I got my Master’s online and that’s okay.

One of the joys of being a Millennial has been the advent of the Internet. The information super-highway. That transformational inter-connectivity that some may never understand. Let’s face it, being born a digital native has had its advantages.

I remember graduating from High School and watching some special on NBC’s Today Show with factoids about students graduating that year. One factoid that always stuck with me: those graduating that year had always known the meaning of ctrl+alt+delete.

Been there.

The Internet has created jobs, inspired innovation and connected people from around the globe. In fact, one study [link] suggests from 1996-2011, 1.2 million jobs were created directly due to the Internet. That’s an incredible impact on the lives of humans and truly a testament to technology.

We’ve all seen the transformation of the Internet, but Jessi and I have an especially interesting perspective. As a Policy Aide to then-candidate for the U.S. Senate Marco Rubio in 2010, I met only a handful of policy staffers who worked on the campaign. I worked entirely online, emailed and made phone calls with other campaign staff. This experience helped me get out of my comfort zone and forced me to be comfortable talking on the phone with essentially strangers. Jessi has a unique experience because she works from home – she literally relies on the Internet for work. If our internet were down, she would be incredibly limited on what she could do for work.

Most recently, the Internet allowed me to graduate with my Master’s in Mass Communication from the University of Florida. Something that would have been scoffed at 20 years ago, online learning allowed me to take classes at my dream school and develop relationships with classmates I have only met in person once, yet I consider these people to be my friends.

Online learning is not for everyone. It takes a lot of self-motivation and dedication to sit in front of a computer and listen to pre-recorded lectures. There are also other challenges to being in an online program, instead of participating in a discussion during class these discussions are simulated via discussion board (think Reddit for nerds). The problem is I have very little patience for reading people’s perspectives on the educational material I just read. To top it off, there are often mandatory word counts that must be reached.

Of the many challenges, there are also great things to be said about online learning. If I had a question I could email, Facebook message, Tweet or text my professor. Yes, all of the aforementioned were acceptable ways of communicating with my educators. I can also say with confidence that the professors were more engaged with students online, because they simply had to be. There was no option to hide in the back of the class and silently complete the program. As a student, I had to participate and engage with my classmates.

Online learning is not for everyone and there is certainly a place for a traditional classroom. I don’t want a doctor who received his MD online. However, taking classes whenever and however I wanted was perfect for me. I was able to work full-time and be a full-time student. When I worked in Washington, DC my schedule was unpredictable and distance learning was the best fit for my schedule and my lifestyle. Thankfully, I had an awesome support system that helped me along the way.

Hampton with Professor Selepak
This is me and one of my professors, Dr. Andy Selepak – the first time I met him in person. I have a cheesy smile, I know.

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