Originally published on A Glimpse Into Eryn’s World – September 25, 2014
As I drove to work a couple of mornings ago, the radio station I listen to daily was discussing online degree programs with a listener who called in. The conversation started with the mother discussing how her daughter wanted to leave the college she was attending because there was too much partying, and she was having a hard time studying. Instead, she wanted to pursue her degree through an online program. The response that came over the airwaves felt like a punch in the gut. The DJ uttered the words, “Online degree programs are a joke and a waste of money.”
I’m a longtime listener of this particular station, and I immediately turned it off. I was offended. Angry. Disgusted. Annoyed. I pretty much went through every kind of emotion, and it takes quite a bit to offend me. But this hit a nerve. I took this personally.
Why, you may ask?
I chose an online graduate program for my Master’s Degree. And for me, it was the best decision I had ever made.
As a freshman in college, I knew I wanted to go to graduate school. I planned to finish my undergraduate degree, take a year off and start my journalism career, and then begin a Master’s program in the field of Journalism. That didn’t really go as planned.
Fast forward to 2009.
After learning that print journalism may not be the best career choice, or one that would be around for much longer, it was time to look at my options. What could I do for a career that could incorporate my love for writing and creativity into a job that would be useful?
I landed on Marketing. A major that would open me to up to numerous career choices, companies and industries. I knew I couldn’t afford to attend a school in Boston like Emerson (my dream school). I also knew commuting all the time for classes wasn’t going to feasible and I would be likely to call my program quits if that was my only option. I needed to work AND focus on school. As I searched, I discovered Southern New Hampshire University. They were close enough that I could get to campus if I needed too, but my classes would be solely online.
Exactly what I was looking for.
Why did I choose to go with an online graduate school when I was only 40 minutes outside of Boston, a city that has some of the top colleges and universities in the country?
I didn’t want to live by a schedule, other than my work schedule. I didn’t want to have to commute. I didn’t want the hassle of a classroom setting again. I wanted to be able to get up in the morning, log in to my courses, and begin my schoolwork for the week, from the comfort of my home, during my lunch break, or from a local coffee shop.
Graduate school is expensive. And since I was paying for it on my own, I didn’t want to go someplace where I wouldn’t be able to pay my loans back. I wanted a good ROI (check out that Marketing term!). Southern New Hampshire University fit that bill (no pun intended).
As many of you know, and have experienced, a lot of your undergraduate coursework is filled with classes you just don’t care about with information that you’re just not ever going to worry about again. At least until you get deep into your major’s classes.
I wanted a graduate school experience where I was in charge of my own learning. I wanted a school where my classes weren’t just about teaching the material, but rather applying it to real situations. Much of my coursework involved creating Marketing Plans for Mock Companies, Social Media Platforms, Contracts and so forth. I even had the opportunity to create my own company and all of the marketing that would be involved.
These exercises not only prepared me for a future career, it assisted me with my own goals of creating and running a business. Much of what I learned during my classes, I was able to apply to my career. Not internships. CAREERS. Yep, I was creating marketing plans before I even had my Master’s degree completed.
Going to school online taught me a lot about time management and discipline, even more so than my undergrad. It prepared me for ‘adulthood’ and managing a work/life balance. I had to make time for my classes and make sure I was checking in throughout the week. No one was going to make me do it. No one was going to check in with me. It was all on my shoulders. If I didn’t do it, the only one who would suffer would be me.
If I wasn’t going to be around for the weekend, I made sure to get all of my work done with plenty of time. My posts in the forums happened at the beginning of the week instead of spread throughout the week. If I didn’t feel like studying on a particular day, I didn’t have too. Purely because I didn’t have to be at class the next day. But time management was key, and planning ahead.
Learning On My Terms
You’re probably reading this thinking “Yeah, well you can get that even at a school with in person classes.” Yep. You can. The difference? In person classes usually run a few times per week, depending on the school and major of course. My online classes began on Sundays and ran through Saturdays. Each week was a new module, or theme, and we had readings and assignments for the whole week. Discussions? Oh, we had them, thanks to the use of discussion boards. And let me tell you, they were some of the most intense discussions I’ve ever been involved in.
“But that’s not very personal. You don’t get a feel for your professor, your classroom and/or your classmates.”
Sure you do. Each of my professors had their own teaching style, even online, and you learned your classmates nuances, even over the computer. Believe it or not, I still keep in touch with friends from my courses, who were all over the country and world.
I was responsible for every bit of knowledge I acquired. If I didn’t do the readings, or the discussions, I wasn’t going to succeed. Just like if you were attending in-person classes. You go to class, listen to the lectures, take notes, do the readings and assignments, and then go back to class. The difference for me was that my classroom was wherever I wanted it to be.
In fact, here is a video I had to create for one of my online classes my final year of graduate school. I was asked to use it as a tool to recruit other potential online students as well.
Still not convinced about online programs?
That’s fine. This post wasn’t meant to convince you. It was simply to show you why it was the best option for me. And for all those online-program haters out there? It’s not a joke. I have a Master’s Degree in Marketing with a Social Media Marketing Graduate Certificate. I have a fantastic career where I utilize my knowledge daily.
And Southern New Hampshire University?
Yep, they’re getting coverage all over the country now for their cutting edge and affordable online programs. The amount of people I’ve met in recent years who have told me they did their program online at SNHU is amazing.
Do I wish I had been able to go to a large school in Boston for my Masters? Of course. And I easily could have.
Do I regret choosing an online program? Absolutely not. At the time, it was what was best for me. And I am now a huge supporter and encourager of online programs.