accountability partner” you check in with to stay organized and proactive with coursework.

Manage Your Time

Unlike in-person classes, online courses aren't taught in real-time and don’t have set class times. This flexibility is what draws many students to online learning, but it’s a drawback for procrastinators. Without time management, you will find yourself cramming for exams and turning in incomplete assignments. Let’s look at some valuable tips for improving your time management skills.

  • Make a master calendar of major assignment due dates and plot out your exams.
  • Factor in scheduling conflicts (other classes, family life, etc) so you can allow enough time for study and coursework.
  • It helps to create a weekly calendar and plot out time for reading, lecture videos, forum participation, studying, and completion of assignments.
  • Give yourself a “heads up” by setting reminders to complete weekly tasks.
  • Self check throughout the semester by asking yourself ...

Am I dedicating enough time for coursework?

Am I cramming before exams?

Do I often underestimate the amount of time I need to complete coursework?

Create A Good Study Place

Having a regular study place will help you to establish a routine, stay organized and limit distractions. You can do this by:

  • Having all your course materials (books etc) in your study place.
  • Choosing a place that is quiet and away from family, roommates, televisions, games, and anything else that will draw your attention away.
  • Avoiding internet surfing during study. It will steal chunks of your valuable time.
  • Make your space comfortable (lighting, seating, etc).

Be A Good Communicator

There will be times when you’ll need to ask for clarification or help in your online classes. Be persistent in communicating with your instructor and keep in mind- they don't know you need help unless you reach out. There are several ways you can do this:

  • E-mail
  • During office hours
  • Discussion groups and forums
  • Telephone

Be sure to read the course syllabus and make note of the instructor’s preferred method of communication.

Be An Active Participant

Participating in your online class is key to success. There are several ways you can actively participate, including:

  • Check in frequently, at least every day, to stay updated on announcements and discussion board responses.
  • Engage with other classmates on discussion boards or forums (ask questions, seek clarification.
  • Try creating a “virtual” study group with class peers.

Want More Tips?

Many colleges have great tips and strategies for online success available on their websites. Here are a few to get you started:

Share Your Strategy

What tips or advice do you have to help others adjust to online learning?

J.Adderton has over 25 years nursing experience, specializing in education, leadership, rural health and project management. 

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3 Comment(s)

Brenda F. Johnson, MSN

Specializes in Gastrointestinal Nursing. Has 29 years experience.

I just finished my MSN online, I chose to do that but even so my Capstone was on my own because of Covid. I like the points that you make, it's important to stay on schedule and make a calendar for yourself so you don't get behind.


Specializes in SCRN. Has 7 years experience.

Yes, the frequent participation is important! Knowing what is due and planning steps to accomplish it at the end of PREVIOUS week is a must, too!

PsychNurse24, BSN, RN

Specializes in Psychiatric, in school for PMHNP.. Has 12 years experience.

Great article for on-line students!