The Pioneer Post

The Pioneer Post is a resource for online students that provides tips and information about distance education.


Friday, March 14, 2008

By Lisa Cousins, alumna
Master of Science in Criminal Justice
Class of 2001

I remember when I first started thinking about earning a degree from a distance education program. I was enrolled in the on-campus Justice Studies graduate program at my local university. My Justice Theory class was small (about 15 students), and we met on Tuesday nights. There was a research paper due at the end of the semester, but a few weeks into the class, the instructor had requested that we turn in our draft outlines the following week. I approached her after class and explained that I was going to be absent the following week because I would be in Israel on a business trip. I asked if I could turn the outline in the following week. Seeing her displeasure, I offered to work on it on the airplane and fax it to her when I arrived in Israel. She liked that idea better. The Holiday Inn in Tel Aviv charged me the equivalent of 18 U.S. dollars to fax my draft outline to my instructor on the day it was due.

I figured there had to be a better way to achieve my goal. I eventually Google'd my way to the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. Distance education was a perfect fit for me. I had a fairly demanding Monday through Friday job. At UW-Platteville, I was able to do almost all of my schoolwork on the weekends. The coursework itself was very similar to the coursework at my local university—a lot of reading and writing. The work itself was not easier or harder than the traditional master’s program; it’s just that getting it done was easier because I could do it at my convenience, when I more rested and focused.

The secret to being a successful distance education student is to find a rhythm. Because there is usually no set schedule, it is tempting to procrastinate. It works best if you try to set aside time to do your homework. It does not work well when you just try to fit it in here and there, when you have nothing else to do. Inevitably, you will run out of time and end up feeling rushed and pressured. If you can, schedule your school work at a regular day and time each week.

Distance education is great. It opens up opportunities for people who may not be able to commit to a strict schedule of years of college classes at a specific geographic location. For me, I know I would have finished my degree at the local university. But transferring to UWP made my graduate school experience a lot more convenient and a lot less frustrating. If you think it might work for you too, I would encourage you to give it a try. Take a class and see how you like it.



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