Before starting at the Johnson & Wales University College of Online Education as Communications Coordinator, I worked in magazines for more than a decade. Depending on the magazine, my world orbited around covering fashion and celebrity news, editing stories on dream homes, or eating in famous test kitchens—you could say this world was on a different planet from the world of higher education. But I’ve always been passionate about the topic and jumped at the opportunity to use my writing and editing background in this new role. I’ve already soaked up as much as I possibly can about online learning, and I’m still eager to learn more. Here are a few things that have struck me so far.
1. You learn on really cool technology. I graduated from college in 2003 when online learning had yet to go, well, viral. For perspective, laptops were still too clunky to lug to class, wireless “clouds” were just beginning to gather in the atmosphere, and Facebook was months away from launching. Needless to say, education has come quite a long way since then. Today’s online learner is a member of a virtual classroom, where lectures, assignments, discussion boards, and tests are just a click away. Professors can post videos or host live chats and students can upload their work and easily view their grades.
2. You need textbooks. I don’t know why this surprised me, and perhaps I’m the only one, but it makes sense. While the instruction is online, students still use textbooks to read and absorb course material in conjunction with the online offerings. If you have been a traditional learner who is just starting out in the online arena, this might even come as reassuring information.
3. You are an active participant in your education. This is one of my favorite takeaways. I graduated from a mega university with 30,000-plus undergrads. For the most part, I enjoyed small class sizes where I felt comfortable engaging in discussion, but as an online learner, individual participation is integral. One way it is encouraged is through online discussion boards. The instructor will post a prompt on the course’s board and students will contribute their thoughts and comment on others’. Not only does it create a sense of community, but, more important, it helps the students develop critical thinking and writing skills that they can bring to future careers and beyond.
4. You can network. It’s logical, but I never thought about this benefit until a current MBA online student mentioned it in his blog post. Most online courses require some type of group work, which offers you the opportunity to connect to classmates who are (or are soon-to-be) professionals in your field of interest. You’ll also have the chance to build relationships with alumni and faculty, which can likewise prove advantageous in your current career or future job search. Joining your program’s LinkedIn page can facilitate more contacts; just make sure your personal profile is professional and up to date.
5. You have access to student services. Although you may be miles away from the physical campus, many of the services they offer—one-on-one academic advising, financial aid, and tutoring, to name a few—are available to online learners and can be instrumental in fueling your academic success.
To learn more about the online undergraduate or graduate degree programs at Johnson & Wales University, fill out the "Request Info" form on this page or call 855-JWU-1881.