Beginning a Master’s program is bound to bring about some unexpected surprises, and starting an online program in particular is certainly no exception. From adapting to a whole new schedule, to dusting off my student hat and remembering how to even begin writing papers, there are definitely adjustments that come with the territory. For me, these adjustments also came with an element of the unknown as I had no idea what to expect in an online program; since, before starting my online HR Master’s program, I had never experienced an online learning environment in any capacity.
Because of my naivete, I entered into the program with my own assumptions about what the learning environment would present; and therefore, there were many positive surprises along the way. The first misconception I had was that there would be little to no interactions between myself, the professor, and my fellow classmates. I had of course heard about “discussion posts” but I could not possibly comprehend how these could actually equate to the personal connections that are possible in a traditional classroom environment. It quickly became clear to me that this assumption was very wrong. Not only are all of the professors within the online HR Master’s program a delight to work with, but they are also incredibly accessible and more than willing to help and share their vast insight and expertise.
I now also recognize the huge value in discussion posts and this style of class collaboration as it encourages everyone to participate. We can probably all remember the handful of classmates in our undergraduate lectures that would dominate the conversation. At the time, I did not mind this trend as it allowed me to hear other people’s perspective and allow me to internally determine my own; however, with an online program, we are all empowered and encouraged to include our perspectives equally. This design fits really well with my learning style as it allows me time to think through how best to respond and find academic support for my arguments. The discussion forums are always professional and respectful; therefore, I always felt confident participating in debates and discussions which I feel has allowed me to gain even more from my educational experience.
While most of the most extreme surprises I have experienced have to do with the actual structure and functionality of the Engage online learning platform, what I view as the biggest surprise is the overall enrichment this program has provided me in my current, and future, professional career. I was nervous to start a Master’s program while working full-time as I was fully aware of the time requirements; however, I could not have possibly anticipated the absolute value and the new perspective that is achievable when taking classes while working, as every concept can be related to real-workplace scenarios. I have had the opportunity to reflect on past experiences as a way of gaining a greater understanding on a topic and to use concepts that I had learned to help improve policies and practices in my current profession. In addition to sharing my own personal experiences, being able to hear from my fellow classmates their experiences in different industries only further expanded the immense benefits of the program.
Overall, the surprises I experienced are better described as pleasant realizations and revelations about online learning as a whole. I chose this path originally because it best fit my current schedule and lifestyle, but I am now a huge supporter and advocate because of the value I have received as I reach the end of my journey.