Online vs Traditional Education in Nursing

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When choosing between online vs. traditional education for nursing school, it's important to consider how you learn best. Online-based programs use an e-learning platform to teach foundational nursing concepts, while traditional programs use in-person instruction. At Felician, both ABSN program options incorporate coursework with in-person nursing labs and clinical rotations.

Felician ABSN student smiling in lab

As you research accelerated nursing programs, you’ll notice programs fall into one of two categories: online based or traditional. You might be wondering, what are the differences between online vs. traditional education? Determining which program is right for you can be hard to discern, so we’ll guide you on the process.

Our Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program at Felician University in New Jersey offers both options, so we’re well-versed in helping students make the right program decision. No matter which course delivery option you choose, you’ll complete the same accredited curriculum taught by supportive faculty. However, because everyone learns differently, here’s what you need to know about an online vs. traditional nursing education.

Online Nursing Format

While traditional nursing programs take place in person, online-based programs allow for more efficiency because students focus on self-directed learning for their nursing coursework. Bear in mind that online nursing programs generally contain a combination of online and in-person learning. After all, much of nursing education is hands-on, so having in-person labs and clinical rotations are important even in online-based programs.

However, instead of in-person lectures, these programs use an online e-learning platform that contains each lesson. Students can then work through each lesson on their own, learning via textbooks, practice questions, audio, video, and other learning modalities.

nursing student studying at desk with textbooks and laptop

Traditional Nursing Format

Traditional nursing programs take place fully in person, similar to other undergraduate programs. They generally contain a mix of in-person lectures along with skills and simulation labs and clinical rotations.

Compared to online-based ABSN programs, traditional programs have a more rigid schedule because of the daily in-person classes, where your instructors teach foundational nursing concepts. If you prefer having scheduled classes to keep you accountable, and if you prefer lecture-based learning rather than self-directed learning, a traditional approach may be right for you.

Differences Between Online Education vs Traditional Education

When you’re considering whether to choose an online or traditional nursing format for your nursing school journey, here are some differences to keep in mind.

Online Nursing EducationTraditional Nursing Education
Can easily connect with faculty as neededMore face-to-face interaction with faculty
Can study at your own paceHave a more structured learning process
Can learn at any time of the day or nightNeed to be present for class at specific times daily
Need a high level of personal accountability to stay on trackHave instructors keeping you accountable
Can learn through various formats depending on your study preferencesLearn primarily through in-person lectures
Complete exams, labs, and clinicals in-personComplete exams, labs, and clinicals in-person

Choosing Between the Hybrid and On-Ground ABSN

While many nursing schools offer one format for their ABSN program, Felician offers both an online-based and traditional option, so you can choose the path that’s ideal for you. Though Felician’s hybrid and on-ground ABSN programs are unique, they both follow the same nursing curriculum that will prepare you for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) and professional nursing practice.

Felician’s Hybrid ABSN

At Felician, our accelerated nursing program offers an online-based option, the 16-month Hybrid ABSN program. The Hybrid ABSN offers three start dates per year, in January, May, and August. In the program you’ll learn the fundamentals and theories of the nursing profession via an intuitive online learning platform.

The platform uses multimedia components to immerse you in the subject material. You can go back and review the course content as many times as you want. Plus, all the content is organized and accessible. Each online course consists of different learning modules, which include:

  • Interactive activities
  • Patient case studies
  • Textbook material
  • Informational videos
  • Discussion boards
student studying in library

What are the best ways to study for nursing school? Use these eight tips for success in the ABSN program.

Also, within each module, there are assignments you must complete within a specified timeframe. So, while online coursework brings a level of flexibility to the learning process, you still need to meet the deadlines set forth by faculty.

The online ABSN coursework lays the foundation for your accelerated nursing education. But that’s not enough. To become a registered nurse, you also need the practical skills and clinical judgment required to deliver safe, effective patient care ― competencies you would not be able to develop behind a computer screen.

Therefore, as a Hybrid ABSN student, you’ll attend weekly nursing labs with faculty at our ABSN learning site in Parsippany. During these labs, you and your classmates will develop and practice your nursing skills and clinical judgment in a safe, contextual environment. You’ll also gain real-world experience through clinical rotations in diverse areas of nursing practice with our clinical partners.

Felician’s On-Ground ABSN

At Felician, our accelerated nursing program also offers a traditional format, our 18-month On-Ground ABSN. In the On-Ground ABSN, you’ll learn the fundamentals and theories of the nursing profession in a traditional classroom setting at our main campus in Rutherford, NJ. The On-Ground ABSN offers one start date per year in May.

You’ll also complete your nursing labs on campus inside the Barbara J. Toscano Nursing Resource and Simulation Center in Rutherford. And just like with the hybrid ABSN program, you’ll gain real-world experience through clinical rotations in a variety of practice settings with our clinical partners.

nursing student sitting at desk studying

Hybrid vs. On-Ground ABSN Comparison

Whether you choose to complete your fundamental coursework online or on campus, you’ll complete the same nursing curriculum that prepares you to sit for the NCLEX-RN with confidence.

Application Process

Our Hybrid and On-Ground ABSN programs also share the same admissions requirements. To apply for either, you must have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution or a minimum of 60 non-nursing college credits with a cumulative 3.0 GPA in all undergraduate coursework.

Everything is also the same when it comes to the application process. Once you’ve satisfied all the admissions requirements (including the ABSN prerequisites and general education courses), here’s what you’ll need to submit as part of your application:

  • Official college/university transcripts
  • Professional resume
  • Letter of intent for the School of Nursing
  • Two academic or professional letters of recommendation

Wondering what nursing schools look for in applicants? These five qualities are a good place to start.

nurse kneeling smiling at child

Program Details

Hybrid ABSN ProgramOn-Ground ABSN Program
Timeframe16 months18 months
LocationParsippany, NJRutherford, NJ
CoursesOnlineOn Campus
Nursing LabsABSN Learning SiteOn Campus
Clinical RotationsAtlantic Health System and other leading healthcare providersAtlantic Health System and other leading healthcare providers
Start DatesJanuary, May, AugustMay

Because our On-Ground ABSN program has one start date a year, you’ll face more student competition with this option. The competition is less with the Hybrid ABSN program because it has three start dates each year. Not to mention, its online learning component allows us to enroll a higher number of students per start compared to the On-Ground program.

Note that we review student applications as they come in, rather than waiting for the submission deadline to pass. So, the sooner you submit your application, the better chance you’ll have of securing a spot in your preferred start date. Not to mention, we’ll be able to give you an admissions decision within a few weeks of applying.

Is an Online or Traditional Nursing Education Better for You?

If you’re stuck trying to decide between an online or traditional accelerated nursing education, it helps to think in terms of your learning style and study habits.

Nursing school requires you to absorb massive amounts of information in a relatively short time frame. So, consider how you best collect, organize, and retain information. The advantage of completing your fundamental coursework online is that all content is organized in one location and can be accessed 24/7.

If you’re the type of student who needs a lot of structure and face-to-face accountability when it comes to completing assignments, then a traditional nursing education might be the better option for you. Students who excel with online learning have good self-discipline and personal accountability.

nursing students studying with tablet

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Learn More About Nursing School at Felician

Still unsure about an online vs. traditional education for nursing school? Contact our admissions team today! One of our dedicated counselors will be able to answer all of your questions so that you can decide what course delivery option is best for you.