It's no secret that online learning is on the rise. Year after year, new statistics are released that demonstrate growth in the amount of students partaking in online classes (also referred to as distance education).
For example, the 2015 Survey of Online Learning conducted by the Babson Survey Research Group revealed that more than one in four students now take at least one distance education course, about half of whom are enrolled in fully-online programs.
The continual year-to-year increase of online learning doesn't change the fact that many students have some hesitancies when it comes to distance education. Some inherently assume online learning won't be as effective as traditional learning in the long-run. But the statistics in the Babson survey rebuke that, stating that 71.4 percent of academic leaders have rated the learning outcomes in online education as the same as or superior to those in face-to-face instruction.
If you're looking to take the next step in your tenure as a teacher, you've most likely been considering earning a Master of Education degree (M.Ed) for some time. We're here to help you breeze past your hesitancies so you can soak up all the amazing benefits of pursuing an M.Ed online. Take a look.
"There is a definite flexibility of learning in online M.Ed programs," says Amy Bergstrom, associate professor and M.Ed program director at The College of St. Scholastica (CSS). Bergstrom credits this key benefit as a motivating factor for a majority of the students who enroll in the program.
Online learning provides students with a way to further their education without pausing their lives. "The biggest benefit for me was that I could earn a master's degree while working full-time and immediately apply, test and evaluate what I learned [while on the job]," says Karin Raffa, educator, coach and writer at MyGermanology.
Graduates of online programs will be the first to tell you that time wasn't the only thing they saved through distance education. Online M.Ed programs are often significantly less expensive and take less time to complete, leading to a fast and tangible return on investment. In fact, the cost of the online M.Ed program at CSS is far lower than comparable M.Ed programs nationwide!
When asked why he chose to pursue an M.Ed online, Chris Brantner — veteran teacher and owner of the website CutCableToday.com — says, "It [was] way less expensive. Not to mention, I didn't have to run from work to college night classes. I could do things on my own terms. It was a win-win situation."
Infusion of technology is one of the most prominent tenets of 21st Century learning, something in which today's teachers must be proficient. What better way to grapple with incorporating enhanced technology in your own classroom than to gain valuable online learning experience as a student?
And the technology exposure for online M.Ed students isn't just limited to the online classroom environment. Bergstrom says the M.Ed program at CSS incorporates Google Hangouts, Twitter, Voice Thread and web-based library catalogs like Solar. "We're modeling how to teach with technology," she says. "We've reimagined what the online experience should look like from a pedagogical standpoint and a learner's standpoint."
Online learning also helps students enhance their virtual communication skills, whether through web-based chat resources, video conferencing, social media platforms or blog posts.
If there's one thing distance education excels in, it's incorporating the use of multimedia tools. Students are exposed to virtual cohort groups, webinars, infographics, video lectures and more.
The use of multimedia tools in education has been shown to improve memory in our brains through providing strong sensory cues that help students remember what they've learned. This gives online students an advantage when it comes to retaining the lessons they'll partake in throughout their M.Ed journeys.
"We like to say, 'Online learning is not independent learning,'" Bergstrom says. "The online M.Ed program at CSS has become intuitive to the need to offer a highly interactive learning experience for students."
Bergstrom explains that students in online programs like this one will still benefit from a real-time presence with faculty members, as well as interactive online cohort groups with fellow students. The online learning landscape can also lead to more enhanced class discussions than a traditional classroom setting. Discussion forums in online classrooms afford introverted individuals who may not feel comfortable speaking up in a face-to-face environment the opportunity to voice their viewpoints. Forums like these also allow students to dig deep and truly focus on course content, as they must clearly articulate their thoughts and questions to the group.
In addition to the plethora of other perks afforded by online learning, you may also encounter scholarship opportunities that are exclusive to distance learners. Take, for example, the Study Buddy Scholarship at CSS. If you enroll in the online M.Ed program with a friend or colleague, you can each receive $1,000 in scholarship funds! "This scholarship reflects the importance and value we place on collaboration and community in the online environment."
If your chosen "study buddy" is one of your colleagues from the school at which you teach, you can both simultaneously save some money while working through the program together. Not only will this further improve the education offered to the 21st Century learners in your classrooms, but you have the opportunity to support and motivate one another throughout the process.
With so many tangible benefits backed up by statistics and expert opinion, what's holding you back from pursuing your M.Ed online? You can learn what it takes to better connect with your 21st Century learners all while enhancing your own online learning repertoire!
The online M.Ed program at CSS has been deemed one of the nation's best by U.S. News and World Report. You can learn more about this well-respected program by visiting our article outlining the 5 things you should know about the online Master of Education program.