Registered nurses now have the opportunity to take interactive online courses to earn bachelor's degrees from Eastern Illinois University, thanks to a three-year, $623,000 federal grant.
"We're confident that this addition will meet the needs of our nurses so they can more easily go back to school," said Dianne Nelson, Ph.D., R.N., director of EIU's nursing program, which is beginning its second year. "This is going to allow us to offer so many more things and allow so many more students to get into the program."
In a twist on usual online courses, the EIU nursing classes will be interactive. Using a program called Elluminate, online students will use the Internet to see, hear and talk to faculty and students in the actual classroom.
"This is a way that we can provide the benefits of online learning while still having personal relationships with our students," Nelson said.
Lectures and related materials will be stored online for students to review at a later time. In addition, faculty members will be able to use the online technology to meet with students and other faculty via the Internet.
Students who don't have access to a computer and can demonstrate financial need may be provided a computer to use. Other first-year benefits include the expansion of the nursing program's electronic library holdings, as well as the addition of a part-time faculty member and more secretarial support.
The grant, from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Health Resources and Services Administration, will provide $173,534 to EIU in its first year. It is expected to award $250,373 and $199,369 in the following two years.
"Funding of the grant indicates strong support for the program in our area," Nelson said.
Nelson applied for the grant with the "instrumental" assistance of Bob Chesnut of EIU's Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.
"As the first new degree program at Eastern in many years, receipt of this grant after only a single year of operation represents a major accomplishment for Dr. Dianne Nelson and the program," said Blair Lord, EIU provost and vice president for academic affairs.
"The funds to be received over the next three years will allow us to move the program to the next level of achievement much faster than we previously had anticipated being able to do. This is a very significant step for the program and for Eastern."
EIU’s program, often termed an “RN to BSN completion program,” aims to help registered nurses improve clinical practice; gain expanded career opportunities, such as working as nurse managers; or move on to graduate school to become advanced practice nurses or educators in higher education.
EIU’s curriculum builds on the nurses’ existing knowledge base and experience, avoiding repetition.
"The inaugural year of the EIU nursing program was quite successful, and Director Nelson and her staff are exemplary," said Mary Anne Hanner, dean of the EIU College of Sciences. "We are excited that this grant will allow us to further enhance access to the program for nurse professionals and ensure that we have state-of-the-art technology to support the program."
Because the new format expands the number of students the nursing program can accommodate, applications are still being accepted for the fall semester.