Getting Your Master’s Degree in Education Online? Professors Weigh In With Their Advice

Here's some advice to those getting their online masters degree in education

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In recent years, online classes and degree programs have been gaining in popularity. They have gone from one or two classes at one or two campuses, to entire institutions of higher learning located online. One of the largest areas of growth has been in Education. For teachers with an undergraduate degree, an online masters degree in education can often mean a salary bump of thousands of dollars per year.

Over the past decade, many traditional programs have seen a drop in students and online programs have grown in popularity. We spoke with administrators and professors of education from across the country. We wanted to see just what the advantages and disadvantages of getting your master’s degree online are.

There are many advantages to getting an online masters degree in education

If you’re reading this article and considering getting your online masters degree in education, then you’ve likely thought about the advantages of taking online courses. But, the professors we spoke with shared their own experiences as well.

You can be ANYWHERE

For teachers wishing to earn a graduate degree with no college or university nearby, online education allows an opportunity that would not have been available otherwise. This has been a big part of why traditional schools have put more and more programs online.

Rick Meyer, a professor of education and chair of the Department of Language, Literacy, & Sociocultural Studies at the University of New Mexico’s Main Campus, says he sees this as a huge benefit; especially to New Mexico teachers working at rural reservations schools. Teachers around the country living and working in rural areas are able to continue their educations in ways that they would not otherwise have had the option.

Lori Norton-Meier, a professor of education at the {University of Louisville}, agrees with Dr. Meyer on this point and has seen it first hand in the online classes she has taught. She says, “What it’s done is open up more spaces to engage in graduate work”. This allows for more thoughtful, highly educated teachers working in schools across the country.

Classes fit into YOUR schedule

Not having to make it to campus at a specific time makes it possible for teachers to complete their classwork on nights and weekends when they have a little more free time. A flexible schedule also offers teachers with families the opportunity to be in class without having to figure out childcare.

Nita Schmidt, a professor in the education department at The University of Iowa, has seen the desire for a more flexible schedule first hand in her department. With some classes offered both online and on-campus, students have been requesting more online sections. This way, they are able to spend more time working with children in after-school and daycare programs that conflict with late afternoon or evening classes.

But, there are some disadvantages as well

Although there are some truly wonderful aspects of online learning, there are some downsides as well. Our experts gave us the advice to help you steer clear of online learning pitfalls.

Don’t let yourself be lulled into a false sense of security

One common misconception is that online programs are easier. While for some, that may be true, most accredited programs are actually more difficult! The lack of specific scheduled time to meet as a class means that students are required to be self-motivated and have good time management skills.

Online classes take time to complete

You will be able to complete your work whenever it works for you. But, not being in class doesn’t mean that the amount of time you’re expected to spend on classwork is diminished. Without a classroom environment, there are many more checks to make sure that you are completing your work successfully. There are often discussions, quizzes, tests, essays, and synchronous meeting times when you will be video chatting with your professor and other students taking the class.

You have no built-in support system

One of biggest things that’s lost without a classroom environment is the community that is created within a class. There isn’t a built-in support group that you’re seeing every week. Finding someone to ask questions if you’re confused about an assignment takes significantly more effort than in traditional class settings. You can’t just lean over to your neighbor and say, “Hey, did you get that?”.

“It’s the thing I’m worried about the most going into a new online class,” says Dr. Schmidt.”How am I going to create relationships with my students? How am I going to let them know that I know who they are and I care what they do?”

Synchronous sessions through live video calls/chats are one way that professors are creating a community for their students online.

Choosing whether to get your master’s in education online

Master’s in education programs look like they are here to stay and for many students, they are a welcome option.

Flexible schedules and the fact that you can be anywhere mean that graduate education is available to more people than ever before. The thing to remember is that online learning isn’t for everyone. Do your research before committing to a program. Be sure not only that you are able to do what it takes to complete the work, but that the program is reputable and rigorous to be taken seriously.