A September 2019 article in Psychology Today magazine expressed the opinion that loneliness springs from how we think of our circumstances. The proliferation of social media may contribute to the report that 30% of Millenials (ages 23-38) feel lonely. The feeling can lead to negativity, isolation, and lack of self-esteem.

Loneliness is not conducive to learning.

Online degrees are available at all levels – from Associate to Master’s. You also have the choice of taking conventional or accelerated programs. The latter typically increases your workload, but you have the benefit of completing a master’s degree in as few as 12 months. However, not all graduate programs come in an accelerated format.

Online classes present challenges. If you’ve completed an undergraduate degree online, then you are already familiar with online studies. Students who are new to this learning format need to be aware of the demands. Here is a look at some of them.

Motivation

Staying motivated could be the biggest challenge. You are the steward of your studies. In most cases, only you can discipline yourself to spend the requisite hours daily on completing assignments. The exception is if you have a roommate taking the same program. In this instance, you may rely on each other for motivation.

Accountability

It goes hand-in-hand with motivation. Can you hold yourself accountable for completing work on time? Without the physical presence of a professor, you must learn to stay abreast of reading assignments and reports.

Loneliness

Many factors contribute to the feeling of loneliness when taking an online master’s degree. If you thrive on interaction with classmates, then the experience of an online format will be stressful. Notably, if you earned a bachelor’s degree on campus. The resident setting allows you to discuss the course material with professors and other students. You can have study groups and conference sessions with those taking the same course. The interaction acts as a catalyst to strive for high grades.

If you struggle with computer technical skills, this can add to loneliness. You may feel isolated as you try to learn a new online college learning program.

For example, Blackboard is one of the applications used for online learning. Online learning can be synchronous or asynchronous. In the former, students and professors/teachers interact in real-time. Therefore, students meet at a specified time, which can create an obstacle. Having a set time adds structure to the program and disciplines students to be online at a given time. Blackboard Collaborate is an example of a synchronous tool.

Canvas is another learning management system (LMS) used by many universities for online classes. It is the fastest-growing LMS in the world, according to its website. Used by faculty and students, it is available via a mobile app to read messages, see and post grades, and make and turn in assignments. The communication facilitation may remove the feeling of isolation for students.

The synchronous format may suit individuals who have bouts of loneliness studying from home. A live online class for small classes affords students the means to participate via text or video. Each student sees and reads the online discussion with fellow students and the professor. An example is the Master of Public Administration at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

A method to reduce isolation is to have a mandatory campus session. The University of Southern California-Marshall begins its online MBA with one week of online classes and activities, followed by six days of residency learning and interaction. The school teaches the MBA in both asynchronous and synchronous formats. The asynchronous material is in preparation for the live online classes offered two to three times weekly.

Am I a candidate for an online Master’s degree?

Students new to online learning need to assess their commitment. A master’s is a significant step in the educational process. Assuming you decided for career advancement and financial gain, success in your studies is paramount. As a campus student during the undergraduate program, were you able to place studying ahead of socializing? Even if family surrounds you, you can still be lonely. The loneliness comes from feeling detached from a classroom experience. Video conferences may not have the same allure. In addition, taking online classes at the master’s level is an individual effort. A short trip to the college library or sitting down with a professor is not an option.

Overcome Loneliness

Loneliness is magnified when the challenges seem insurmountable.

  • If technology is a concern, choose a college that offers 24-hour tech support.
  • Set a schedule for each day of the week, so you know what to do and when. Be disciplined to adhere to the plan.
  • Make friends online with other students with whom you can discuss problem areas.
  • When you review online schools, select one with small online classes. Also, check the school’s student to faculty ratio.
  • As you research graduate online institutions, determine the graduation rate and retention rate (2-year programs). These details may be an indication of the acceptability of the learning format. Facilitating your learning will go a long way toward avoiding loneliness

Additional Resources:

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What are the differences in an Online vs Campus Master’s Degree in Psychology?

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