This past Saturday, I went to MSPP for the first time ever. I know, I know... I am an MSPP student, I live in Newton, what's the deal? Well, with a busy work schedule and demanding classes, I never seemed to find the time to head over, despite great interest.
When my advisor, Dr. Stanley, sent out an email that inviting my program to participate in a case work out on a weekend that I was available, I was so excited! Basically, we (the online students) and the blended program (online and in-person) students were invited to get together with Dr. Stanley to go over some case studies, discuss them, and role play resolutions. Afterward, there was also to be a lunch hosted by the Dean of Students for all of the students in the OLP (Organizational and Leadership Psychology) department.
Per usual, I was tired on Saturday morning. I considered going back to bed and sleeping for 4 or 5 more hours (you know, to make it 8 total hours), but I really wanted to finally take this chance to see MSPP and connect with some of my classmates and professors. As tired as I was, even as rainy and gross as it was outside, I am so thankful that I did.
When I first got there, I was kind of nervous; I didn't even know how to get into the building. And at first, it felt a little strange to see people in person whom I have known only online or over the phone since May. As the morning went on, I began to feel much more comfortable. While the exercise reviewing cases and role playing was extremely helpful, it was just making that connection with other members of my cohort, students from the blended program, and Dr. Stanley and Dr. Gregory that I got the most out of. Everyone was so much nicer and warmer and more welcoming than I could have anticipated. It was particularly great to get to talk and work with some of my cohort from the online program. I found that they also shared some of my same feelings, thoughts, and concerns about the course material, assignments, even what happens after graduation. It felt so reassuring to know that we are on the same page.
When I left the school on Saturday afternoon, I felt reinvigorated. I was telling anyone who would listen about how great it was to finally meet some of my classmates and professors, to see the MSPP community in action. While I had already gotten a lot from my courses online, I felt like I had gained just as much by being in the same physical space with these people with whom I have so much in common. This is something that I really took for granted in undergrad, when all of my classes were in person.
Online education provides so much. I do not know that I would be able to be getting my Masters right now if it weren't for online classes. I certainly would not be able to achieve that in under a year's time while maintaining a full-time job. It also affords me the opportunity to have classes with professors and students all over the country, even all over world. Online education also allows us to work at our own pace, which is something else that I really appreciate.
However, as much as I want to sing my praise for online ed. from the rooftops, there is also something to be said for connecting "in the real world." I think that there are ways that we can have this same sort of connection without having to meet in person, but it does require some additional effort, like most good things.
On the topic of what is abundant and what is lacking in online communication, last week, I interviewed for the blog a new MSPP faculty member from Media Psychology, Dr. Jerri Lynn Hogg. During the interview, Dr. Hogg talked a lot about digital communication and what is lost in it, but also what is gained from it. I will leave that subject to her expertise and will be sharing that interview with you all later in the week.
For now, I am truly grateful for all of the connections that I made this past weekend and am looking forward to trying to connect in the same way with my classmates who are not so local. As I said, this requires some effort. Like most things in life, you get what you give. I think I will be giving some more effort to these connections because I know now how worthwhile they can be.