This post is part of a sponsored series recounting the incredible experience I had with Capella University’s MSN program in the FlexPath learning format as a sponsored student. Join me as I take you through my MSN journey, which commenced in 2017 and concluded 17 months later — just seven days before the arrival of my son. Together, we’ll explore my FlexPath experience and how it empowered me to achieve my educational goals amidst the beautiful chaos of life. If you want to check out all of the blog posts from my journey, click here [link coming soon]. Let’s dive in! 🌟📚
Table of Contents
Capella FlexPath assessments are meant to demonstrate competency-based learning. I’m excited about the competency-based education program that FlexPath at Capella University offers.
When I was in my third course and working on my fifth assessment, I was tasked to create a 12–20 slide PowerPoint presentation for teaching a legal or ethical issue pertinent to nurse educators. I really liked how FlexPath’s assessments were more practical applications of what I was learning – not tests! This was one of the major benefits of having a competency-based education course: no busy work and no cramming.
Here is a look at what my course competency map looked like at the time I was working on this assessment. This map helped me understand how I was making progress and how I had been evaluated on certain competencies up to that point in time.
My Process for Completing FlexPath MSN Assessments
If you’re considering pursuing an MSN degree, you might have questions about how I fit an online MSN program into my life. So I’ll go over that a little bit more.
Basically, I broke up each assessment into manageable chunks and scheduled myself to do one per day and give myself the weekends off. Since the assessments were mostly writing, presentations, and research, it was fairly easy to plan the time required to complete them. The FlexPath format let me set my own deadlines, so I could manage my schoolwork in the way that it worked for me.
Let’s walk through how I systematically worked through each assessment.
First, I read through the entire assessment to fully understand what was expected of me. I found that I needed to read through it a few times to ensure I didn’t miss anything. (For one assessment, I missed an expectation entirely because I read it too fast!)
The assessments are thorough, but you also have a page limit because your writing should be succinct yet powerful – an important hallmark of high-level writing.
Prepare My Outline
In my early college years, I could just jump in and start writing with whatever my first instincts were on the topic. Not now! I would always open the scoring criteria for the assessment and copy the requirements into an outline. This ensured I met them and didn’t forget anything.
Occasionally, there were also points to consider that were included in the assessment, so if necessary, I would copy those into my outline as well so I didn’t miss them because they were quite important. I also listed out my required and suggested resources with links so they were all in one document, which prevented me from jumping back and forth.
Note: The suggested and required resources are not the only ones I needed! Every assessment required me to find additional scholarly resources to support my claims and assertions.
Collect Additional Resources
You may be thinking, “Kati, just start writing!” as you’re reading this. But let me warn you, because I made this mistake with my second assessment. The assessment required me to propose a solution for a problem in a nursing unit and I just felt like I knew what the right answer would be. I started writing immediately and searched for some resources to support my claim. They were difficult to find and were not high quality, but they supported my pre-existing belief, so I went with it.
Well, there’s a word for that: Confirmation bias.
Confirmation bias is the tendency to favor and interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses. It’s really hard to back yourself out of an argument once you find any support for it.
Capella FlexPath Assessments: Prep
The appropriate way to come up with a solution to a problem is to first review the literature and allow this to guide your decision-making. If you assume you know what is right and only look for evidence to support your claim, you could be missing an entire high-quality body of evidence that refutes your preexisting belief or assumption. Confirmation bias can hinder objective reasoning, critical thinking, and the ability to consider alternative perspectives, ultimately influencing decision-making processes.
I subconsciously did this with that assessment, and the feedback from my professor was really helpful and prevented me from making that mistake again. Now, when I get my assessment, I review the literature on the topic as a whole and allow that to guide my proposals, ideas, and writing.
Once I found high-quality, reputable sources (my first course taught me how to do that), I made sure to cite them correctly for both in-text citations and the reference page. I wrote the citations on a draft list of references so I could quickly copy and paste into the document as I referred to them. The last thing I want when I sit down to start writing is for my flow to get interrupted for me to look up the correct in-text citation for a textbook with three authors.
Finally, I brainstormed the main points in a bulleted list for each section of the paper. When I was in the brainstorming process, I didn’t fuss over writing everything perfectly. I tried to write out in plain language what I am thinking so that when I actually wrote the paper, I had points to translate rather than trying to come up with them AND write them well on the first attempt. While all of this required more work upfront, it made the more challenging aspect (writing a high-impact concise paper) less disjointed because every piece of that puzzle is already sitting on the table – I just needed to put it together.
Writing the Assessment Content
Now that I had my expectations, main points, resources, and citations all ready to go – it was time to write! I tended to schedule this part of the process out into smaller sections. When I am sitting down with the goal of producing high-quality content, I consider that deep work. This means it takes a lot of concentration and mental energy. Naturally, this level of focus cannot be maintained for extended periods of time, so I would do 1-2 sections of the outline in one sitting at a time. Then, I would re-read the entire assessment in a separate sitting to make final corrections before submitting it.
Submitting My FlexPath Assessment
When I worked through the assessments as I’ve outlined above, I tended to do well on them. I would receive very specific feedback from my professors in a timely manner and allowed their comments to guide my updates for resubmission, if necessary.
I cannot tell you how valuable the professor’s feedback was. In prior college courses, I would get a short note here or there but no chance to actually try it again. FlexPath provides you with three attempts for each assessment, and with each submission, the professor will be specific with information on how you can improve. When you successfully improve those points, seeing that reflected on the updated feedback feels outstanding and is clear evidence of learning. The way these courses are structured improved my writing skills immensely.
Maximizing My Time
Like nursing, it’s a lot easier for me to get smaller things done as I weave it into my other tasks rather than trying to sit down and get hours of uninterrupted time. (Plus, uninterrupted time is not realistic with a kid, job, and family!) This mentality reminds me of documenting at work. Rarely do I get 30-45 uninterrupted minutes to comprehensively document on all of my patients, so I weave it into my existing obligations. Not only do I get more done, I find that it’s a better quality because I’m giving myself frequent mental breaks.
I wanted to be as efficient as possible with this program, which is why this routine became a sustainable practice. I tried to frontload each assessment by doing the foundational work to try to hit a home run on the first or second try, rather than submitting something subpar and hoping for the best — even so, I still used all three attempts each time. Ultimately, this enabled me to move forward faster, even though it could feel slow when the preparation takes quite a bit of time.
Closing Thoughts on Capella FlexPath Assessments
These assessments were definitely different from the standard college papers I completed during my BSN. They were more in-depth and required a higher level of writing and thought. They were also more dynamic and not limited to only papers. I had to create presentations, pamphlets, and more. Whatever the medium, the process of preparatory work and deep work remained the same.
It took me some time to fine-tune my process for completing assessments. I found that – for me – by using this approach, it took about an hour each day to move the needle forward meaningfully. This was a doable time commitment for me during that season of life as a working mom!
Thankfully, you can choose your deadlines with FlexPath so if I felt like I needed more time or if I felt like I could dedicate more time during a particular week, I could adjust those deadlines accordingly.
Finally, if you’d like to watch a video of my process and see my computer screens, click play below!