January 4, 2000
BIRMINGHAM, AL — Beginning winter quarter 2000, the School of Nursing at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) will offer the first of a series of online courses for registered nurses returning to school for their bachelor's degrees.
The course, Role Transition in Professional Nursing Practice, is part of the RN Mobility plan designed specifically for registered nurses who already have a diploma or associate degree in nursing. "Online courses and distance learning are national trends in collegiate education, but these strategies are particularly appropriate for RNs, since most work full-time and must balance school with work and family," says Margaret Findlay, Ph.D., coordinator of the RN Mobility plan.
And during a time when many parts of the country are experiencing nursing shortages, the program promises to have a positive impact. "It doesn't necessarily mean adding more nurses to the workforce, but it does mean more nurses who are qualified to serve in expanded roles," says Findlay.
Course materials, class notes and assignments are posted on the Web. Students have the option of attending seminars that are offered at least every two weeks at UAB. "It's a better use of the student’s time with faculty," says Findlay. "Students come to seminars prepared to apply what they've learned online. It requires students to be more active participants in the learning process."
For those students who do not have access to the Internet at home, computers are available in the UAB Learning Resources Center and at local libraries. The school also offers a "boot camp" course on how to use the Internet. "Students do not have to have a computer or computer skills to get started," says Findlay. "We understand that many students, particularly those returning to school after a few years, may not be as familiar with the technology."
In today's competitive market for students, distance learning allows schools to attract students from far away, but that opportunity also raises a concern. "Class time allows for personal attention and mentoring from faculty," says Findlay, "But eventually, we hope to have students online from across the country, so interaction in a classroom setting may not be practical. However, a strong component of online courses is the student’s ability to communicate with the instructor and classmates via a chat room format."
The school's goal is to have all clinical courses of the RN Mobility plan online by spring quarter. "There have been many details to attend to,” says Findlay. "But faculty are confident that the School of Nursing is offering an online program that maintains its educational integrity."
Registered nurses who are interested in learning more about the RN Mobility plan at UAB may call Dr. Findlay at (205) 934-6643.