Succeeding in the advanced coursework needed to earn a Master of Education degree requires plenty of skill. When you choose an online program to earn your graduate education or teaching degree, you’re going to need even more of certain skills than a traditional program would require. Although the curricula of online Master of Education programs match those of on-campus programs, the experience of learning in the virtual classroom is very different. Often, students who go into online learning expecting classes to be easier, or even the same, as traditional courses are surprised at the challenges they face. To overcome the obstacles, you will need the motivation and self-discipline to work independently, time-management skills to balance the intense needs of graduate courses with the other demands in your life and technical and computer skills.

What Are the Skills Needed to Be Successful in an Online Master's Program?

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Self-Discipline and a Good Work Ethic

Throughout elementary and high school, most of your education consists of listening to instructors who lecture, review materials and remind you of assignments and their due dates. Even in face-to-face courses at college, in-person interaction with instructors and fellow students plays an important part in how you learn and, in some ways, provides external motivation. You don’t want to have to explain to your professor why you don’t have an assignment done or look unprepared in front of your classmates.

In an online course, much of that regular interactivity vanishes. Instead of relying on a professor mentioning deadlines at the end of a lecture, you need the discipline to set yourself reminders and do the work even when there’s no physical presence of an instructor to keep you focused. Although having a strong work ethic can help you get through these challenges, plenty of hard-working students struggle when it comes to finding the self-motivation to succeed in an online class.

Students may find that study groups, tutors and support from people in their personal lives can help them better stay on task and get the work done.

Time-Management Skills

The opportunity to learn on your own time is great when you have a hectic schedule, are getting bored with the pace of a course or need a little more time to master a topic. However, just because you can do your course activities in the middle of the night in your pajamas, rather than according to a rigid schedule on a physical college campus, doesn’t always make it easier. In fact, if you tend to procrastinate, you may find yourself in real trouble when you consistently cut assignments close to deadlines.

Time-management is so crucial for online Master of Education students is because it is so easy to underestimate how much time you must devote to an online class. College personnel often advise students to plan to commit at least 12 hours per week to one three-credit course. It isn’t unusual for online graduate courses to require even more time. Students sometimes find that their online courses require more time working and studying than face-to-face college courses they have taken.

College personnel often recommend that online students cope with time-management challenges by creating both long-term plans for completing their assignments over the course of the semester and short-term to-do-lists.

Technical and Computer Skills

Being an expert in computers isn’t necessary to get started in an online Master of Education program, but being comfortable using computers is important. Since your interactions with your instructor and classmates all take place in a virtual space, you will spend plenty of time in this digital equivalent of a classroom. Generally, basic computer literacy skills that include knowing how to access and use Internet applications, software and digital communication tools can go a long way. Although you will need to learn how to use your school’s individual online learning platform, there usually isn’t that much of a learning curve among students who have general computer skills.

One benefit of online learning is that, through practice, you are likely to cultivate further comfort and knowledge of the use of computer technology, even if your coursework is on a completely different topic. Since computer skills are valuable in just about any industry, there is a good chance that you are learning bonus skills from your online degree program that will translate nicely into your career after graduate school.

Should you avoid online learning if you don’t feel that you are computer-savvy? Many online programs allow students to get to know the online learning platform and course experience through some form of trial or orientation, so you can decide for yourself.

Additional Resources

What Are the Most Important Factors When Considering an Online Master’s in Education?

Do You Ever Have to Go to the Physical University If You’re Taking Your Classes Online?

Is It Easier to Get Into an Online Master’s Program?

Are Online Master’s Programs Easier Than In-Person Programs?