Just recently, I made the decision to go back to school and pursue an Associates degree in Web Design as a needed side project that could turn into something much more significant and meaningful to my professional life. When I looked at my options, there were many routes that I could pursue: the traditional route of lectures on campus, hybrid classes that entailed both an on campus portion of the class and an online component or strictly online. At first, I went for the Hybrid option and after a discussion with my husband, I came to the conclusion that if I was to begin this side project and be successful, it had to be entirely online. I currently have a full time career and I am a full time mom, which means that I needed to attend the lectures when it was most convenient for me and the online route meets that need for flexibility.
When I first went to college over 15 years ago, the internet was in its zygote state. Web design was something I played around with to pass the time during my work study job as a computer lab assistant. I also had a college email address that I really was not sure I would use since I had no experience with email prior to college. The internet was nerdy entertainment, a place that I could play around with creating HTML webpages about mindless information. I enjoyed it, but could not envision a career designing web pages much less taking a class entirely online. Internet technology had not reached that point where you could host a meeting much less a class online, these were the days before YouTube much less interactive online collaboration.
By the time I graduated from Graduate School, my University was offering “online” courses (which are now known as hybrid courses). In addition, my traditional lectures and labs started using the online course software to submit homework assignments, papers and projects that were not handwritten. This was the start of the Internet’s infancy, not only was I a new avid blogger on the side, but the internet was starting to integrate with how my education was being pursued. At this time, I still thought of blogging as one would think of using profanity in front of their grandmother and my secret hobby of “playing around on the internet” was not anything that could become something greater and classes entirely online were something of a fantasy that had not become fully realized.
As the years have passed since I graduated, I have watched the internet grow and evolve with providing another way to get an education. I have been able to follow along with MIT’s classes online as refresher courses before that big technical interview and to learn more about Python and why I should take a graded college course in it. The internet has allowed me to get an education about what kind of education I need to accomplish my professional goals. The Internet is going to be my tool to obtain an Associates degree in Web Design entirely online, no longer is this idea a mere fantasy. I can attend class in my pajamas, at 2:00am when my brain is most active or I can catch a lecture during my lunch break.
The only drawback I have found with the Internet’s role in my education past and present is in continuing my education. Simply put, there is a lot of information on the Internet and a lot of it is noise that won’t help your education. For example, relying entirely on internet sources for a college level paper will not earn someone a passing grade unless they are reading peer edited articles from a journal online. It takes a fair amount of attention to the references in an article, the source and reputation to know if it is reliable information without having to pay to a subscription service that does all of it for you. The internet is a tool and it is a tool that allows anyone to publish whatever they want to the world without editing, peer review or any demonstrative knowledge on the topic at hand. However they can make those articles seem almost reputable making it even more confusing for the reader.
The internet is also limited to how you use it. For example, you may be able to audit MIT courses, however, if you do not seriously delve into the topic and do the course exercises and watch every lecture, you will not get what students who actually attend MIT get as far as the quality of your education goes. The biggest drawback of the Internet in education is how you use it, just as it is with all tools. You should know how to use the Internet in a way that can help you enhance your education instead of hindering it.
All the drawbacks aside, I still see more of an opportunity to enhance my education experience through the Internet than were ever possible.