Networking and Online Learning
Recently my field instructor and I were having a conversation about the benefits and challenges of online learning. The School of Public Health offers a number of core courses online and most, if not all of the Maternal and Child Health major can be completed online and at a distance.
I’ve taken a few online courses through both Social Work and Public Health over the years, including Public Health foundation courses such as Ethics, Fundamentals of Epidemiology and Biostatistical Methods II. Online courses are great for flexibility in location and timing. I’ve worked at summer camp, traveled out of state and watched lectures from my porch all while working to complete course requirements. For my biostats class, I found it helpful to be able to re-watch lectures both with concepts I didn’t grasp the first time around and also before a quiz or exam. I also enjoyed being able to work at my own pace, spending as little as 15 to 20 minutes or as much as a couple of hours on the work knowing I could complete it (within reason) when my schedule allowed.
That’s not to say online learning isn’t without its drawbacks. It can be hard to keep up with the material without a class to show up to every week where someone can hold you accountable. It can be frustrating to not be able to get questions answered in real-time, and you don’t always get the benefit of learning from other people’s questions.
Then there’s the networking. One of the things that initially led me to pick Minnesota as a graduate program was the people. On my visits to the campus I met passionate students, staff and faculty with a wide variety of experiences. These were individuals with a passion for life, enthusiasm for the work they were doing and excitement about things they would do in the future. Sharing classrooms, computer labs and study spaces with my fellow students, staff and faculty has been a wonderful opportunity to learn more about their passions and experiences. It has given me an eye into things that are happening locally, nationally and internationally and allowed me to become familiar with a wide variety of programs and resources that are based in the Twin Cities. When I am working on a project or looking for information or resources I can reach out to a fellow colleague with expertise in that area. I know this network will be tremendously helpful to me as I leave campus and start working in the Twin Cities community.