Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Would You If You Could? Online Master's Degree

How would you like to earn a master’s degree by never attending campus? What about professional development for teachers conducted online?'s article, “The Online Option,” declares a growing trend to earn credit through online work. The article cites the National Education Association (NEA), one of the largest teachers unions, with 3.2 million members, as a prime marketer of online professional development and education through its NEA Academy.

There’s even talk at SJC about offering a master’s degree in education technology entirely online. How do you feel about earning a master's degree in an online format? With the proliferation of online courses, webinars (e.g., PBS’s free webinars for teachers at PBS Teachers Live!), and improvements in technology for delivery of online instruction in interactive formats, do you think there's a strong audience for the option? Would you adopt this format for future courses or professional development? For more information, check the links in this post.

Also, check this recent article, Coming Soon to a Classroom Near You, about how schools in Florida on using videoconferencing for teacher professional developoment in an effort to spread "model classroom" practices. The concepts will give teachers a chance to watch model teachers in practice and then dialogue with them through videoconferencing. Do you think this method would also work well in a teacher preparatory undergraduate or graduate program?

Image: Saint Joseph College, Maine


Amy said...

I personally do not like the thought of online courses. In fact ironically, two of my courses had a discussion recently about blackboard and online discussions. Collectively we agreed that it is more meaningful to attend class then carry class discussion over the internet. This is not saying that all internet discussion is poor, it simply means that current teachers and future educators would prefer learning face to face or in a classroom.

I like how the article promotes the idea that teachers would read the content over the internet and then use the strategies within their classrooms. They would then come back to the site and express their outcome. They can also bounce ideas off each other and grab some beneficial feedback.

I favor group work and hands on learning. I also gain a better understanding of a concept learning through my peers. Questions and or comments that classmates offer, could in reality assist me to better comprehend the material.

Kim G said...

I have to agree with Amy. As tempting as it may be to "attend" class when it's convenient (online), I still prefer the face to face interaction with my professors and colleagues. Online discussions can be beneficial but they can also be overwhelming. Sometimes I feel stressed when I have to check a discussion board daily to make sure I am carrying on a discussion.

The article describes how online learners would read about the content and then applpy the strategies in their own classroom. After the classroom application, learners would then report out on successes and things to change. They would still receive feedback from their online colleagues and professor support.

I think that as an educatorit is still important to have the classroom experience. It can be a good reminder of how our students sometimes feel in our classrooms. Also, being able to have a face to face discussion with colleagues facilitated by a professor can trigger more questions about the content, personal experience and knowledge sharing as well as generate more targeted learning.

Jen said...

While I agree with both Amy and Kim, I offer another opinion on the topic. I have enjoyed face to face classes for the past 17 years of my life. However, this being my second year of grad school, I would have loved to do my masters online. Sometimes I feel that I go to classes just to learn what my teacher's want in our assignments. After a certain point in the semester, I feel my time is better spent working on these assignments at home rather than coming to class. This could be due to the fact that I don't live near St. Joseph College and some nights would love to do my class online. I think there would need to be a component about field observation so students could learn what an actual class environment is like.

My boyfriend is getting his masters online and it is very different than our classes. Each week he gets assignments that are due at the end of that week. He has all week to read and watch videos about the topic and then turn in his work by Sunday night. He has also had collaborative group work. Together with his group, he has created a business group and written a proposal. They meet online once a week through an online forum that allows them to chat and hear each other online. In this example, cooperative group work is still being done.

I really think there are pros and cons to each type of masters. It all depends on what stage you are in your life and what you want out of your program. I think it'd be great if St. Joe's offered it as an option.

Jess K said...

I have taken online courses and I find that depending on how they are presented, they can be great tools or your worst nightmare. However, overall I feel like you lose out on the experience of being in contact with others and sharing in the classroom.

Sometimes material can be misinterpreted or read away online to the point where the actual emotion isn't able to be conveyed. It is easier to just not read something if you choose to. How will it be monitored? Plus there is a motivational factor. I know when I am at home that is home time for me and I hate to take away from it for any other reason but family time, friends, my pets, dinner, or school work. Even though I am able to manage and set aside time, some people may not be able to.

However, after reading this blog. . .the idea of it for professional development would be a life saver! How great would it be to interactively attend a professional development seminar online instead of having to do it in school. However, I don't think I would be doing it on my own time at 9:30 at night like the article suggests. Professional development has usually been serviced or given during contract hours.

Plus, I can look online for just about anything. I look forward to professional development as an engaging tool to get me to think a little more outside of the box. . .no pun intended. :)

Caitlin said...

I have to agree with Amy and Kim. Online classes are great tools, but they lack that person to person connection that you can only get by attending class. This does not just apply to student/professor, but also to the community that is created by the students. Something is lost in online discussion, at least for me. I don't feel a connection to my fellow classmates in online discussions as I do with in-class discussion. I think part of that too is the time lapse between posting to a discussion board as part of an online class, I almost loose interest in the topic because days might pass between my own participation and that of others in the class. While I think that getting a Masters online is very convienent, I don't think that you can replace the personal connection that you get with classroom learning.

Amy R. said...

I have considered taking online courses. In fact, several of my peers are taking their continuing education units via online universities. They recommend these courses both for convenience and affordability. However, I am going to stick with the live classes for the time being. Because I am re-entering the university scene after having been at home with my own children for the past 13 years I appreciate the connections I am making with the other students.

However, I do believe that video conference capabilities and Skype technology will certainly change the way we all learn in the very near future. Reliable connectivity has made most technical difficulties a thing of the past. People of all ages in all corners of the globe can easily communicate with each other. Right now most people are using this capability to chat with friends and family. However, businesses are relying on teleconferencing to reduce the cost of travel. As people get more comfortable sitting in front of their computer screen we won't think twice about taking online courses. Many alternative learning schools rely on computer based learning.

Nothing can replace the interaction and relationships gained in the classroom environment, however there is a place for the virtual classroom as well!

Kate said...

I agree with Amy, Kim, and Caitlin in that there is a connection that is lost with online courses. Having the professor teach you and there for you if you have questions is an important component of the learning process. I think that taking online courses would compromise this component. It is more meaningful to have discussions in class with the professor than in an online discussion board or forum because text can be interpreted incorrectly and there is no emotion conveyed with the text. This is all lost with online discussions. I do agree with Amy in that the article does point out the importance of teachers integrating strategies learned on the internet and apply them in their classrooms and report back. This is a helpful model because teachers can give feedback and insight into what worked and what did not. However, I think that having a face to face discussion about what went right and what went wrong has a much bigger impact on people. People can observe body language, expression, emotion etc. After all over 70% of how humans communicate is through body language. Thus, taking the face to face contact away, compromises how much is really learned.

I do agree with Amy R. in that integrating technology is essential. Having access to technology and using it as a tool to learn broadens the overall learning experience. However, it cannot replace face to face discussions and interactions among people. More is gained from traditional courses. The answer possibly lies in the idea of compromise. Possibly having every other class be conducted online using video conferencing may be the answer. This way, there is more flexibility and convenience for people who are very busy, but yet time for class discussions to take place in a face to face setting. This idea might then make everyone happy.

Jess said...

I personally would rather have class in person than take online classes. My aunt works full time and has 2 children and is also taking grad classes online. She enjoys it and finds it easier than to have to drive to school and sit in class. I feel that online classes are mostly for those students who have the will power to do their work on their own time and can handle not being in the classroom setting.

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