I am a creature of habit. I thrive on routine. I love when a plan comes together. It is a great day when my expectation for what should happen today becomes my reality for the day. I had been very comfortable in my routine as a middle school educator for at least the past three years when a wild question entered my mind:
Should I go to graduate school?
This question continued marinate in my mind, in my conversations with my wife, and in conversations with my co-workers until I made my move. I clicked the ‘submit’ button on my application at Texas A&M University. My chosen major is a Master of Education in Instructional Technology and I felt good about that. Other than that, I had no idea what I was getting myself in for.
I am still in the beginning stages of my online degree program, but I feel like I have some advice that might be relevant to the new student in an online environment:
- Trust your faculty advisors. One of the first bits of information I was presented was my faculty advisor for my program. They have been invaluable in answering my numerous questions about everything from course selection to class materials. Which has been great because I can be a little bit of a worrier at times.
- Be patient with the Financial Aid office. Oddly enough, I have found that for every question posed to the Scholarships & Financial Aid office there are thousands of other e-mails flooding them at the same time. They do a great job of offering support, but it could take a little longer during high volume times of the year.
- Have a plan for your classwork. As a full time educator, full time husband, full time father and a part time grad student, I had to really think through when I was going to get my work done for my program. Carve out time and think through your ability to get work done. For me, I purchased an e-reader to load my textbook on to and read in my spare time, but that might not work for you. Think this through before course selection.
- Be present. When I am responding to my classmates or making discussion board posts I try focus. I am finding there are a lot of distractions, but I do my best. I am trying my best to relate to my classmates and try my hardest to give interesting perspective and honest feedback to my classwork.
The bottom line is that everyone in my classes has been in the exact same boat. We are all in process together and working to figure it out. We all come from diverse backgrounds and work experience, but we are all working toward a similar outcome.
I will try and check back in with an update in a month or two. Hopefully by then I will have some more insight into the online world of academia.
--- R. Tyler Horner
R. Tyler Horner is a Masters student in the College of Education & Human Development