With the School of Nursing and Health Studies’ Nursing @ Georgetown program, master’s nursing students learn the profession with experts from the Hilltop community from the comfort of their own homes.
The online program, which was instituted in March, gives working nurses the opportunity to obtain their master’s without leaving their clinical posts at 26 sites in 11 states across the country. The program has expanded dramatically since its inception, swelling from an original projected enrollment of 25 students in the spring to a total of 110 this fall.
For students, the program allows nurses to take classes via video chat and submit assignments over the internet, earning a Georgetown degree without the added cost of moving to the District.
Nurses like current student and Texas resident Melissa Pridemore continue to work at clinical sites near their homes while studying through the Georgetown program, gaining firsthand experience that mimics what they would learn on campus.
“It has been a wonderful program. This is the only way I could pursue a master’s degree with a job and family,” she said.
But the model is not without its drawbacks.
Stephanie Tsacoumis, the vice president of the Office of University Counsel, said that the program is working to foster better technology to serve its students’ needs.
“As in anything new there are some snags, but we’ve gotten good feedback from the students and faculty [regarding technology use],” Tsacoumis said.
“We were able to work out any of the issues that did arise,” Pridemore said, noting the flexibility of Georgetown’s online model in comparison to those used by other programs.
“When you really started looking at the other courses [at other universities], most of them were really correspondence-based [and less interactive],” she said.
Jeanne Matthews, the interim chair in the department of nursing, touts the program’s financial benefits for both the university and its students as the key to its dramatic success.
“Successful programs generally provide new revenue, and this new revenue contributes to a greater level of investment back into the program. Our economic model is a strong one since most of the costs associated with the program are variable costs.”
But Georgetown’s program is still more expensive than those run through other universities. The tuition rates for the degree are the same as those for on-campus students, $1,623 per credit hour. Students may also apply for and receive financial aid from the university.
“[Georgetown’s] program is more expensive than the other programs I looked at but for me, it was worth it for the quality of my education,” Pridemore said.
But according to Matthews, all the costs of tuition will go back into funding NHS programs.
“The vast majority of the revenue generated through tuition, like with all of our programs, is invested back into the program in order to provide both current and future students with the highest quality educational experience.”
Matthews said that Georgetown’s program is utilizing an advanced media platform developed by online education software company, 2tor. Other partners with 2tor are University of Southern California and University of North Carolina.
“There have not been any unforeseen drawbacks as we were thoughtful and deliberative in our planning process. We knew that there would be significant hurdles to clear with respect to state regulatory issues … in terms of being approved by a state to operate our program there. But that has moved along quite well,” she said.
According to Matthews, the program is currently approved to operate in 42 states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands.
Tsacoumis said that other departments in the university do not have currently have plans to implement similar online programs, but she hopes that Nursing @ Georgetown may someday extend overseas to serve students in developing countries who do not have access to high quality educational institutions.
For the present, she said the program is expanding to serve a practical need for aspiring nurses across the country.
“[The program is] an opportunity to extend the university’s mission,” she said. “We are serving a market of nurses who want to get graduate degrees from a high quality program and high quality institutions.”