Should I go to an online or traditional graduate school?

Should I go to an online or traditional graduate school?

Hi, Caitlin Faas, your productivity navigator, excited to talk to you about the differences between online graduate programs and traditional graduate programs and how do you decide which one is right for you.

The first thing I want to say is that not all online programs are created equal.

So when we use the word “online” a lot of programs mean completely different things and that’s something to investigate in a program that you might be interested in. So you might see an ad or go to a website that says, “We offer an online program.” And I want your first question to be, “What kind of online program?” Is it really interactive and they actually treat it like a traditional classroom in the sense that you meet at a certain time and you’re all in a Zoom room or Google Hangouts or Skype – all of these video platforms? Are you watching each other live and talking to each other live? They call that synchronous or is it an asynchronous program where you complete modules on your own and complete the course work on your own but check in once a while with an adviser. And so live programs are blended like this, maybe it’s a combination between those two extremes that I said – so synchronous or asynchronous.

An online program that you're interested in should be ready to tell you all of the details about that and some of the really “on top of it” programs that I've seen that are trying to recruit students, they will have webinars and events for you to attend as a potential student so that you can see what the classroom environment is like. I've had a couple of students attend events like that where they learn more about the program and then they're able to make the decision about “Oh, I see. This online program isn’t what I thought it would be” or “I had the opportunity to make it as interactive I want it be.” That can be really convenient especially if you're in an isolated location or you're not able to drive to a particular place.

Whether or not it’s synchronous or asynchronous can be helpful depending on your life situation.

So that’s something to take in consideration as well. Does my life situation facilitate the ability to do this program online? Will I be able to make the time to fit the details of this program into my life?

Sometimes I see people lean more towards a traditional experience especially if it is a clinical program or you need a lot of experience in person to experience the program.

The other reason I see people lean towards it would be if you really need accountability. No matter what kind of online program you are in and on some level you're able to kind of life fade into the background, nobody’s necessarily following through with you. People will try to reach out to you and try to keep you engaged in that program. Typically, you'll just kind of fade in the background or maybe not show up to that class. But in a traditional classroom, if you really feel like you need that “I have to show up, I see people in person” it has a built in accountability to it that not all online programs have, but again it depends on that level of how blended it is – so something to think about. You know yourself best.

And then the last thing to think about for a traditional or online is this general “What will this program be able to offer me?”

And “Am I excited about where this will take me for the next steps?” So I want you to think about those things when you're deciding the difference between traditional or online. Either way you go, I want to make sure that you find students that have been through the program no matter what type of program it is and talk to them. Find graduates and friend students, either the program will facilitate that conversation for you or you’ll even find them on your own. Put out a request out there.

Sometimes people worry about the technology part behind it like, “Am I technologically savvy enough to do this?”

But you're watching this YouTube video and you figured that out, you can figure out anything out online as you manage platforms and as you turn in assignments. There’s a lot of help and support behind those programs. So you made it this far and you figured out how to find this video, so I'm sure you can accomplish that as well.

I'm really excited for you. Let me know as you're making this decision what else helps you make a decision and what kind of programs you're looking into. I'm always interested in learning about other programs. I don’t have a program, let me say that, I'm just interested in learning about programs for students to go on to and being able to help you navigate that transition. No vested interest in which way you go either way, but excited for you!