A Tale of Two Degrees

Education

I enjoy the educational process. I always have. I loved being a student growing up. Don’t get me wrong I loved my summer break, but by the end of it I was ready to get back into school. Some of this was because I prefer routine to true freedom, but some of it was because I really like to learn new things. I have continually sought out new learning opportunities as I have grown up. Public school, college, graduate school…I even saw earning my Eagle Scout growing up as an opportunity to learn new things (do you have a Dentistry merit badge?). In the past few year, my wife attended an online program for a Master’s Degree and I have recently begun an online Master’s Degree and I’m noticing some stark differences.

To ‘module’ or not to ‘module’. One of our programs was more of a pathway you had to follow. Your program was given to you a piece at a time and when you were done with one class you moved on to the next on in a specific order. The other program is more like a traditional college degree tract. You have essential classes everyone must take and you have electives you can choose from that all add up to the number of hours you need to graduate. I don’t know which one I would consider better or worse. The pathway model seems to be more straight forward and has the potential to be well thought out. It does not allow the student to customize their experience should they want to. The traditional model is flexible, but going through a course catalog could be considered confusing and doing so online could be considered either a time saver or doubly confusing.

Specific job or opening doors. My wife’s degree was setting her up to have a very specific job. She met all the requirements at the end of her degree to be able to hold a counselor position at a public school. If she wanted to have a principle position she would need to add more coursework to her degree, anything other than school counselor is not covered. My degree is more general in nature and allows me to open the door to a lot of possibilities. To some degree, educational jobs need any Master’s Degree, but I feel like my particular degree allows me to apply for a variety of jobs. Which is better depends on your point of view. If you know exactly what you want to do you might opt for a degree that points you at that job. If you would prefer to work in an industry rather than a specific job, maybe a more general degree is for you.

My goal here is not to critique university programs (which is why neither program is mentioned by name) but to point out the very different online degrees that have been pursued in my house. I think both have value, but it is definitely something to look at when deciding what program to join should you want to. Continuing education is not always necessary, but it does come in handy depending on your situation.

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Responsible Technology

Education

As I was participating in an online discussion during a previous week of graduate school, I got into an interesting conversation with a peer. They thought that in a situation where a district goes 1:1 with technology, the district was under no obligation to make accommodations for students without internet access outside the home. This got me pondering for what solutions might be out there for students without access and whether the district is obligated to help with such a problem.

As far as options for students who do not have access to the internet in their current living situation, I think their options are:

  • Show up to school early or stay late to use their internet access
  • Go to a business that provides internet access for their patrons
  • Go to a friend’s house where they could get their work done
  • Ask for a paper copy of assignments to be completed at home

While students who do not have access do have viable options for the use of the internet outside of the school building I would argue that could be difficult for some students.

My thinking is that if a school or district is going to go 1:1 for their instruction it is also incumbent upon them to work with the community around them to help provide solutions to work on their school work outside of class. One way to do this would be to offer extended library/study hall options for students to use the school internet. Another option would be for the school district to collect the information of local businesses that provide internet access to help families find access when needed and work with other local businesses to extend the number of facilities the students could go to if needed. It is great marketing for local businesses and is a way for the community to poor back into the schools

These are just some quick thoughts on how the community could work to help all students have access to the internet to aid in their education, but I’m sure there are plenty of other models that could work. To me it just makes sense that if school districts are going to put requirements on students that could limit their access to education outside of the school they should also be working on providing fair and equal access for all their students to be on equal footing.