Students seeking a master’s in education have a variety of options, including whether they’ll earn their degree online or in-person. Enrolling in an online program can be beneficial for working teachers who need a program that will fit around their school schedule. Students who thrive in interactive settings and learn best through hands-on activities, may prefer an in-person program.
Ultimately the answer is, the right fit will depend on a variety of factors specific to the individual student. Explore these factors below as you consider whether you should get a master’s in education online or in-person.
Factors to Consider
The decision to attend graduate school is not one to be taken lightly. If you are uncertain about the benefits of online education versus in-person classes, there are several factors to consider, including:
Every institution has its own methods for determining your tuition rate, and costs may vary significantly from one college to another. However, if you are looking for the cheapest way to earn your degree, consider online education. Unlike attending in-person classes, an online degree may be earned at any accredited college or university, regardless of where it is located. As a result, you can do some comparison shopping to determine which institution offers a master’s degree in education online at the most reasonable cost.
Some small but genuine savings may also be achieved by taking classes online. There will be no need for you to spend money on gas or parking. Depending on the program, you may not need hard-copy textbooks because the materials will be available online. There may also be lower tuition or fewer fees associated with specific online programs, especially those offered in an accelerated format.
When considering convenience, look at your circumstances. If you live near a local institution that offers a master’s in education, it may be easy for you to hop in the car and head for classes during the day or evening.
In general, the edge for convenience rests with online education. With these programs, you can take courses anywhere with an internet hookup — your dining room table, a local coffee shop, or a friend’s house. If your program features asynchronous courses, it’s even easier since classes are pre-recorded, and you can access them when convenient. If you have a full-time job or small children at home, it can be a benefit to be able to sign on late at night or early in the morning to take classes.
Is your learning experience better with online or in-person classes? Many institutions use the same seasoned faculty members for both online and in-person courses, so you are learning the same material whether you are at a computer or in a classroom. All accredited programs must adhere to state standards in the state where they are located, no matter how course material is delivered.
Some students find building good relationships with their professors and fellow students more challenging online. Depending on the platform used for the online program, you may need to put additional effort into activities such as group projects. In addition, if your courses are asynchronous, it may be more challenging to ask questions or add comments to the discussion since you are not attending classes in real-time. However, your professors should have virtual office hours that allow you to ask questions and get help with challenges.
Generally, student services are the same whether you attend a program in person or via the internet. You should have access to career services and any academic counseling facilities either way, for example. There will be admissions professionals who can answer your questions and assist you in researching and applying for financial aid either in person or via your computer.
One area that may seem different is your access to the library. If you are attending an online program far from your home, you have a different access to some library materials than those who can go to the brick-and-mortar building and browse the titles. Increasingly, however, professors assign readings that are available online, and you should be able to access them through your school’s library resources. Today’s librarians aren’t there to just check out books. They are information specialists who can assist you wherever you are to find the materials you need for your classes.
Networking is integral to the school experience and can open the door to future opportunities, from internships to satisfying jobs. Networking can be as simple as introducing yourself to the person next to you in an in-person class or can involve attending college events such as lectures, sports events, or job fairs. Some schools have dedicated networking events for the students in a particular program so they can get to know each other and scope out opportunities.
If you’re attending school online, there may be less chance to network. However, by being proactive, it’s still possible to make personal connections that are both personally satisfying and professionally advantageous. Make sure your professors know who you are. Attend virtual office hours and ask questions about any material you need help understanding. Keep an eye on your institution’s calendar, as well, since there will likely be online events where you can meet people and make connections.
The Bottom Line
In the end, the right choice for you will depend on your circumstances, as well as on how you learn best. The classroom experience is essential for some students to gain the most significant benefit from their program. For online students, flexibility and cost can play a role in their decision. Still, they also need to determine their ability to remain dedicated and focused on their studies if there is not a professor standing over them.
Should you get a master’s in education online? The answer is different for everyone. Researching programs, understanding your options, and asking for opinions from those you respect should enable you to find the right program and platform for your learning needs.