In nearing the end of grad school (less than 5 weeks left!!), I’ve gotten a lot of questions about my experience, like, knowing what I know now who I choose to do it again? and my opinion of online platforms over the traditional classroom setting.
There’s a lot of different ways to answer these questions and, tbh, my response could change from one day to the next depending on how certain parts of the class are going (i.e., group work, group members, discussion with groups…), really, anything with other people tends to put me on edge – OOPS.
(literally the truest meme of all time)
So, we’ll start with the easy answer: yes, I would do it again. I love the flexibility that attending an online program provides, especially as a working individual. Traditional classrooms are great for one-on-one conversations, but some people (like myself) actually thrive in the online environment because they (we) have more time to complete a formulaic response, rather than providing one-off remarks. So for me, the online program was a great addition to my education tool-belt.
I would, however, be weary about the kind of program individuals are getting themselves into when choosing to online study. With that said, I did A LOT of research before applying for Hawaii Pacific University. I searched up and down for accreditation information, reviews, and types of degrees to ensure I wasn’t throwing my money away, which can sometimes happen with online programs that aren’t reputable. I ensured that the program was WASC accredited (something I personally wanted in a degree), that is was comparable to what was being taught on campus (both in deadlines and content), and that the platform was dependable for online use. Luckily, the program I chose met all of my criterion and BlackBoard was the platform of choice – one I had used while an undergrad at California State University, Stanislaus.
Also, the courses I was taking online where the exact classes being taught on campus, meaning I had to keep up with all the students who were physically in the classroom. This kept me on track and accountable. Other online programs give you requirements at the beginning of the semester and virtually say “get all of this done by the end of the semester and we’ll call it good.” That scenario had too much leeway for me to get distracted and not complete work – especially with Addie being all cute and growing up over here and what not.
In fact, most of the students in my online classes chose to take the computer-based course solely because it fit better with their schedules, not because they were located off-island. So, in all reality, they were on the beach sipping Mai Tais or something while I was over here changing diapers and drinking… coffee! This also meant that I was many times the only person in class who wasn’t on “Hawaii Time” (i.e., Hawaii Standard Time), so I was always three hours ahead of those in my classes and had a perceived bit of extra time to complete assignments!
As for the class platform, HPU (like most accredited universities), uses BlackBoard like I mentioned above. Since I’d already used this tool, I easily was able to communicate and turn in assignments online. It’s actually really user-friendly and I never had problems with services being down, so two thumbs-up for that! I would definitely recommend choosing a program that uses BlackBoard because of this reliability.
Finally, the content of program was a JOY. Now, this is where feelings about graduate programs will differ for everybody, but my advice is that if you don’t love it – don’t do it! Before deciding to complete my Master’s degree at HPU, I had applied to and enrolled at Arizona State University. The school is great, the program offerings are enormous, and I was really happy with the format of the classes, but unfortunately the program I was in just wasn’t tickling my fancy. I decided early on that it wasn’t for me and I want to say dis-enrolling and finding a different, more Emily-suited program was the best decision I have made for myself in a long time. I was embarrassed at first because it felt like I had failed because I was pulling out of the program, but looking back I see that this was a FABULOUS decision. Higher education is such an investment and there is really no reason to pursue something that you’re not INVESTED in!
So, any who, back to my current program: I have thoroughly enjoyed my area of study. Organizational Change and Development is a passion and pairs so nicely with my undergraduate degree in Communication Studies: Organizational Communication. I have had no qualms with 90% of the assignments and expectations of my program. The remaining 10% comes in when, you guessed it, I’m expected to complete GROUP WORK (cue dramatic, yet woeful music).
Now, I don’t think I’m the only person to say that working in a group to write a paper or complete a research project is LIKE THE WORST… but it’s even WORSE than WORSE when people are entitled, very obviously think they’re the smartest person in the (digital) room, and insist on doing things their way EVERY STEP OF THE WAY.
But, hey, even thought I didn’t LOVE working with *more than my fair share* of ridiculous individuals in the Master’s program, it was a true representation of working with people in real life, right? I mean, you’re going to find those people everywhere – and you HAVE to learn to work with them. Either that, or you let them under your skin and you literally LOSE IT on a daily basis.
That’s no fun.
That’s how you end up in jail.
From throwing a sharpened pencil in someone’s eye.
While it was open.
So, as I sit here having just submitted my Capstone Project that marks the *almost* end of my two year-long program, I’m excited to say I’m almost a MASTER! And since I haven’t publically presented my research yet, I will share the title here: Quality Relationships in the Workplace: A Determinant of Climate?
And… in case you couldn’t guess, it is!
Quality relationships are SO IMPORTANT and are something I’m immensely passionate about. Now I’m not talking about being BFFs with everyone and kumbaya-ing around the water cooler. I’m referencing the ways in which leaders engage and manage staff to create a safe, structured, and productive work environment. In turn, this creates a positive organizational climate and more effective work groups! For more – read my paper 🙂
So… if you have other graduate school questions, let me know! I’m definitely not an expert, but I’ve been through it so I can, at the very least, point you in the right direction!