By Brenda Reed

As I look down the path that I have chosen as my future, I see one well-worn avenue; however, I also see many smaller trails diverging off into places unknown.  Each trail appears inviting and lush and yet, at the same time, a bit shaded and unnerving. Today I am focused and moving carefully down the center of my chosen course, stepping carefully so as not to venture away from my goal- a master’s degree in P-12 and Postsecondary Schools Leadership from Michigan State University.  As I try to see beyond May 6th, 2011 though, my visibility becomes somewhat clouded as my selected walkway and those unknown trails begin to merge in the distance, becoming less distinct and clear.

When I began my studies in the MSU online MAED program, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Would the quality of learning be as good as on-campus learning? Would I have the drive or motivation to learn independently? Would I learn anything at all?  As it turns out, the answer to all of my questions is a resounding “yes”.  My time and course work in MSU’s online program has not only given me the knowledge I needed to feel more confident in my current teaching position, but it has also changed me as a person and my vision of what our world can look like and become.  

When others ask me about my online experience, I am eager to say how much I prefer it to on-campus learning.  While some traditional thinkers believe that camaraderie seems more likely in a live classroom, it is shocking to find that those same bonds and relationships with fellow students can be found in the online environment.  Not only that, but because we are a global community, we are working closely with others who share more precisely in our same experiences and ideas rather than having limited similarities with others living in nearby communities.  The secondary conversations and thoughts shared between and among the students in online courses become equally as important as the course information presented by the professors.  Because we students have so much to share from our own daily experiences, there is a constant changing and growth as we take ideas from each other and implement those ideas into our own daily routines.

My experience with online learning has also changed the way I view my daily work as a teacher, especially in an alternative atmosphere.  Because my students often have more obstacles do deal with than most traditional students, it is important that they have other options or non-traditional means through which to be successful.  Online learning is an extra tool that is useful for students who struggle.  I have utilized online classroom formats as a supplement to my live classes, and I have also used the same online format for those students who struggle to meet the attendance requirements each day because of various issues that impede their success.  While I don’t believe that all online learning is effective or even useful, I do believe that, if it is done and presented well and thoroughly, it can give students what they need in terms of a quality learning experience.

Our world is changing.  The latest technology of this week could become almost obsolete next week.  As educators, and life-long learners, we must be prepared to adapt and grow in order to keep pace with our ever changing world.  We as educators must make learning a constant process so that we can teach our students the most effective ways to be successful.

Although my master’s diploma will carry an educational leadership label, I still have uncertainty about where my learning with take me, or where my journey will end.  I initially envisioned my education taking me on to an administrative position, possibly within my local community.  But now that I am so close to finishing my degree, I see many more of those unknown trails becoming possibilities; new paths down which to venture.  I now recognize that my horizon is not becoming more clouded and indiscernible, but rather my future is simply appearing broader and less restricted.  Maybe I will become an administrator in a school district; perhaps I won’t.  Maybe I will move into a college atmosphere; perhaps not.  I’m not sure where my path of new knowledge will lead me.  What I do know is that each day I will put my knowledge to use.  I will reach out to others; I will share what I know; I will strive to improve myself and the world around me; I will continue to learn…I will grow.