I have just posted a page to this blog entitled Signal to Noise – How to cope with work, family, and being a (online) graduate student. The intent is that it will help current and future students be able to balance out the signal to noise ratio that comes with being a student online. I even encourage face-to-face students to at least read over it as I think there is beneficial information for them in it as well!
A few weeks ago I presented a paper by Jen Cardew (a fellow student a year ahead of me in the program) on how to successfully approach the program and the tools you need to succeed. As a part of my presentation I asked how many had ever taken an online class and only 2 out of 16 raised their hands. This was partly to be expected as the online portion of this program attracts non-traditional students who are in most cases returning to school to seek a higher level degree after a lapse in education. This means that these students are usually older and most likely already have a career of some sort if not a family as well. However, this also concerned me just a bit and this is why I have taken the time to put this document together (and will be adding to it soon as well).
While yes the program is mirrored as closely as possible to the on-campus masters program, being an online student is an entirely different ball game. You have to be able to approach it differently and be prepared for the amount of work it entails. This is NOT a blow off program and in many ways it actually comes across as more difficult than the on-campus program. Not because the material is any different, but because the amount of discussion that goes on and the amount of extra work required to fully participate in a always on going always open classroom. It takes a high level of maturity and responsibility to simply keep up with it all – not even counting what it takes to be a meaningful participant. Both of which are very important in an environment where every single interaction is time/date stamped and saved to be referred back to over and over again.
This is not to scare anyone off, simply to educate people on what it takes to do it successfully and to encourage people to take it very seriously. I think it’s about time online education starts to shed the stigma of be ‘second rate’ as compared to a face-to-face class. As a hybrid student (one who takes classes both online and on the campus the program is hosted at), I can speak to both the digital and analog classrooms. This puts me in a unique position that I hope I can utilize to the success of not only myself, but others as well. Hey, I’m an anthropologist (participant observation at it’s finest) – this is what I do!