Will earning an M.J. have the same cache as it would if earned the old way, brick and mortar style? Online education—whether offered by small private or large state institutions, is increasing in popularity. Look up the phrase “value of an online degree” and you will find dozens of articles on the topic. Most are positive in their evaluation of the programs and schools. They caution readers to consider some of the following points.
Here are the top 5 things to look for in an online M.J. program.
Qualified and Experienced Faculty
A quality institution will have full-time faculty leading their program. At Stetson, our M.J. faculty are comprised of our full-time tenured faculty and a select, well-trained group of subject matter experts (both experienced practitioners and faculty at other law schools who serve as adjuncts).
We know you have a busy schedule. Online programs are just better for working professionals. If you have a big work trip or assignment, we understand if you need to put school on hold. Our faculty tell us that they work with their students when Life Happens, and offer them flexible timelines for course requirements. As long as you hold up your end of the deal and communicate with your professor regularly, they will work with you. Just don’t abuse the privilege!
A quality online M.J. sets high standards for the courses. They involve assigned reading, reviewing videos, conducting research, recording yourself for an oral assignment, writing papers and more. Many involve team projects and online discussion boards. A quality M.J. holds students to the same—or higher—standards as a traditional brick and mortar graduate level course. Most students go part-time to ensure they can balance work, family and school.
Top Quality Technology
Reliable, cutting edge technology is critical for asynchronous learning that takes students beyond watching videos and using group chat features. Software that allows for document sharing, group document editing, video conferencing and uploading, and more is essential to a full experience. Good technology enhances the learning environment.
Interactive students and engaged faculty
These courses are not meant to be taken in a vacuum—they are not the correspondence courses of old. A good online program requires and promotes interaction, dialog, group learning and demands hard work from its students. It is rigorous and meant to help you get to the next level of your career. Stetson’s M.J. courses require students to engage both in the virtual classroom.
Hiring managers are coming to realize that online learning is more in line with the times. Unlike more traditional graduate school, people are just too busy to commit to specific evenings, nor can they give up whole weekends. Very few professionals can step out of the workforce to go to school full-time. Online education, when done right, is a fantastic way to continue to grow your skills and prepare for the next step in your career.
Remember, you get what you give. If you don’t put in the work, you will waste your time and money and will likely fail. There is no fast-pass in an online M.J.!