I 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.
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….
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!