The Classroom Experience (Chapter 12)
Though there are many similarities to earning a masters degree online and earning 1 on campus, there are some major differences. Once you reach the masters degree level of education you are primarily responsible for your education and your learning experiences. This is true of online, hybrid and on-campus degree programs. But if online education is a new experience for you, it can seem like a very heavy load. Below is a short breakdown of what to expect from an online masters degree program.
- What to Expect in the Online Classroom
Depending on your program, your school and your instructor, the online classroom experience can include a variety of elements. Some online course requirements are synchronous while others are asynchronous. Synchronous components, which require students to log in to the classroom at set times, include live lectures via webcam or chat sessions where all students are expected to participate and share their thoughts. Examples of asynchronous coursework include posting ideas and reflections to online bulletin boards, participating with classmates in a group project or submitting assignments and essays. Asynchronous programs do not require students to participate in live sessions at set times. Many of these asynchronous elements are used for on-campus courses as well.
- Interacting with Professors
At the masters degree level, communication and interaction with your professors on a regular basis is an important part of your experience and learning process. Your professors can act as resources and sounding boards for your ideas and your projects. They can also lead you to certain opportunities that you might not be aware of.
E-mail communication is so common these days that it is not surprising that most of your interactions with your professors will be through this mode. However, if your masters program has residency requirements or is a hybrid program, make sure that you introduce yourself to your professors and speak to them face-to-face. It will help them remember you when you e-mail back and forth. A less common, but still helpful, method of communication is video conference calling, via services such as Skype. Telephone calls work well, too.
Because some things can be lost in electronic communication, be sure to clarify with your professors if you have questions about assignments, instructions or comments. It is your responsibility to understand what is being asked of you and how you should go about doing it.
- Available Resources
Depending on your field of study and the format of the program you are enrolled in you will need to have different kinds of resources available to you. If you are enrolled in a hybrid program at a brick-and-mortar school, chances are that you will be able to use the school’s libraries. If your school does not have a physical library, it may have a virtual 1 through which you can access articles and research databases.
Your school should make available the software and hardware that you need to participate in your online program. Schools usually offer computers and programs at discounted costs, or for free, either through on-campus computer labs or through agreements with retailers to give student discounts. Many schools also provide online and on-campus tutorials so that you can learn how to use the software and technology associated with online education. Take the tutorials and pick up whatever software and hardware you need before your program begins. Being unfamiliar with how your online experience works will only hinder your ability to efficiently learn from and participate in your program.