Thousands of students around the world are attending lectures remotely and completing group projects at home right now. But studying online has been a popular choice for university students for several years. This mode of learning will continue to gain traction as more and more young professionals realise the impact and potential of online education.
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What do graduates and alumni from online Masters programmes have to share about their learning experience before everyone else joined in? And how can we best learn from their insights?
Make the most of a flexible schedule
The most commonly cited benefit of studying online by university students is their ability to have a flexible schedule. Whether it comes to the actual learning process or juggling between work and study, the value of accessing your courses anywhere and anytime is easy to recognise.
As Sharon Clayton, postgraduate student in Public Administration at the University of Birmingham (UK), explains, the online mode of study accommodates professionals who are already employed and want to keep working.
“Being in full-time employment I do not have the time to study a traditional campus-based course. […] Studying online at the University of Birmingham gives me an opportunity to learn in my own free time and, hopefully, achieve my ambition to attain a Masters degree,” Ms Clayton adds.
This is a useful reminder for students who are temporarily conducting their courses remotely as a result of Covid-19 campus closures. If your new online schedule allows it, try to look for productive ways to keep learning, look for employment, or start side projects that will help your professional growth.
Find the environment that feels right
Some online students have shared that their choice of online programme helped them feel at home in their class, despite it being conducted from a distance.
Here’s a highlight from David Libert who opted for the Online Master of Public Health at Benedictine University (US): “I came from a big university where it was very difficult to get to know the professors. My biggest surprise coming to Benedictine was how well I was able to develop strong professional relationships with the faculty.”
In cases when professionals need a smooth transition to their postgraduate studies, going online is an opportunity to preserve their current lifestyle while also enjoying the wonders of university. So if you are still getting accustomed to having your courses temporarily online, this insight might give you a fresh perspective. Studying online can be a challenge, but it can also be an opportunity to network and interact with peers on a new level.
Meet peers from diverse backgrounds
Most international universities and Masters programmes work hard to attract a diverse pool of students with different nationalities, interests, and backgrounds. Diversity enhances the quality of the courses because it enables the exchange of new ideas and perspectives.
Online programmes can more easily assemble a cohort of diverse nationalities since students can sign up and attend courses from a location of their own choosing. The international mix of people is always highly appreciated.
“Studying online ensures an internationally composed classroom, which complements the programme well,” says Helena Feibert, Online MSc International Business graduate from the University of Birmingham. “It adds substance and inspiration from different people and from different cultures. I find this enriching for online sessions, discussions, and networking.”
Whether you continue studying online or prefer the university campus, try to use this insight to keep an open mind. Be proactive in your studies, but also when networking or making new friends. Diverse and international points of view will enrich you both personally and professionally.
Interact and share your insights
While flexibility is a major advantage for online programmes, there is one surprising benefit that some students highlight: inspiring and helpful interactions.
Of course, no online channel of communication can substitute face-to-face teamwork. However, a report by the independent organisation TheBestSchools.org found out that online students often benefit from their online communication with classmates and get better access to their instructors compared to on-campus courses.
Even when they are moderated, discussion forums are a great way for peers to express themselves freely and without the time constraints of a physical class. “Students share their ideas in writing, so sharing becomes expected and taking time to write out thoughts clearly is the standard,” as noted by TheBestSchools.org.
Online or on-campus, communication is always important. University students learn from discussions and by sharing different opinions and you need to be proactive in this process even when you are meeting your classmates and professors digitally.