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College of Health Sciences Bringing Online Learning to More Students

Photo of graduation cap that reads "RN BSN"
A 2017 graduate from Boise State’s RN to BSN program.

Boise State University strives to bring accessible, quality education through online courses to students regardless of where they may be physically located. The College of Health Sciences is working to bring their programs to rural learners across the state and across the country where communities are in desperate need of health care professionals.

Janel Barta from Shepherd, Montana, is one such student. Barta graduated from Boise State in December with a Bachelor of Science in nursing from the online RN-BS program. The RN-BS program is aimed at working, registered nurses without a college degree. The first time Barta stepped foot on campus was for her commencement ceremony. Many Idaho students say they’ve had similar experiences.

“My online experience has been great. I work full time and have three kids so online was pretty much the way to go for me,” said Barta. “The instructors have all been awesome to work with as well as my advisors. It has been a really really good experience.”

Barta is a clinic nurse manager and plans to get a master’s degree to be a nurse practitioner. More than 1,000 students have graduated from Boise State’s RN-BS program.

The School of Social Work in the College of Health Sciences is another program growing rapidly to meet the needs of students and communities.

Approximately 300 students are enrolled in the online master of social work program this semester, a 30 percent increase from the previous semester. Jennifer Obenshain, the master of social work online program coordinator, attributes part of that increase to the program’s ability to reach students where they live.

“Many potential students in Idaho and across the nation have voiced that because of our program they are able to pursue their graduate degree in social work. These students would not have traditionally looked into a graduate degree either because they could not afford to relocate to another community to attend graduate school or they could not afford to attend a full-time traditional program,” said Obenshain. “Because our program allows students to stay and work in their own communities while they complete their degree, we are reaching a wider range of students who can then help to meet the growing need for mental health professionals both in Idaho and across the nation.”

During the fall 2017 semester the program had active students from 41 states across the country.

The college currently has online programs in nursing, radiologic sciences, social work and respiratory care serving more than 1,000 students. But the college’s leaders don’t intend to stop there. Two new online programs, a B.A. in public health, and an M.S. in respiratory care, will begin in fall 2018 and the College of Health Sciences will establish the first fully online master’s in genetics counseling program in the United States beginning in fall 2019.

“Our online programs are accessible, affordable and provide a quality education,” said Tim Dunnagan, dean of the College of Health Sciences. “Our faculty and staff are incredibly dedicated to creating these programs to meet the needs of students and to address the healthcare of the state and beyond.”