People often look at me a bit funny when I say I’m doing my teaching diploma online through University on the Hill and some of them will often say what I’m assuming most are thinking ‘how can you learn to be a teacher online?’ More so when they find out I live within walking distance of another university which offers teacher education. In fact there are three university providers of teacher education in Auckland and I still ended up going online with an institution in another city.
So why did I choose to study online through a university that isn’t even based in Auckland?
The short answer as to why I chose the University on the Hill is because they said yes first. A longer story can be found back at the application phase. Simply put I found out through the interview process that the university I thought was my first choice was actually my second.
I’ll admit I took a huge risk taking the road less travelled when there was a safe, some would argue better, option available.
Going down this route has also come at a costI’ve missed out the social aspect of being a student and the support that this offers.
Seeing the facebook interactions there’s an obvious camradrie there between the on-campus option of this course in comparison to online students. I’ve made some friends through my diploma but the friendships aren’t as strong as the ones I made the first time I was at university because when my course buddies and I get together it is once every few weeks for the purposes of study rather than just generally hanging out between classes.
But there is a good side to this.
No campus politics.
During my first degree I served two terms as Vice-President of the Students’ Association which meant I was up to eyeballs in campus politics. Don’t get me wrong, I learned a huge amount from being involved with my Students’ Association and made some life-long friends along the way but I was stuck very much within a bubble and felt a bit disorientated once my term was over. However this time I around I’ve literally distanced myself from being sucked into serving on committees, negotiating with various campus factions, supporting causes and the pressure that goes along with being responsible for an organisation with a $10 million turnover in order to focus on my studies.
But there are a whole bunch of reasons I enjoy studying online.
- I like being able to study when and where I want. If there’s something I’d like to go to during the day time, a class at the gym, meeting up with a friend or just life getting in the way then I don’t need to worry about missing classes.
- I really like that I can engineer placements to suit me. Because there are just handful of students in my city I’m not competing against course mates for placements at desirable schools. Both times my university placement office has put me in my first choice of schools. Placement number 1 was ace and placement number 2 seems to be shaping up as a cracker.
- Finally the big one, no commuting. In fact on cold and rainy mornings when I don’t want to get out of bed I’ll fire up my laptop and study in my PJs until noon.
Underneath this apparent slothdom a whole bunch of learning is taking place due to the extra time I have to devote to my learning. There’s blogs to visit, twitter chats, #RSCON3 and #twecon to participate in. Alongside the regular studies my days are spent interacting with real teachers, university lecturers from the otherside of the planet and children from different countries via social media. Through the beauty of tabbed browsing I can virtually be in several different places at once. While I am inside the university listening to lectures, I can be visiting a class blog in Australia while facebooking another course mate and tweeting with a university lecturer in Scotland.
Physically learning outside of the university has forced me to adapt my learning, and I think it has done so for the better.
I probably would never have started writing this blog or entered the world of twitter if I had been on campus because I would have carved out some sort of niche for myself inside the university bubble. But when I look at who I interact with on twitter and the people who comment on my blog I realise that being out of the university sphere has pushed me further into the world of teaching which is the place I want to be.
In reality I think that online learning is really no different to campus learning insofar as you get out what what you put in. I know that this style of learning is not for everyone, I wouldn’t have handled the isolation and probably didn’t have the self-discipline to cope with the rigours of this course when I was younger.
But now that I am in the second half of my diploma I find myself thinking ‘how can you not learn to be a teacher online?’