Earning an online master’s degree is a flexible option for most returning students. However, similar to an athlete in training, as an online master’s degree student, you’ll get out of the program only what you put into it. Are you limber enough to compete? To take advantage of versatile learning, you must be a self-starter who is willing to set aside adequate time for coursework. While an online program presents many opportunities for continuing education, it doesn’t come without challenges. Consider these three aspects of flexible online learning and how they’ll impact your education.
Technology for online education has come a long way. With The Sloan Consortium and other organizations dedicated to innovation and emerging technologies, the future of online learning will only get brighter.
Pros: Online learning is for everyone. New technology has made it even easier for students from every generation to connect and learn. You don’t have to be a computer whiz to get started. Boston University (BU), for example, suggests that online students have, “[…] basic computer skills, such as the ability to send e-mail, navigate the Internet, and install software.” Most online programs, like BU, also offer training on the required technology.
Cons: You must own a relatively new or stable computer. If your computer or Internet connection is unreliable, you may miss out on important information that’s necessary to complete assignments in a timely fashion. Additionally, you’ll likely need a laptop to maximize scheduling flexibility and learn on-the-go.
Instructor feedback is an integral part of the learning experience. Students can still obtain personalized instruction and advice in an online learning environment. In some cases, feedback is even easier to obtain online.
Pros: You can send an inquiry via email at a time that’s convenient for you without working around office hours or scheduling an appointment. You’ll also have the opportunity to participate in online discussions with other students. In this way, the virtual classroom becomes a community where you can reach out to other students if you have a question.
Cons: You must have strong written communication skills since it is the primary mode of communication. You must be comfortable accepting advice and critique without the nuances of face-to-face interaction.
Online learning allows freedom of location. According to the National Center for Education, 6.1 million American students are already taking control of when and where they learn. Individuals with families and employment are excellent candidates for online education.
Pros: Schools, such as George Washington University, market their online learning programs directly to working professionals and even students studying abroad. Programs and courses are specifically designed for learning at a time and place that is convenient for you.
Cons: This does not necessarily mean a light course load. Students are still expected to complete work on time and to log on for required virtual lectures.
To fully take advantage of flexible, online learning, you must have excellent time management skills.
Time Management Tips: To maximize your education, know your schedule in advance and map out the days and times you can set aside for learning. Do your best to arrange childcare or time off work during study and exam periods. Finally, never log on at the last minute. Be sure to receive all your assignments as soon as they are posted so you leave adequate time for questions.