Online Degrees – From the Comments

UPDATED: Since I transferred my website to a new host, I lost the comments. However, I preserved some of them in this posts

Wow! The response to my post about choosing between a Masters in Education or an MBA has been outstanding – check the comments out if you get a chance, there is a TON of great information from many very knowledgeable people.

Here’s the thing that’s striking me, and striking HARD:

Several people have mentioned the bias regarding online degrees and it’s just killing me. This came up in a discussion I had earlier this year with a college professor and I hoped that he was in the minority. It appears not. I want to share these comments with you and then get your opinion because I really hate to think that in this day and age online learning is still looked down upon. The only way to change it if it is? Learning about the misconceptions and FIXING the things that lead to them!

Here’s what John and Jon have to say:

John Tenny:

First this:

“on-line is not as good as a live program; not that what you learn would be any less, but in the network you will build by getting to know your peers in the program.”

and then this:

Re f2f versus on-line: it all depends on the goals of the degree. If it’s learning the information, then anywhere that has the info will work. Same with wanting credits for pay increases (by the way, in most states is the number of credits that raises the salary, not just the degree).

But if you are looking to both learn and advance your career, the importance of the network can’t be ignored. For instance, a large % of CEOs in the business world come from just 3 institutions. It’s more than just the old-girl-network, but being in a group that will become leaders and who know you, and your interests/talents exist.

In addition to that, the experience of interacting with a group of talented, dedicated, and energetic other professionals who are thinking through the same issues you are can really enlarge your thinking. I valued the discussions and arguments with peers in the program equally to the great classes I had in terms of new ideas and new knowledge. And now I know who to call if I have a question about some topic or other (that networking thing again).

Unless there are significant reasons to form a community that go beyond the course requirements to ‘comment on someone else’s blog’, the elearning community experience will not last. You can build friendships, but fewer and more tentative.

The world of education is rapidly transitioning from a ‘cells and bells’ model where the teacher was queen in her classroom to a collaborative and interdependent environment. While the larger community can include e-colleagues, the primary professional community will be f2f.

Besides, drinking a beer isn’t near as much fun alone.

That said, other circumstances can make one place-bound and you need to choose from the resources at hand.

Jon Becker adds:

Kate, given your update, I would add a bit to @John Tenney’s comment. In the P-12 world, human resources folks (and school boards who make the ultimate determinations in lots of cases) still look askew at online degrees. It’s probably a little different for ed. tech. positions, but not much. For lots of reasons (mostly not legitimate), there are all kinds of biases against distance learning and in favor of f-2-f learning. There will be lots of folks who will look at your CV/resume and think, “OH, she took the easy way out…”

That might change in a few years, and I hope it does. And, you might find a forward-thinking, open-minded group of leaders willing to keep your CV/resume in the mix and interview you. But, you should know that there are those biases out there.

My location and family situation make it impossible to travel very far or move for a degree program – it’s just not going to happen. I really want to believe that an online program will prove as valuable as a face-to-face program, and in my mind, it will be. I work with an e-learning company and have found the platform amazing and robust, connecting people that would have never come together otherwise. Unfortunately, in this world, it’s not about MY perception, it’s about employers’ perceptions, isn’t it?

Help me out!

Thoughts on the comments above? Has this held true in your experience? If so, what can we do to improve the perception of online learning? Are there severe limitations that you’ve experienced?

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