May 28, 2006

The easiest Masters degree ever

On Thursday, I convocated from the University of Saskatchewan with a M.Ed. in Communications and Technology.

The feeling at convocation and among those who I talk to is that you must be relieved glad it’s over. I am. But unlike many who talk about how hard it is/was to go through this process, my experience tells a different story.

So many people who have completed graduate studies or are in the midst, talk about how hard it is. They speak of excessive reading, time away from their family, stressful assignments, boring professors or limited class choices. For several reasons, I can’t claim the badge of honour many tout. Here’s why my journey was easy:

  1. It was free. When I began my studies in 2002, our province began a recruitment and retention program designed to provide additional funding for school divisions attempting to develop leadership within their teaching staff. This enabled all my expenses, including tution, travel and related costs to be paid. During May of 2005, I was able to take the month off with full pay to complete two classes. Thank you to our school division and the province.
  2. It was online. Not exclusively but the majority of it was done online. While others in the area were travelling on stormy winter nights to attend classes 1 hour away, I relaxed on my couch with my wireless connection. I had some face to face class experiences but even those were largely optional so if the weather was bad, I was told to stay home. Thank you to the University of Saskatchewan.
  3. It was job related. Since I was already in my current role as a consultant, I was able to apply most classes and assignments right into my job. Many of these utilized by our staff and others, including my digital video site and video tutorials. My project was a historical documentary on our school division which is the oldest in our part of the country. A good number of my assignments were done during work which although felt like cheating was wonderful. Thanks to my professors.
  4. It was flexible. The job related idea was further supported by a faculty that went out of their way to encourage me to keep assignments within my professional responsibilities and keep them manageable. This wasn’t true for everything, but it seemed to me that most of the reading and work fit perfectly into my day to day work life. Another thanks to my professors.

This experience certainly makes me consider what elements we need to advocate in our K-12 schools. I think there are elements of all these reasons that could be included in our schools. I’ll give you some examples and perhaps you can think of more:

  1. Financial benefit. Continued support for Advanced Placement courses would currently help students entering post secondary school. Some of our Practical and Applied Arts offerings can be used by students entering the trades as credits in some courses. A nice incentive.
  2. More online offerings. Our school division has some major geographical challenges and this would provide some solutions. Also with students having part time jobs, this could enable many more to do both more successfully.
  3. Give credit for personal interests. I’ve blogged about this before but this is important in making learning more relevant for students.
  4. Make learning flexible. This is one many are constantly working towards but often our curriculum makes this difficult. Providing students with more choice will create a positive experience for our students.

The blurring of lines between school and work was a nice experience for me. We need to continue to blur the lines between school and our students’ lives. This is a good thing.

Now on to my PhD….thanks but no thanks.