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New research examines online versus on-campus programs.

Comparing Classes

Study examines differences in online and on-campus master’s degree programs

How do online and on-campus educational experiences compare? Does one offer a better learning environment? Is one more stressful?

These are just some of the questions Assistant Professor Ronda Mintz-Binder hopes to answer in her research of online versus on-campus nursing master’s degree programs. The multiyear study received two grants from the Dallas-based education company Academic Partnerships LLC.

“Online students have very intense expectations to meet, as their classes are condensed from the traditional 15-week schedule to a five-week one,” Dr. Mintz-Binder explains. “We’re trying to understand what we can do to help them stay in the program once they have committed.”

For the first part of the study, the graduate students took an online survey focused mainly on their perceived stress and sense of belonging. A year later, Mintz-Binder followed up with the same group to gather additional information about how changes in their lives—like job status or family matters—may have affected their schooling.

Results indicate that stress and sense of belonging are inversely related: When stress is low, belonging is high. In addition, students who did not receive strong grades reported the most perceived stress, and scores were more consistent overall for the 15-week semester students.

“Throughout the country, nurses are being encouraged and supported, sometimes financially, by their employers to seek a graduate degree and expand their roles,” says Jennifer Gray, associate dean of the College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

“To get the best return on the investments of students, employers, and nursing programs, we must do everything we can to guarantee success,” she says. “Dr. Mintz-Binder’s research results will help with that endeavor.”