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Challenging Perception / Articulating Your Degree

Challenging perception and winning over skeptics

Okay. I'll admit it. When I originally became aware of online learning programs / degrees, I was skeptical. Having had all of my undergraduate instruction take place in traditional brick-and-mortar classrooms, I was wary of anything that didn't match my educational experiences. As my career in higher education has evolved, so has my view of online learning / degrees. When I was a graduate student, I used a course management system for the first time. It was web-based and I completed many of my assignments and course discussions via this web interface. My skepticism faded as my learning increased. Online learning was different when compared to the classroom and that was okay.

Once, while teaching an introductory course for first year students, I had the opportunity to again utilize a web-based course system. My students were posting their comments to discussion groups, uploading their course assignments, and accessing course materials. The platform served as an incredible space for learning. It was an informational hub for the class. My experiences with web-based learning as a student assisted my ability to create meaningful interactions for my students.

My experiences with online learning have been as both student and teacher. Those moments helped me to re-define how I perceived online learning. I went from being skeptical to being appreciative. In my current role as a higher education consultant, I encounter a variety of professionals who have degrees from online programs. Their credentials are just as impressive and meaningful to me as those from a more traditional campus environment.

Now, how does this affect your experience? Well, for starters, you may encounter people along your educational journey who are as skeptical as I once was. Challenging skepticism and the perception that an online degree is not as valuable as a "brick-and-mortar" degree will be an important element in your rhetorical toolkit. Being able to clearly articulate how your online degree will impact your career, your scholarly goals, and your life will all be important things to consider when/if you encounter skeptics. Remember, sometimes, all you have to do is clear up their initial perception of online learning. They may only know about online learning through what they have seen on television or read about in newspapers. Your experience, and how you convey it, will help to re-orient that perception.

In terms of seeking advice and assistance for how you can articulate your degree, I would highly advise that you seek out the student services staff at your school. Speak with them about career options and trends. Become as informed as you can about the current issues that surround your program and what the outlook is for your field. Speaking with skeptics can be challenging when they have not had the same experiences that have led you to an online degree program. Take your time, be patient, and be prepared to answer a lot of questions. Who knows…perhaps those who are skeptics will be so impressed with your journey / story that they decide to take a look at an online program.

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February 9th, 2012 written by Eric Stoller

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