Can You Really Get a Nursing Degree Online?


Can you really get a nursing degree online? The short answer is an emphatic yes! It is possible to get a nursing degree online. You can earn a variety of nursing degrees online from Ohio State, ranging from a Bachelor of Science in Nursing to a Doctor of Nursing Practice. 

Technology is changing and challenging what universities can do when it comes to higher education. Thanks to these advances, it is now entirely possible to attend nursing school online. At this point, you might be asking, “How?” Read on to learn more about how the expert faculty at the College of Nursing teach online nursing programs and reach out to us for more information about these nationally ranked programs.

The Ohio State University College of Nursing is a top nursing school, home to some of the best online degrees in the country. In 2023, Ohio State's graduate online nursing programs were named among the best online nursing degrees by U.S. News & World  Reportwith the Master of Science in Nursing ranked No. 2 in the nation. The online RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing was also ranked among the top 10 programs nationally.

Learn more about Ohio State's online program rankings


We sat down with Alice Teall, an Instructor of Clinical Practice in the Master of Science in Nursing (Family Nurse Practitioner specialty), to learn more about what it's really like to attend nursing school online

She broke down our question into four parts:


How do instructors teach online students to practice nursing?

There are many misconceptions when it comes to online learning. One of those misconceptions is that online learning is an isolating experience. Teall counters that by developing an online community in her courses where her students can actively learn together. 

Students are separated into small groups at the start of the semester. Throughout the course, the groups collaborate together online, using CarmenZoom, to complete case studies and prepare for exams. Students can analyze and discuss nursing case studies together using discussion boards on CarmenCanvas, as well.

Another popular teaching tool is called a branching activityIn these modules, nursing faculty create realistic scenarios and ask students to choose an option that represents the best action for the nurse to take. Their choice either leads them to a correct answer, sends them back to make another choice if the answer is incorrect or, in some cases, takes them further along in the simulation to an outcome they really don’t want.

Teall also demonstrates skills via webcam and encourages students to practice on a friend or family member, while she supervises. With the rise of telehealth, the ability to utilize technology as part of patient care is critical for nurses.


A nursing student completes a branching activity for his online nursing program on CarmenCanvas.


Do online nursing students need to come to campus?

No, online nursing students do not need to come to campus. The College of Nursing offers distance learning degree programs at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels, as well as undergraduate and graduate certificates. The vast majority of these online nursing degrees and certificates will not require any visits to campus. The handful that do, only require one or two visits throughout the whole curriculum, and students are provided these dates far in advance to help them plan. 

Of course, all students are invited to campus for orientation at the start of your educational journey and for graduation at the end.  


How do online nursing students get the clinical experiences that they need?

Online nursing clinicals are not an option – yet. 

While the majority of instruction in online nursing degrees can be completed online, some (but not all) programs require a clinical component. The clinical component is a requirement for nurses to gain experience in person and in the field. Programs that do not require clinical components build off students’ existing clinical knowledge and work experience. 

The College of Nursing’s placement office helps the students get connected to a clinic near them for placement. Each student needs to complete 675 hours with other providers to gain hands-on experience in patient care. 


How do instructors evaluate students' nursing skills?

Teall explains that students in online nursing programs are evaluated with Objective Structured Clinical Exams (OSCE), just like students in on-campus nursing programs. Beginning OSCEs will usually involve having a friend or family member simulate the condition. Teall and other nursing faculty watch and record using CarmenZoom, so the student can review themselves after the exam. As the student progresses through their online nursing program, they will be evaluated using a telehealth station provided by Optimized Care Network.

The telehealth station allows the examination to happen in real time. A ‘patient’ presents in front of the station in the on-campus lab, while the student virtually assesses and speaks with the patient from home. There is even a nurse at the telehealth visit that the student can guide. Teall logs in to a separate remote station where she can watch and record the student evaluation. In this video below, the patient is pregnant, and the student is performing a prenatal examination. 


“In my 8 years as a clinical instructor in the online Master of Science in Nursing program, I have been amazed at all the things technology has allowed us to do in an online classroom, Teall said.

Ready to learn more? Explore online nursing programs at Ohio State.

Last modified: 
October 27, 2023