Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Medium Builds Outstanding Students

While in an online class, the medium is such that everything you say is a written record. This has the great advantage that you'll never miss what was said in "class" and you have a permanent record from which you can refer to at any time. It also is very apparent to your professors how much or how little you participate, so it isn't easy to just sit in class and read what others have written without thoughtfully saying anything. Regular participation is a crucial part of taking the courses remotely.

In most of my graduate courses, our professors required a minimum of logging in 3 days a week and participating with a thoughtful, well-thought out post that shows you've done the reading at least twice a week, and more if you want that "A." Not too bad. The pressure is on, however, when you have high caliber classmates who post more than that and participate more. I found this to be the case in all of my courses in the graduate program.

Students who participated often with well-written academic posts stood out in class. The star performers, they were the chattiest, posted the most, and commented on other students' posts in class, keeping the discussions lively, thought-provoking, and insightful. These are the markings of an online course, and I've found all of the courses I've taken online were very high caliber in this way. Thus, I think the quality of the online classes are outstanding. Additionally, the medium is such that it forces you to be a better or more hardworking student. If you participate less or you're not prepared, it becomes very apparent in the medium.

Accelerate Through the Program at a Rapid Pace
Since I was accepted into the M.A. in Media Studies graduate program in 2004, I was able to accelerate through the program quickly on a full-time basis while also working full-time as a Web Developer. I had a great job that wasn't stressful, great professors, and started off my very first semester on the right foot.

If it were not for the asynchronous nature of the online classes and the very "virtualness" of a cyber class, I would not otherwise have moved forward through the program at such a rapid pace. One student completed the program in less than 2 years while working full-time. She was able to do this because she also took a full-time load during the summer semesters. I would not recommend this to those who have many other life obligations, especially those who have a family because at this pace, you can burn out very quickly. But she was highly motivated, single, and wanted to get through the program at this rapid pace and move on with her life -- which is always an option for any graduate student.

Connect Physically Even if You're an Online-Only Student
Because I attended graduate orientation in NYC on campus, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to connect with the University, the faculty, and other graduate students who were just accepted into the M.A. in Media Studies program. The day after the early evening orientation for new graduate students, I was able to take advantage of onsite counseling on the best combination of courses to take my first semester. I fell in line outside the faculty offices with other graduate students to wait my turn for academic counseling. Then I had my picture taken for my I.D. card, checked in at the Bursar's Office, and made a final visit to the Financial Aid office to accept my Federal Stafford loan. I had to follow a software program that tells you in so many words that you have to pay your loan back when you graduate! After that, I spent a couple more days in New York, excited about seeing the city for the first time, and learned the subway system.

There is so much energy in the city! I highly recommend a visit if you're a new graduate student in the M.A. in Media Studies program. As I recommended in a previous post, attend graduate orientation for new graduate students if you possibly can. Even if you're not a new student, I recommend it, especially if you're feeling remote and removed or you are an online-only student. Introduce yourself to the faculty so you can place a face with a name. Meet other students in the program and exchange email addresses. Ask questions. Get to know the new graduate student coordinator who will be replacing Tony Laing.

Just remember that we're all in this together and it's important to network, get connected, and help each other out. These are the very reasons I started this blog.

Any Way You Like It
Some students take most of their courses remotely from all over the United States as well as globally. Other students choose to physically move to NYC to finish their last year in the program on campus while also taking online courses. Others will complete the program remotely but come out in the summer to spend the summer semester completing the production sequence on campus. This is particularly important for students completing a film/video production sequence because all of the equipment you'll need to learn as a documentary film maker is on campus. Even on campus students living in New York City take a combination of on campus and online classes because the online classes make it convenient to complete courses at home in the evening if they also hold jobs -- whether the job is part-time or full-time. Online courses really work well when you have many life obligations.

Nature of the Medium
The very nature of the online medium forces students to stay focused, work harder, and be well-prepared for classes with all the reading completed the weekend before each new week. Because everything is so much more evident in the medium, students who are not prepared or participate with minimum effort become very apparent very quickly.

The medium also enables students who are already highly motivated to complete the program become not just better students but also experts in time management. Juggling work, home, and family responsibilities while attending graduate school involves management your time wisely. It's not easy being remote, but if you're dedicated and completing an M.A. in Media Studies is something you really want without giving up your current living conditions, completing the M.A. in Media Studies online will enable you to complete it in a way that will work with your life. You just have to really want it, and it's yours for the taking.

The M.A. in Media Studies program which was founded in 1975 became available online in 2003 so that the University could reach more students world-wide. I would be surprised if this weren't the case -- this is, afterall, a master's degree in Media Studies -- the study of the rapid evolution of new mediums by which we can communicate -- and how it affects how we communicate globally and socially.

Light Years Ahead...An Understatement!
The New School is light years ahead of other traditional Universities in using the new medium of the Web to reach out globally to students from all over the world to provide the M.A. in Media Studies program -- the first of its kind -- through a remarkable University portal from which students can access their courses from anywhere in the world as long as you can access the Internet...light years ahead is an understatement!


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