Nursing school is tough. It is competitive just to be accepted into a program, let alone successfully complete it. Add in the fact that many nursing schools now incorporate online learning into their programs and many students can feel overwhelmed. But, one thing that you can do to help yourself in your education is to effectively work with your faculty members. Faculty relationships will help you immeasurably in your pursuit of academic success. While establishing a trusting relationship with your nursing faculty is important in both face-to-face and online programs, here we are going to focus on tips to help you on working with your online nursing faculty to maximize your success.
Do your homework
I don’t just mean doing your assignments (although that is important). Before reaching out to your instructor, make sure you have reviewed the published course materials. Have a question about an assignment? Read all the posted instructions first. Many times, your instructor has created these detailed documents to cut down on the confusion that accompanies online work. While instructors like answering questions, (it is their job after all), they really appreciate when students take the time to use the course materials.
It frees up the instructor to address course content instead of repeating the same instructions in multiple e-mails or discussion posts. A big plus for you is that you can have more meaningful interactions and it will save you time! Many colleges require instructors to respond to student e-mails in 24 hours. E-mailing a question and then waiting for a response can be a waste of your time (of which you often don’t have much!) if the answer is already available to you. If you have read all the course materials related to your question and you are still coming up short, then it’s time to reach out.
Ask for help
Don’t be shy when it comes to asking for help. Monitor your grades and reach out if you are having trouble understanding. Instructors love providing you with additional examples and providing clarification. In other words, they love to teach! The time to ask for help is immediately when you feel like you aren’t meeting the course objectives or the standards for the class. Online learning, especially, requires that you be on top of your needs. An instructor can’t tell whether you are having trouble understanding the content or if you just failed to study like you should have.
Take the responsibility to initiate contact and ask for help. Your instructor may be able to grant you an extension, review a test with you, or give you study tips. Chances are, your instructor has seen other students struggle with the same things you are struggling with and will be able to advise you on the best path to success.
So, you have identified your need for help and made the decision to discuss it with your instructor. Congratulations! That’s a big step. If you instructor suggests more reading, attending tutoring sessions, seeking help for your writing skills, or any other suggestions to support your learning, take the advice.
Your instructor is a valuable resource for you but can’t DO the work for you. Once your instructor has pointed you in the right direction, it is up to you to act on it. It may seem like a lot at first but your instructor does have your best interests at heart and wants to see you succeed. Another positive to taking your instructor’s advice is that it demonstrates your commitment to your own education. It never hurts to show just how hard you are working for it!
It is almost inevitable that at some point in your nursing school career, you will be blindsided by a test score or assignment grade. Instead of reacting immediately, take some time to review the assignment requirements or test answers, if you can, and identify your role in the score that was achieved. If you still have questions, reach out to your instructor with your concerns but keep it polite.
It can be all too easy to use words in e-mail that you wouldn’t say out loud. Plus, it is hard to determine tone in e-mail so take a bit of extra time making sure your words aren’t abrasive or disrespectful. If your instructor offers office appointments, now might be a great time to make one.
Sometimes it’s easier to talk through these situations. Be polite and professional. If your instructor has a procedure for discussing grade concerns, make sure you follow it. Provide your instructor with resources from the course or textbook to support your position. Keep your mind open and be willing to work with your instructor. Contrary to popular belief among some students, instructors do want you to succeed and do take your concerns seriously.
The resolution might not be exactly what you want, but by being polite and respectful, you will keep your working relationship with your instructor intact. If you and your instructor are unable to reach an agreement, continue to keep it polite but be familiar with your school’s grievance policies and proceed accordingly.
Acknowledge your responsibility
Online education offers great benefits for busy, adult learners but you can’t get something for nothing. Acknowledge your responsibility in the learning process by putting in the time and effort to participate in class, turn in your assignments on time, and respond to the feedback from your instructor.
Nursing instructors want to see you succeed. First and foremost, they are members of the profession of nursing and most got into teaching to grow the ranks of qualified, dedicated nurses available to care for patients. But, no matter how much they want to see you succeed, you must do the work and acknowledge your role in the process. Your instructors will return your commitment by working with you to meet your goals.
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