This post on the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) FlexPath program is sponsored by and crafted with Capella University; however, all opinions are my own.
At the beginning of last year Capella University launched a new learning format for their RN-to-BSN program they describe as self-paced called FlexPath. Being a self-starter that style of learning was very intriguing to me, but since I already had my BSN, it wasn’t really applicable to me. However, Capella has just announced their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) FlexPath program*! Capella’s MSN FlexPath program is the first of its kind. No other university offers an MSN with this type of groundbreaking learning format. Since I am interested in obtaining my MSN with a focus on Nursing Education, I really wanted to learn more about what obtaining a self-paced online degree would actually look like.
Capella allows anyone to try out this format with a FREE FlexPath trial course. So… I tried a course! I wrote this post so you could see my genuine thoughts as I checked out this new style of online learning. It’s important to me to be able to get an idea of what something like this would be like before taking the big plunge into an MSN program.
I am intrigued by FlexPath because my schedule fluctuates quite a bit, so committing to a normal college course timeline and pre-set due dates isn’t really an option for me at this point in my life. I have periods of time where I can get a lot done, but others where I am very busy and probably couldn’t meet the deadlines of a more traditional online format.
I haven’t taken a full online course since 2007 and my experience at previous institutions was less than awesome. The structure of the course made it difficult to find due dates, communications, and documents. Oh, 2007… I was probably waiting in line for the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to come out while I was looking at prices for Blu-ray discs to replace my DVD’s on my Blackberry, and missed a discussion post. Typical.
What is FlexPath?
For those of you who are not familiar with Capella’s FlexPath learning format, it is a different way to obtain your degree than the typical online experience. Here are the big benefits FlexPath offers that you won’t get in a more traditional online format.
- A new level of flexibility – With this 100% competency-based program, you can set your own deadlines and there are no discussion posts, so whether you finish a course in 2 weeks or 12, it is up to you. You dictate your pace (if you have more time and want to be more aggressive with your deadlines, or have a lot going on and need more time). Once you are done, you move on to the next course without waiting.
- Different cost structure – with FlexPath you pay per 12-week billing session, not per credit hour. And with the self-paced structure, you complete as many courses per session as you can, for one flat tuition fee** (which enables me to budget better) for that period of time. Therefore, the faster you progress, the more you save. For example, pace your MSN faster to graduate in 1 year at under $10,000. For a more moderate pace, finish in 2 years at under $19,500.
- Your experience matters – There’s nothing I appreciate more than when my existing knowledge is considered. I’m not completing unnecessary assignments that are not beneficial to my specific needs. Every nurse going into an MSN program brings different skills sets and experience to the table, and I like that my unique experience matters as I progress my education. It also means I’m not using my valuable time to do something I already know how to do.
- Different levels of support – In any online program, occasionally you have clarifying questions for the professor, but sometimes you just need some pointers, minor clarification, or technical help. I hated sending an email to my professor about something minor (but important) and waiting 4 days to get a response because they were so overloaded with similar messages and tasks. I like that there’s someone specifically for logistic help (FlexPath coach), someone for content assistance (FlexPath tutor), and then my professor. They also have additional resources like a writing center, career center, librarians, and so forth.
Exploring FlexPath Course Structure
This was set up much better than my previous courses. But that’s not terribly shocking since it’s been almost 10 years (gasp!) since I’ve taken one.
The trial course shows you what a real courseroom would look like. You’ve got navigation on the left side with links to your progress within the course, required assessments (essentially your major assignments), the syllabus, notifications, and tools. It looks like you spend most of your time under the assessments tab, which is where your assignment-specific information is located.
Here is a screenshot of the trial course home screen:
An unexpected surprise was the classroom’s ease of use and the intuitiveness of the online platform:
- When you click on links or buttons, it opens a new tab. I know that’s a small thing, but when you’re doing this a lot, it makes a big difference to have necessary pages or documents in their own tab.
- The scoring guide is really obvious. I can easily tell what is expected of me.
- The syllabus is part of the navigation. This means I can quickly access it and am incapable of losing it. (Score!)
- When I need to look up a resource from a journal or database, it’s within the dashboard. This subtle feature makes things substantially more convenient because I don’t have to log into another website to get what I need.
- You can chat online with a librarian during specific hours. Guys. I hate the phone… like, with a passion. The ability to do an online chat when I need help compiling resources (which I needed many times during my undergrad) is simply magnificent.
Setting Your Deadlines
We chatted a bit about setting deadlines, but I wanted to show what that actually looked like. Remember, you read your assessment and then you decide how long you think it will take you? Here’s what it looks like when you set your deadline:
Submitting a FlexPath Assessment
For each assessment, you are given an overview of the requirements and what success looks like. It reminds me of the prompt for a paper. How many of us have Googled our assignment just to get an idea of what the professor was talking about?
Writing a paper? Compiling APA resources? Discussing my knowledge? No 50 question timed exam over 400 pages of material? No test anxiety?
I think assessments are my new love language.
After you get your mind around what’s expected, you then set your target completion date. If you’ve got questions, there are links to connect with a facilitator, tutor, or instructor. No, not sending emails back and forth, thank gosh… my inbox is already fuller than the trashcan outside of an isolation room.
They also provide a scoring guide, which again, is really helpful. I’ve written some papers but not been aware of how I was actually going to be graded.
Want to Connect With Other Nurses?
Our non-Facebook community is just what you need.
I wrote my trial course assessment and uploaded it per the instructions. It stated that I would have facilitator feedback within 2 business days. I received my feedback and a grade about 2 business days later. There was an entire page-long written response to my assessment, followed by a grade… which was kind of cool to see, even though it was just a trial course.
What Everyone Cares About Most – How You’re Graded
Writing is my personal strength, not taking tests. I’m what you’d call a poor test-taker. I’m a terrified tester. Tumultuous test-taker. Turbulently tearing tests…. Okay I’ll stop now.
I’m bad at tests.
Even things I know beyond a shadow of a doubt… I doubt under pressure. (You pull out your calculator on your phone for 8+6 too? Great.) I would much rather leverage resources and synthesize my thoughts into an authentic assessment based off of my timeline versus taking an exam to demonstrate my knowledge. I think that’s a much more effective way to learn because I’m showing that I really have mastered a concept and haven’t simply memorized facts for a test. I’m leveraging my resources available to me to come up with an appropriate response… sound familiar? It reminds me of when I’m working at the bedside, utilizing what I have at my fingertips (policies, procedures, medication references, other member of the healthcare team, online databases, and quite a few more things) to deliver the best care possible to my patients.
Here’s a little more in-depth about how learning is assessed:
After really diving into the trial course, I feel like this is a step up from the regular online learning options out there in terms of personalization and accountability. So if you are motivated, focused and self-directed, this would be a great fit for you. However, if you need more structure, FlexPath may not be the best option. But don’t worry, Capella also offers the MSN in their more structured online format: GuidedPath, so you have options.
When I was fresh out of high school, this probably wouldn’t have been ideal for me because the transition from high school to college was a steep academic learning curve for me. But now, this learning format is ideal for my learning style.
My Final Thoughts on the Master of Science in Nursing FlexPath Option
I was pretty blown away at FlexPath after trying the trial course. I have been putting off getting my MSN because I simply haven’t had the time and was overwhelmed at the simple thought of the pre-set deadlines. However, after really jumping in and seeing what it would practically be like, I’m ready to take the plunge. I’ve actually decided to go ahead and begin my MSN with a focus in nursing education in the next coming months at Capella through the FlexPath format.
Try FlexPath For Free
If you would like to try out the FlexPath trial course at Capella for free like I did, click here.
Capella has both an RN-to-BSN FlexPath option and MSN FlexPath option.
If you’d rather do more of a traditional-style of online learning, there is always Capella University’s GuidePath option. This option includes due dates set by the instructor, discussions, and/or other assignments.
Also keep in mind that the BSN, MSN, and DNP degree programs at Capella University are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
Have you taken any FlexPath courses? What did you think?
* This offering is currently not approved for federal financial aid by the U.S. Department of Education (ED).
**Books, supplies, and other fees may apply.
See graduation rates, median student debt and other information at http://capellaresults.org/outcomes.asp
Leigh-Anne Fitzgerald says
I would love to read your feedback as you work through your MSN. I also have an interest in an MSN with Nursing Education focus, but I keep having to work and resign because of my husband’s military career, moving, and our 3 kids. It’s been a whirlwind, but the FlexPath may be a great option for me with the constant change in my life!
Kati Kleber says
Leigh-Anne, thank you for your family’s service to our country. Let me know if you’d like me to connect you with someone at Capella for an intro.
Sara Goodman says
I’m currently in Capella’s Flexpath RN-BSN program and I’m really loving it! I have been able to finish one class a week and while it’s been quite a bit of work, it hasn’t effected my work schedule and I’m on track to finish the entire program in 12 weeks! So excited that they’re offering the MSN option now! Thanks for the info! 🙂
Kati Kleber says
Wonderful! I’m elate to start my MSN that way. That’s encouraging to hear it hasn’t effected your work schedule and you’re kicking butt! Well done, Sara!
Tabitha Barrett says
Sara Goodman, how is it going? I’m thinking about starting the MSN flex path in July and would really appreciate an update.
How do you feel about the RN-BSN flexpath? I’m worried that obtaining an online BSN will limit my options for work and education in the future. (For example, would an ACNP program consider me, etc.)
Kati Kleber says
I think the important thing if you’re sure you’re going to grad school at some point is to just ensure they calculate a GPA for you upon graduation. Just kick butt in your BSN honestly. I think most of the people I know who went back for their BSN got it online. I truly can only think 1 ADN RN I know who didn’t do it online. In this day and age with people working full time, doing a traditional in-classroom BSN program isn’t something most people can do if they’re going back for their degree. I’m not an admissions person for graduate school, but I’ve never heard of a degree simply being online being a reason to not consider someone.
Do well in your BSN, be involved at work (in policy and procedure review, shared governance, get certified, be a mentor/preceptor/charge nurse, be in a professional organization), and do some volunteer work and you should do well getting into ACNP programs. And let me know if you want me to connect you with someone at Capella!
Hello! i’m enrolled to start my MSN in nursing education in December 2019. Could anyone reach out to me with some additional feedback. To stay on budget I am hoping to complete in a year, is this reasonable?
Kati Kleber says
Hi Michelle! How exciting! Completing it in a year is definitely reasonable. I am hoping to be done with mine in around the same timeframe, possibly a little over a year. I think it’s really important to make sure you’re really being diligent with your time management, consistently completing assessments to complete it within that 1 year mark. My family and I are making some time sacrifices to enable me to be more available to work on my MSN, knowing the more work I put into it now, the faster it’s done. It may feel slower in the beginning as you get into your own groove of completing assessments, but once you get into a research and writing routine, it feels like it’s a more fluid and efficient process. This is all my opinion, of course. Feel free to reach out to your FlexPath coach as well. They have been really valuable as I’ve progressed through the program with those big-picture questions.
Russell Hudson says
I have an ADN, and am interested in either the flex path RN-BSN or RN-MSN programs at Capella. Your podcast is awesome and helped me through nursing school and the first few months of employment in the SICU. I’m wondering what your experience has shown regarding how legitimate the Capella degree is once completed and for people using it to advance their career? I’m worried there is a catch with how quick cheap and easy it seems to be to obtain the degree.
Any insight is very much appreciated, thanks again!
Kati Kleber, MSN RN says
Hi Russell! I’ve had a great experience personally doing the BSN to MSN flexpath. I know many nurses who have done Capellas ADN to BSN and reported a good experience. From my personal experience, particularly with BSN completion, is that employers are not picky or judgmental of where the BSN was completed, simply that it was completed. Given that there are academic standards for holding accreditation, as long as the college is accredited, whatever school fits your needs the best is optimal IMHO. When hospitals report the number of BSN prepared RNs for things like Magnet, they don’t differentiate where the degree was from. Rather, whether or not they have it. For an experience ADN nurse, getting a BSN completion program done is going to be pretty smooth no matter where you go honestly. It’s adding a few more research and community classes/credit hours to your repertoire.
As far as MSN programs, I really did enjoy the Capella experience. I know other MSN-prepared nurses who graduated from Capella who work in traditional hospital systems and it helped them obtain management or educator level jobs that they wouldn’t be qualified for otherwise. Now, if you wanted to do something where you did an APRN MSN, Capella wouldn’t be where you go because they don’t offer that and it requires quite a few additional classes to be able to sit for those board exams. I’ve found that the direct care MSN-level positions (like NP, CNRA, midwife) are where employers express more preference over where the degree was obtained because. I’ve never personally experienced there being a “catch”. I honestly wouldn’t have obtained my MSN if it weren’t for that flexpath option due to the flexibility with the schedule since my kids were young and I needed to be able to change deadlines PRN. If had all the time and money in the world, I would have loved to physically go sit in a classroom at John Hopkins, or somewhere similar, but it just wasn’t feasible for my lifestyle and budget. I think these programs do a great job of making graduate level education a realistic option for so many who can’t drop everything to go get a degree from a top brick and mortar school.
I hope this helps in your decision making! Excited for whatever path you choose.