WGU Nursing Program- An Inside Look

Are you considering Western Governors University for your nursing degree? If so, here’s some of my insight into the inner workings of coursework at WGU. This is my insider advice on tackling each assessment area and how to navigate the road of their RN to BSN and BSN to MSN program/s which I completed myself. You can read more about my journey here. Course by course tips for the BSN are here and for the MSN are here.

A note on the gist of things at WGU: 

Learn to be flexible. Things change frequently with WGU- courses, course requirements, etc. During a single term I didn’t have any course changes but I know several students who have been enrolled for a few terms who have had changes throughout their enrollment which has caused frustration here and there. Just be prepared for it. Focus on ONE course at a time. Usually any changes are typically in your favor, they’ll adjust cut scores for assessments or they’ll do things like cut down hours on your practicum (I WISH this happened for me… I did 90 hours and they switched it afterwards to 45). Try to be patient and if any changes adversely affect your progress be sure to speak up for yourself, typically you are able to argue your right to continue just as you enrolled without the changes if you choose.

OA’s versus PA’s

OA’s are objective assessments, these are multiple choice tests that are pass fail based on cut score (which by the way equates to a “B” grade or competency level at a traditional school). You take these via a testing center or via a web cam in the comfort of your own home where you are actually proctored by real people. A little weird to get used to but once you work out the occasional kinks of the web cam this is great. The way the new software works you don’t even have to schedule your exams out ahead of time you can literally jump on any time you’d like and take the exam at will. Highly convenient.

PA’s are performance assessments, a nice way to say “papers or presentations”. These in my opinion are horrid. It ends up being a BIG long redundant paper (some 35+ pages for example) that cover a million areas on a rubric that demonstrate your knowledge and competency on that particular course. Each course has a completely different set of rubric requirements, some have power points associated, some like Biochem require you to make models & drawings, but in the end it’s essentially paper writing at it’s finest. I loathe PA’s which unfortunately make up 90% of the MSN program. (BSN is roughly 50/50 ish).

Which order to take the courses in

I tried to decipher each course when I started to see which I thought may be the best to take first, come up with my own schedule of completion, etc. I learned after speaking with my mentor the first time that while you can technically take the courses in any order you’d like there is a “typical” way of doing things and in the end I went along with this. No need to make waves if this was a good way of completing what I needed to do. Most mentors will suggest that you take Health Assessment and Care of the Older Adult first along with possibly Community and Population Health. (Course numbers will change but typically the course names do not, so learn both). This order was fine to get me into the groove of things.


My Personal Course Timeline:

I ended up taking each OA with about 2 days of prep time ending with the 3rd day testing. I outlined my schedule ahead of time to give myself 2 days of study on the material (granted I had small kiddos at home so a “full” day of study is relative). The 3rd day I spent the morning reviewing and cramming again and the afternoon taking the exam. For each OA my usual method of approach included skimming the Course of Study to find relevant points. Checking the course community gave me a lot of insight on what to study in fact many courses have their own “study guides” compiled by the course mentors that will really help you focus in on what is required for the OA. Outside of good documents like practice exams and notes that you can find in the course community you can see questions and answers from the mentors to other students which usually end up being your own questions. Browsing over these things in the community will give you a good vibe on how the OA is going to go.

UPDATE: Specific course communities apparently don’t exist anymore to my knowledge… I’m not sure why they did this?? Instead on the right hand side of your course of study there is now what’s called “course chatter” which serves a similar purpose but in my opinion is no where near as helpful. That said it is somewhat helpful if you can navigate around to find important documents and frequently asked questions. Do this before reading through your course of study, you can waste an awful lot of time if you actually go through the COS page by page, reading by reading, DON’T. Get the overall gist of things by surveying the course chatter first, also check out some of the online discussion boards especially Facebook, this will provide great insight as well and THEN you’ll know what to study.

PA’s were a little bit different story. I devoted one week to each PA, some went a little bit quicker, others a little longer but overall this was a good yard stick. I spent the first day pulling up the rubric and task instructions and outlining my paper. Then I would browse around the course of study to see where I could pull info for the paper that would meet the rubric requirements. Lastly, it was a matter of filling in each section of the rubric.

A guide to PA’s.

DO NOT. I repeat DO NOT over-do the PA’s!!! The task instructions can sometimes derail you into going overboard on what the task is actually requiring. At the end of the day you are being graded by the RUBRIC. Literally. Your course grader is given a copy of the rubric and your paper and that is ALL they grade from. So if you run off on a tangent in fluff that has nothing to do with a rubric requirement good for you but it will not really help your cause in the end. Keep It Simple. Answer the rubric questions/req’s and be done with it. By outlining your papers based on the rubric sections you set yourself up to stay on topic, to the point, and you make it 10x easier for your grader to grade.
That being said when it is time for a PA. Pull up Taskstream so you can see the task instructions and rubric right there in front of you. Outline your paper with your name and course information at the top and block out each line of the rubric A1—– A2c—– B—– C—– etc. Fill it in as you go. IF YOU need to reference the course of study materials to fill in the paper sections do it as you’re writing, do NOT go through and read a bazillion pages of text ahead of time, only scout out what you need to finish. Plenty of areas on rubrics and even whole PA’s are based on your opinion requiring no real text involvement. If anything the interwebs are your friend to find info concisely to include.

Powerpoints: If and when your course includes a power point, a random tip, you can use Google Drive to create a powerpoint without buying the software. You can also get Microsoft Office for free with your WGU student email (instructions to follow). Label each slide of the Power Point in accordance with the rubric, again makes it easier for your grader. KEEP it simple! No need to get all fancy and put pictures and 70 slides with fancy transitions and music to convey a simple requirement.

Taskstream Grading:
Not the quickest thing on the planet, thankfully they now show you the “queue” which they didn’t have when I was doing it, at least now you can guesstimate how many days of grading you’re in for although I’m not sure that helps you ha! Stalk away or just sign up for text notifications on your work.

Message Boards:
USE THEM! I used the RN to BSN Facebook page ALL the time to bounce ideas off of others and to help others. It is priceless insight that you’ll gain there.Utilize the search feature on the page to check previous posts about the same subject matter. No one here is going to give you answers to your tests… I mean c’mon people (and YES people really do get on there thinking they may get this info??wth?) but they will help you troubleshoot things and give you similar tips to those you’re reading here.

Pinterest:
I used some pinning to save important things I wanted to reference later, not a ton of info here but feel free to check out some of the things I compiled or start your own board to keep organized.

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