Overcoming the Skepticism of Online Education

Graduate Year: 2015

Overcoming the Skepticism of Online Education

A year ago, I admit, I was pretty sheepish about my online graduate school education.

Though I had done a lot of due diligence during the application process to ensure that I was enrolling in a legitimate masters program, I still felt the need to justify my decision.

For starters, I felt the need to explain how it was possible that I was attending American University in DC, but living and working in New York. I’m in the online cohort, I would say, “but it’s the same curriculum and teaching quality as the on-campus program,” I’d be quick to add. It’s true, you will run into skeptics of online learning—despite the top-25 prestige of AU’s School of Communication.

But now, a year later, I don’t worry about potential reactions anymore. The online M.A. in Strategic Communications at AU is legit. It’s challenging. It’s time-consuming. Just like campus graduate school. When you spend your Sunday writing a communications plan that’s due at midnight, you will know what I’m talking about.

My professors have all had practical work experience and impressive resumes. That translates to feedback that is helping me further my own career as I make a transition from one field to another. Each professor has different teaching styles, just like campus graduate school.

The MA in Strategic Communication—because so much of it is writing—lends itself well to a virtual environment. We use an online classroom called Engage, and it turns out to be quite intuitive. I’ve never had any technical problems. More importantly, I was amazed to discover just how quickly I got a sense of who my classmates are, and how they think, from our digital discussion posts. I had worried about feeling in the dark, alone with my laptop.

Now, if you showed me an essay without a name attached, I could probably identify which of my classmates wrote it. I count some of them as good friends. We gripe about grades on the phone. We’re planning get-togethers in our respective cities.

Going to school online made perfect sense for my life. Yes, there were a handful of on-campus masters programs in PR near me. By “near” I mean a 2-hour roundtrip commute and that meant attending a 2-hour night class, 3 nights a week, after a full day’s work. Choosing online gave me the flexibility I needed to travel for work and pleasure, and to be with my family.

I still have to make plenty of sacrifices for school. Just not as many of the serious ones.

I really believe that those of us who have chosen to receive our education this way are influencers. Ten years from now, when online degrees from top universities will be commonplace, the skeptics will have faded in number. By then, I’ll have already been reaping the rewards of my American University diploma, while others are just catching on. With the amount of work I’ve done (and the Sunday night pizza delivery boxes to prove it), I feel that I will have earned the same degree as the students walking around campus. That’s why I no longer make excuses for my education. I’m pretty sure I am ahead of my time.

To learn more about American University's online Master of Arts in Strategic Communication, request more information or call toll free at 855-725-7614.

  • About the Author

    Sonia Pabley

    Sonia Pabley is a writer and MA candidate in Strategic Communications at American University. She holds a BA in Film Studies from Columbia University. A former literary agent and a founding member of the books department at a major bi-costal talent agency, she has expert knowledge in the editorial, legal, and marketing aspects of publishing and entertainment. A produced playwright, her nonfiction has most recently appeared in Thought Catalog.