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Monday, April 30, 2012

The Homeless Graduate: My Journey to Liberty University Class of 2012...12 days to go. Some thoughts about Online Education

Good Mornin'
I hate algebra. That said, I refuse to vanquish this hard-won ground to a wasteland of uselessness, so when this is all done and I finish this class and the one remaining algebra class I have to take this summer...I am going to volunteer to teach it in High School a couple days a week. Because I'll be DARNED if I'm going to be forced to learn all this stuff and then never use it again.
Now...a few thoughts about online education.
I was a resident student at Liberty for two years. I have finished my degree online, so I have seen both aspects of education. Here's my personal take...
First of all, I love Liberty U. My heart is there and getting my degree anywhere else would have been like a second marriage for me. "Sure I love her but she isn't the love of my life"  (of course I realize that I just created a HUGE problem for myself regarding any future bride...I hope she reads this in context).
It had to be L.U.  Liberty is where I began my college pursuits and where I played hockey for 2 years and where I made my best friends. I had to finish this thing there.
I've had people ask me about doing it online and what the differences are. I'll tell you what online IS by explaining what it is NOT.
Online education is NOT a correspondence course. You don't study a book and mail away your homework to someone you will never meet or interact with. It's not a locksmith course on a matchbook cover.  It's the same coursework they are taking on campus. You hear the lectures on mp3 or often by watching a video. I am hoping that one day live-feed real time lectures will be available. But you do hear the professors in the course. Not daily but you do hear lectures.
Online education is not isolating. On the contrary. Instead of having spirited classroom discussion, you have discussion boards online. Now at first glance this sounds rather pedestrian. Here's the caveat...every discussion board has a word count minimum...typically 250 words...and you have to cite references. Now...250 words is more than a full page typed and single spaced. Seldom in a live classroom debate do you have to offer that much to the discussion...and you don't have to cite references. DB's are not easy!
Online education is NOT a shortcut. I repeat...NOT a shortcut. You are covering in 8 weeks what resident students are covering in 17. So if you fall behind you are thoroughly and deeply pinched! I know...I was sick this semester with shingles and then with vertigo. I lost almost three weeks and I have been paying for it ever since with the backlog of algebra. Online requires more discipline that residency ever did for me. Coupled with job and family life it is VERY tough. But it builds character and time management skills better than residency did for me.
Online is not second rate. I have learned as much in these two years as I did as a resident student...actually more. I don't feel as if I missed anything from a quality standpoint.
Online is not a substitute for being on campus. There is a spirit at Liberty that every young man or woman should experience at least once in their lives. There is an interaction with great people...famous and anonymous...that changes you. I heard speakers that moved me as I expected them to because they were well known, and I heard speakers who moved be because they caught me totally by surprise and I became lifelong fans. There were great people in my dorms who went on to achieve amazing things and the world noticed...I was in Toby Mac's dorm freshman year, and Mike Tait became a good friend...and there were great people who went on to do great things that didn't get noticed on a grand scale. My two best friends were made at Liberty, Jim Freeman who went on to become a legendary Volleyball coach in North Carolina, and Greg St. Clair who got his MBA after leaving LU and is a successful executive in Phoenix. I made great friends on the hockey team and I had some of the best times of prayer and spiritual growth with guys like Craig Handwerker and Craig Jeffs, who I played with in  '94/95.
Online DOES allow you to accomplish what you dream of, in the setting you are able to accomplish it. It's an amazing method of bringing Liberty (or most any college these days) to those who long to go there but who simply can't.
It's no cakewalk but it's something I'd recommend without hesitation.
Dream your dreams...then find a way to get them.
My personal "saying" for three years now has been "Everything is possible, with High Hopes!"
...and it is

Until tomorrow


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