AIMS The purpose of the study was to describe Registered Nurses' experiences when taking a web-based course from either the workplace or home, and the impact of their learning on clinical practice. RATIONALE Little is known about the web-based learners' experience, particularly when courses are accessed from the nursing practice setting. Even less is known about whether nurses transfer their web-based learning to clinical practice. METHODS A qualitative design employing focus group interviews was used. Participants included hospital and community nurses from three Canadian provinces and one territory. Data were collected at three points over a 6-month period and analysed using a thematic analysis process. These findings emanate from a larger study using survey method and focus group interviews. RESULTS The focus group interviews captured the hurdles nurses faced during the first weeks when they struggled with technology, re-framed their views of teaching and adjusted to web-based learning from home and work. These first stressful weeks were followed by a period during which nurses developed relationships with the teacher and peers that enabled them to focus on learning and prevented attrition. Most nurses reported the web course was convenient and that they would be interested and comfortable using technology for learning and work purposes in the future. Six weeks after the course was completed, nurses articulated a number of ways the course had improved their practice. CONCLUSION Initial weeks in a web-based course can be very challenging for novice Internet users, however, most nurses who completed the course reported a positive learning experience. Nurses, employers and educators should evaluate computer skills, computer access and the learning environment when preparing for web-based learning.