Learning Online – the Ultimate in Flexibility

Storm at Sea © 2011 Brian Farrell

The past few weeks have been chaotic to say the least, and the future is far from certain. After leaving the devastation in Japan, my fiancée and I headed to Thailand to start our spring break. The constant rain and sporadic power outages in Koh Samui encouraged us to change our plans slightly and move up our next flight to Singapore. This was an incredibly fortuitous decision as the airport closed there the next day, and all ferries stopped – the Thai navy eventually had to send an aircraft carrier to evacuate tourists from the area due to the massive flooding. I then had the pleasure of checking out the Singaporean medical system due to an ear infection, and we’ve since returned to Japan and a broken refrigerator full of rotten food. It would appear that lady luck has not been on our side lately, but really it must all be kept in perspective, and considering the tragedy a few hundred kilometers north of here, and the situation unfolding in a still flooded Thailand, we are indeed incredibly fortunate.

Throughout all this, I’ve been working on two of my last courses (only one more to go!) in my masters program. My program is entirely online, and the past few weeks have further reinforced the tremendous flexibility in this type of learning system. My professors have been incredibly accommodating and understanding, but they’ve also been able to offer alternatives for me that simply wouldn’t be possible in a traditional classroom environment. I’ve been able to submit assignments early or late, I’ve been able to contribute in some form or another to the ongoing discussions, and I’ve been able to keep my classmates updated on my situation, all while moving through different countries and time zones. While uncertainty unfolded around me, my masters program was a constant steady link that has helped to keep me grounded.

I’ve just finished a paper where I found that taking an online course does not impact (positively or negatively) on student grades in traditional classes. This is strictly a quantitative measure though – the qualitative benefits of learning online continue to shine through.

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4 thoughts on “Learning Online – the Ultimate in Flexibility

  1. Sounds like your e-learning expertise may be needed over the next few weeks. I just started a groupspace for my grad school cohort and seems like it would be a great learning tool as well. Free up to 1000 members and lots of functionality. Any experience with that or other recommendations?

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  2. Hey Adam, thanks for the comment. I think we’re already in a pretty good position e-learning wise as we’re already using some great tools like Google Docs and the student blogs. I haven’t used the site you mentioned, but it sounds like a great way to collaborate. I’ve used a wiki for a great knowledge glossary activity, and this might be a great way for some of our classes to prepare for exams. Essentially, every student chooses a key term to define and explain the significance of, and then also has to edit an entry from one of their peers. You end up getting a huge bank of student-generated knowledge, and you can build on this further each year.

    Anyway, we’ll see what tomorrow holds!

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  3. Brian, it’s great to see that you can continue your Masters program on your own schedule, from wherever you happen to be at any moment. How long have you been working on your Masters? Does it take longer to complete the program online? I’d be interested in the same sort of idea, but I don’t know if I’d want to double or triple the timeframe. I’ve enjoyed online AQ courses in the past… what are your thoughts about online learning in the Canadian public education system- are we heading there eventually?

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  4. Hey Brian! I am just finishing up my Masters of Social Work – also an online program. I have taken it through Flinders University in Australia. This allowed me to work part time and be a stay at home mom while continuing my education. I was not sure about it at first but this has proven to be a very valuable experience for me as well. Congrats on finishing up your Masters!

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