I earned undergraduate degrees in 1993 and 1997, so a lot of time passed between earning those degrees and enrolling in a graduate program. After getting married, having kids, and finally finding the time for graduate work, I made the decision to complete an online program.
Following a lot of research, I decided to enroll in SJU, because its Master’s in Health Administration program offered everything I wanted: a master’s degree with emphasis on healthcare administration and informatics.
All of these remain important to me as I continue to pursue professional and academic achievements.
A Mental Challenge
Transitioning from on-campus environment to an online setting was a mental challenge. Fortunately, I had already worked for many years in the healthcare field and this experience was valuable in academia.
Online learning takes self-motivation, proper scheduling, and organization. As an undergrad, in order to succeed, you had to go to class (at a set time), take notes, read, and participate. Online learning is not much different except for the “going to class” part. YOU set your schedule, and – trust me – you need to spend time and make an effort to do this. The professors do not take attendance (except in the 1-hour collaborate sessions) and no one is on your case to complete your work. It’s entirely up to you. And while the professors are readily available if and when you need help (and are more than happy to help out), online studies require you to be independent.
The Technological Component
Of course, you need to have access to technology. A trustworthy computer, decent internet access, headphones with a microphone, and a video camera are all important. It is vital that you review the online tutorial prior to your first classes, which advise how to use Blackboard and all the features within it (including discussion boards, collaboration tools, and access to library resources). Make sure you obtain your textbooks prior to classes starting. I generally rented books, which was more cost effective for me. I know that some people prefer to purchase books and I would say that is a personal decision.
As you progress through the program, you will also meet and interact with a lot of the same people. I encourage you to interact with them as they can serve as another resource for you. Remember school is not just going to class, it’s about the experience – and while online classes are not classes where you can meet personally – you can still create virtual relationships.
If you lack ambition, self-control, or tend to procrastinate, you might find online coursework challenging. However, if you want to be able to make your own schedule, do your work when it is convenient for you, and experience learning in a new way, then earning an online master’s degree might be a perfect fit.