You might think that getting a master degree online would be less desirable than enrolling in a traditional university graduate program. Master programs are advanced learning, after all, and graduate students traditionally have extensive contact with faculty while completing their degrees. Is it really true that an online master's is less desirable?
The U.S. Department of Education reports that purely online learning or a combination of online and classroom study produced stronger student outcomes than purely face-to-face learning.* It may seem surprising that online degree programs are more effective than traditional classrooms if you've never gotten a degree online, but there are several reasons for this counter-intuitive result.
Online students are entirely responsible for their own outcomes. At the master degree education level, students are committed to their studies and take great pride in completing degree programs. When students take charge of their educational outcomes, they're more likely to achieve high levels and complete their graduate programs.
Online students ask for help more frequently. Because the graduate student's studies are part of everyday life rather than being sequestered at the university, working toward a degree online seems more immediate to family members, coworkers and friends. This makes it easier for the online student to ask for help to get everything done.
Online faculty often come from industry or professional work. When the teacher is familiar with balancing education with other life considerations, she's more likely to design a master degree curriculum that teaches what students need to know without getting sidetracked. Students are more successful in practical, applications-based classes than in theory-based classes.
Online coursework fits into the rest of the student's life—not the other way around. Many online students work a full-time job and have family obligations, so arranging schedules to attend class at a certain time several days a week can be difficult. Online master degree programs fit into the student's life—you schedule study time and writing time when you have time.
Online master degree programs offer a high-quality education for a majority of graduate degree seekers. Online universities are usually accredited, meaning the Department of Education has approved coursework and entire degree programs. That stamp of approval gives online students the confidence to pursue master's degrees outside of the traditional classroom.
With all these advantages, there's no reason to hesitate about getting a master's degree. You'll actually get a higher-quality education in less time than enrolling in a traditional program—something to think about when considering which graduate program to attend.
* Source: U.S. Department of Education. Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies. http://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/tech/evidence-based-practices/finalreport.pdf
Read what you need to know about accredited masters programs, or find out essential things to know about the masters of science degree [MD06].
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