Mississippi College

MC to Offer On-line Nursing Program

December 5, 2007

Getting a Mississippi College nursing degree will soon get easier thanks to a new on-line program.

Starting in May 2008, MC will offer courses on the RN-BSN completion track. It should eliminate the need for nurses to leave their busy jobs on evenings and weekends to take classes on the Clinton campus.

"Nurses just can't take off work," said Mary Jean Padgett, the MC School of Nursing dean. "This makes it more accessible."

Mississippi College will offer a total of nine courses, starting with three classes during the summer of 2008, and a trio of classes each of the following two semesters to reach out to working nurses already holding an associate degree or a diploma. Making classes available on computer screens is a growing trend in nursing schools in Mississippi and around the nation. It's one way to address nursing staffing problems for hospitals, medical clinics and nursing homes from coast to coast.

"With the nursing shortage, nurses are unable to commit to traditional classroom instruction due to schedules that are frequently erratic in order to meet the demands of clinical needs," Padgett said. "In order to increase the number of professional nurses who have obtained baccalaureate level of education, we must be flexible and innovative in approaches to deliver quality nursing education."

Ricki Garrett of Clinton, leader of the 1,900-member Mississippi Nurses Association, said the trend to step up on-line nursing classes is serving a need. It extends from the University of Phoenix to Texas A&M University, from Drexel University and Vanderbilt to MC and others in Mississippi. The schools "are very successful with these offerings with the shortages of nurses and faculty," Garrett said Wednesday. "Programs like that try to encourage RNs to go back and get a BA degree. It is important to make it as accessible as possible."

The exact cost for the new batch of on-line classes at the Christian university has not been determined. Tuition may be the same or slightly lower for on-line classes. MC's School of Nursing presently enrolls 141 students. With on-line classes, those numbers should grow. The Academic Council on the Clinton campus recently gave its blessing for the School of Nursing to begin on-line instruction. Even though the college is moving in the on-line direction, MC nursing students "will do their prerequisites the normal way," and come to campus, said Padgett, a 1973 MC nursing graduate.

MC nursing will join other on-line classes such as the new higher education administration master's degree linked with the Kentucky-based Learning House, one of America's leaders in on-line education for private, largely faith-based colleges. Since 1999, Learning House headquartered in Louisville,Ky., has teamed with small colleges and organizations to build top-notch online programs by providing state-of-the art technology, training and a 24/7 Help Center.

Learning online doesn't figure to slow down in the early 21st Century. A Sloan Foundation report shows online education is booming. The Sloan Foundation survey of 1,000 colleges and universities shows a growth rate of 24.8 percent to exceed the 19.8 percent growth projected. An estimated 2.6 million U.S. college students were taking classes on-line in fall 2004.

MC vice president for academic affairs Ron Howard welcomes the new on-line nursing classes at the 181-year-old institution. "We are determined to have the best on-line program available," he said. "I am happy to say that our nursing faculty are thoroughly devoted to making it so. They care deeply about all their students and about meeting the nursing needs of our state and region."

PHOTO: Dr. Mary Jean Padgett

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