Getting your graduate degree online counts too

Many of my friends have told me about their online graduate programs and how convenient they were. I have to say, I am pretty jealous. Don’t get me wrong, I love being IN the classroom, but when considering my reality, it’s not always the most feasible option. I would love to be in a graduate program that is either fully or mostly online. So why didn’t I apply for one? Well, the answer plain and simple is that there aren’t many options for an English major! I’ve heard several reasons as to why there aren’t many online English MA programs, but to be honest, none of the reasons seems legitimate to me. Here’s what I’ve been told and my response:

We need to have discussions about the texts. We can do that online! One of my close friends just completed her MA in linguistics and while it was an online program, the students met virtually in a synchronous setting via a video chat platform. We can still have discussions through distance learning, even in English language and literature. We can all meet online at the convenience of the professor’s schedule and have a full discussion just as we would in a classroom setting.

There is no teaching experience. Yes, there is! If universities can offer online K-12 credential programs with teaching experience, so can MA programs. And, even if a graduate student was only given an online experience, that would still be incredibly beneficial when it came to learning how to teach online – the mode in which more classrooms are heading. Teaching experience can be gained in many forms: leading class discussions, organizing a lesson plan, and/or becoming an intern at a local college or university. This experience is not out of reach simply because the program is online.

Students are more likely to cheat. If students studying English are going to cheat, they will do so regardless if they are on campus or online. However, plagiarism is easily detected through programs such as TurnItIn, which has been available for quite some time and assists students and professors in avoiding this form of cheating. More importantly, at this point in a student’s education, shouldn’t we trust that they are being ethical? Chances are, they are now paying for their own education, they want to be in the program, and they know the consequences of such an action. In the end, if someone is going to cheat it doesn’t matter if they are in the classroom turning in a physical paper or online hitting the “submit” button.

Online MA degrees aren’t as respectable. Wait, what? Why? This is 2016, not 1985 so this makes no sense to me. Most everything we do is online in this day and age: submitting time cards for work, registering a vehicle, researching for class assignments, shopping, communicating, etc. Why should learning be seen as less respectable just because it is online? In the K-12 education system we are working to accommodate the “21st Century” learner through digital media and digital lesson plans so why should this be any different for graduate students who are not only capable of working independently, but would prefer to do so? Furthermore, saying that these programs are less respectable is undermining the education level and knowledge of the professors who teach via this mode of learning. It’s time that we allow students the agency they need in order to be successful.

I know that within the next 10-15 years the number of online graduate programs will increase, but I wish it was happening now! As a mom of four children, it’s challenging to be away from home during the later hours of the day (when most classes are held for grad school). It would be great to pursue my degree while also working with my rigid schedule. It would also be nice to be able to live in a more affordable area while also pursuing my degree at the university of my choice.

Are you attending an online undergrad or graduate program? What do you like about it? Why did you choose it?

Dianna Blake

Dianna Blake

Dianna is the Pearson Students Blog Editor-in-Chief. She graduated from California State University, Fullerton with her Bachelor of Arts in English in May 2015 and is remaining at the university to complete her Master of Arts in English. Once she finishes her degree she plans on teaching college-level English and literature at a community college. As a mother of three while attending college, Dianna works to balance her school and family life but finds great joy in both. This year she will be writing her book, College Success for Moms, which she plans to publish in 2016.