I’ll be the first to admit it: I was skeptical of going to school online.
“It’s easier than on campus,” I’d hear.
“You get no interaction with other people,” they’d say.
After hearing many different opinions about pursing a degree online, doing research and putting my master’s degree off for many years – I had earned my B.A from Auburn University in 2006 and have been working at ESPN – I finally decided in 2011 to enroll in a Northeastern University master’s degree program that was offered completely online.
I chose Northeastern University because it is a top-ranked private university with a respectable academic reputation, and after attending both online and on-campus classes, I soon learned that a lot of what I was hearing about online learning was false, and that it was coming from people who had never taken an online course.
Here are three myths about online learning that I believe I busted.
Myth #1: “It’s Easier Than On-Campus”
Earning your master’s degree is not easy, and I don’t just mean how academically challenging the courses are. Not many people can afford to go to school full-time, and working while going to school at night is very demanding and time consuming. Part of the reason so many people put it off or never get it is because it is hard work, especially with work life and family life accounting for most of your time.
For me, working towards my degree online was the way to go. The flexibility in the online class schedule means that you’re assigned a week’s worth of work, and how you schedule your time to complete it is up to you. It’s not that the work is any less, or any easier, than taking a course on-campus. The curriculum is exactly the same. The only difference I felt was the much-appreciated opportunity to schedule time for school work around my work and family life. And not having to commute beyond my laptop.
Myth #2: “There’s No Interaction with my Classmates”
This statement turned out to be a complete myth for me. In a classroom setting, you could sit without responding unless called upon, but in an online setting, part of your grade is your regular responses to classmates every week in the online discussion board. I believe there is even more interaction with classmates each week because of this component.
My particular master’s degree program was unique among online courses because it did require all students to attend a one-week summer institute session in person on Northeastern’s Boston campus. This was not only a fun week, but also a week where I was able to put a face to my industry connections and friends that I first met and developed online. Even though I’ve graduated, I still talk, text and stay in touch with some of my fellow classmates. It felt great at graduation to walk across the stage together, earning our master’s degrees at the same time.
Myth #3: “It’s Less Time Commitment Than On-Campus”
I found the time commitment in online courses to be greater than on-campus courses. Although you do not have to attend a class at a certain time, you have the same assignments and deadlines to complete those assignments. Without needing to spend time commuting to campus, online learning can fill your day with more time to review the lectures, read the book(s) and articles, and participate in discussion board postings, so you could actually end up doing more work overall.
And just like with any class, the more time and effort you put into it, the better your grade will be.
Looking back after graduating this year, I am thankful for Northeastern’s online learning option for so many reasons. In the three years that I was earning my master’s degree, I got married, moved to a different state, and continued working for ESPN’s remote broadcast, which made my travel schedule very demanding at times. I would travel four days a week on-site for 15-18 weeks in a row and I would usually work 17+ hour days. Attending Northeastern online allowed me to adjust my schedule based on my work and personal life, which I greatly appreciated.
What are some online learning myths you’ve busted? Tell us in the comments.