Monthly Archives: January, 2012

Is an Online Music Degree Right for You?

Online DegreeI am about to begin the very last class in my online Masters degree in Music Education and I am EXCITED to say the least! It’s been quite a journey and I am thankful that I was able to get my degree while teaching full time in a wonderful district. Even though I love being a student, I am ready to have some more free time in my schedule for other things that I love, like relaxation! 😉

When I began researching grad schools, I knew that I had quite a few options: I could go back to school and take classes at night (going back to school without working was not an option), I could take a summer intensive program, or I could get my degree online. After weighing all of the different options and doing a lot of research, I chose the online option.

There are pros and cons to every choice, both professionally and personally. Below, I have listed some considerations when choosing a particular program and how they relate to my experience.

Convenience

Because I am a working professional, the convenience of an online program was one of the biggest draws for me, particularly because it saved me the hassle of commuting to campus (all of the local universities are at least 30 minutes from me). I also liked that even though each class started on a certain date, I was not required to log in at a particular time.

What I learned very quickly was that, although the lack of a commute is very convenient, many aspects of the classes are scheduled and required. Several of the courses required our attendance at scheduled “live classrooms” during the week. Because we were not in a typical classroom setting, there were often 100+ students in each class, so we were divided into sections with different facilitators. We were often asked to meet with our facilitators in a live classroom setting during the week as well.

Duration of Program

Another huge draw to my program is that each class is only 7 weeks long as opposed to the typical class length of 14 weeks. That schedule has allowed me to finish my degree in less than two years, and that included a leave of absence because I wanted to wait for a particular class for my elective. In my research, I did not find an on campus program that offered 7 week classes instead of the longer duration, but choosing an on campus program would have allowed me to take more than one course at a time.

One of the drawbacks of having such short classes is the fact that each class is 4 credits worth of work – which means a TON of work in a short amount of time! Throughout the duration of this program, I have ALWAYS had something to do, something to read, something to post or something to research. Which brings me to….

Workload

Many people think that choosing an online program may equal less work, but I can honestly say that I had a completely different experience! In an online environment, the only way to convey understanding is to hand in assignments. I’ve written more papers in the last year and a half then I did in all of my high school and undergrad career! The reading starts to add up as well – we were told that we should “read like a grad student” in order to stay on top of things. I’ve even acquired a spiffy set of reading glasses from all of my hardwork.

Relevance to Your Field

When choosing a grad program, you have to be sure that it is relevant to your field and what your goals are. The drawback to choosing an online program is the lack of human contact and ability to create truly personal relationships with classmates and professors. Another issue to consider, especially in music, is the lack of a performance aspect in an online setting. As an undergrad music ed major, I was required to take lessons on my major instrument, as well as piano, and perform in juries at the end of each semester. Personally, I missed the performance aspect in this degree and would love to have had the opportunity to see/hear my classmates show off their abilities.

Do I think that I made the right choice with an online Masters program? For me, yes. Do I think the online setting for this particular degree is for everyone? Definitely not. My advice?

DO YOUR RESEARCH!

Know what is important to you. Make sure you understand everything that you are getting into. If you’re considering an online program, make sure it is accredited. Most of all, know what you are looking for and don’t compromise.

What type of program did you choose for continuing your education? Would love to hear your opinions on each type of program in the comments!

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We’ll Take a Cup of Kindness Yet…

What is it about January 1st that makes people want to change? Is it the idea that a new year equals a clean slate? Do we really get more motivated at the strike of midnight? Who knows! I have to admit, I do slightly play into the hype. The new year is a time when we all take a look at what we have done and accomplished in the last 12 months and decide how we want to better ourselves in the coming new year. I don’t typically like to use the word “resolution,” as it has a bit of a flakey connotation to me; I much prefer the word “goal.”

In the spirit of Auld Lang Syne, here are my goals for 2012:

Become more organized.

Personal: I believe that clutter equals stress, and I constantly feel like I cannot fully relax at home because there are things that need to be organized. My goal is to organize these areas of my home and develop systems to keep these areas clean and tidy so that I can more fully enjoy my time at home.

Professional: Part of my advice for new teachers is to stay organized. Even though this is my fourth year of teaching, it’s my first in this position and in elementary school and I could definitely use some attention in this area. My goal is to better utilize online resources to streamline my lesson planning as well as to create systems in my classroom for better organization of papers, music, and classroom materials.

Plan ahead.

Personal: Even the control freak in me realizes that we can’t always plan for things or events in our personal lives. My goal is to better plan out the things that I HAVE to do (I’ve been known to procrastinate heavily when it comes to chores and car maintenance) so that I can better enjoy the things that aren’t planned….hopefully they are more fun! 😉

Professional: Planning ahead in my teaching lessons has never been something that I’ve done well, and I am not entirely sure why. It’s been especially tough this year because I am surrounded by so many new resources and so much new information for elementary music that I find it hard to pinpoint exactly what I want to work on with my kids. My goal is to plan my lessons at least a week in advance, though I am striving for two. Consequently, I am hoping that planning further ahead will help with cohesiveness between lessons, particularly with my older students that I only see once a week.

Make more time for people.

Personal: I am by no means a hermit, but I do enjoy my alone time. My goal is to make more time to connect/reconnect with the people in my life, especially my family. We suffered quite a few losses this past year, and it reminded us all that life is too short and very fleeting – you have to enjoy the time that you have with each other and make the most of it. That’s what I intend to do.

Professional: I want to make myself more available to my students and colleagues in the coming year. My goal is to set up extra help time for my students before/after school – many have requested it, but the first half of the year was quite an adjustment for me and I could never wrap my head around it. I also plan to eat my lunches in the faculty room or with other teachers instead of working and eating – the faculty at my new school is so sweet and wonderful. I want to get to know them better and for them to know more about me.

Of course, there are other things that I plan to work on, both personally and professionally. Another big goal is to eat healthier – I tend to get tunnel vision when I am working on a project and I often forget to feed myself! Admittedly, I can also get lazy and resort to fast food when I’m “not in the mood” to do anything. By eating healthier and at home more often, I will save money as well as help my often weak and unreliable immune system. I will also be participating in the Project 365 photo challenge (though it will be 366 this year) to help me better appreciate the little things in life. I created a new Posterous account just for the challenge!

I’m hoping that by writing out my goals and committing to them in front of all of you, I will hold myself more accountable…I hate to disappoint!

What are your goals and resolutions for 2012? Would love to hear about the things you plan to work on both personally and professionally!