Blogging & Earning a Masters. Is there a difference?

Weekly Geek Time! You guess the author

It’s a beautiful rainy Sunday here. Just the kind of day I like. Rain clouds tend to bring out the green shades of nature, which are gorgeous backdrops against the multitude of brightly colored spring flowers. My mood is always lifted when it rains. It ‘s as if my soul is being cleansed. I’m between classes right now; the spring semester is over and my next summer course starts in a week. Between the rain and my freedom from school, I’m in a relaxed and contemplative mood.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to my education lately. So much of what excited me in the previously is now draining me of enthusiasm. In the past I looked forward to exploring new ideas and writing essays on my discoveries. I was one of those students who could sit down and write a 10-page paper in just a few short hours. All of my papers earned praise and delight from my professors; they appreciated my written attempts to dive deep into the subject matter. I always thought long and hard before I wrote and often wrestled with my subject in order to pin down my thoughts and feelings for it. I really felt like I was developing as a critical thinker, and by the time I graduated, I felt as if I matured into a whole new person. I looked forward with anticipation to graduate school. Who would I be when this was finished?

I was a little apprehensive about grad school (I have spoken about this before) because I pictured more demanding professors who, with red pen in hand, would rip apart anything I wrote, challenging me to think deeper. The graduate’s handbook warned of expecting As. “It is not about the grade, it is about the journey. This is a time of learning new skills, not showing off the ones you already have”.  Intimating yes, but completely within the bounds of higher education. Okay, I told myself, forget about being an A student, just make sure you do your best and push yourself to new limits!

What I didn’t’ expect was to be handed material from absent professors, who it seems, have no interest is pushing a student to do anything! Out of the four classes I have taken, two (which is half, yeah a humanities major can do math) have consisted of written lectures and Youtube videos. We students were expected to read then write essays answering canned questions posed to fill up paper space, not to push us to think deeply about the subject at hand.  This is not helping me become a master of anything- well maybe bullshit if this keeps up- I can’t believe I am paying for this!

Earning a masters in humanities is a lot like being a critical reader and blogger. By comparison, blogging critically about books and current events may be more effective than earning a masters. As bloggers we are passionate about what we choose to read and write about, and try hard to make sure our thoughts are well crafted so our target audience continues to read our work. We encourage, nay, need feedback so that we may start open discussions. It is our hope that our words foster new ideas within in our small community.

Last May, I found myself missing school so I did a series of blog posts titled A Course, a Course, my Kingdom for a Course! The series was my attempt at self-education. I wrote a Shakespeare course syllabus and set out reading and watching nothing but Shakespeare for two months. My hope was that by the end of the two months, I would have a better understanding of the man and his work. It’s too bad I couldn’t do this for two years and then show my work to a University and be handed a master’s in Shakespeare.

If I could hand out masters in literature I would give the first one to Ben over at Benreadsalot. This is man who, for the love of the experience, is reading and critically blogging about it. He is doing more than just reading and writing; he is exploring the world of literature and writing about his experiences. You could not ask for a better student than Ben. He not only expresses himself well, you see how literature is affecting his worldview.

I have come across many bloggers like Ben. Bloggers who allow literature to seep in and enrich their lives. All of these people, knowingly or unknowing, are earning their own masters and experiencing higher education on a very personal level. I marvel at them all.

I want to teach at the college level, so for now I will continue on the path of traditional education, though when I do teach, you can be damn sure I will not be an absent instructor. If you take one of my classes be prepared to think critically and prepare yourselves to be transformed by what you read. And if school is not for you, take heart, you are probably on your way to a masters without having to stress over midterm and final papers. Lucky you!

Author: sarij

I'm a writer, lifelong bibliophile ,and researcher. I hold a Bachelors in Humanities & History and a Master's in Humanities. When I'm not reading or talking about Shakespeare or history, you can usually find me in the garden discussing science or politics with my cat.

4 thoughts on “Blogging & Earning a Masters. Is there a difference?”

  1. So do you think your thoughts and feelings could be the difference between an on-line education and a class-room education? Does an on-line education perhaps miss out on the opportunity to visually guage reactions to questions and answers; the personal interaction with a professor? Are you planning to teach in a traditional classroom or with classes on-line? How do you believe each type of teaching may differ and how would you approach each? Do you think one type of education excels over the other? How would you know that your teaching has enriched a student? I would be very intrigues to know your answers to these questions as you probably represent a goodly percentage of students in today’s educational environment.

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    1. Hey thanks for the great questions. This subject could be quite the blog post!
      Yes, there is a difference between on-line and face to face classes. The obvious is that in a face to face, students can ask questions as the professor is lecturing. There is no such thing as an absent professor.
      I have been a student of both learning environments and have to say, that it is the professor’s teaching style that makes all the difference. You can be in a classroom with a professor who does not respond well to questions or is more interested in hearing him or her speak, than fostering real learning. Some of my favorite professors teach on-line. I am not sure if you are familiar with on-line education, so let me explain.
      There are weekly discussions posted as threads. The questions posed are designed for students to not only answer, but answer in a way that drives more discussion. A good professor jumps in and responds to the students; pointing out where they are wrong, cheering them on as they absorb the material, encouraging them to think a little deeper or just making sure the conversation continues. Good professors will pose yet more questions and give “mini” lectures in the discussion thread. This allows students to ask and or talk to the professor as if everyone is in the same room.
      I’d like to teach on-line as it is becoming the way of higher education. I’d like to think that my experience as an on-line student will be an asset. I now know what students are looking for in a virtual classroom.

      You know you are making a difference when a student has that “ah, ha” moment. That moment when they see the world a little differently. I hope that when students leave my classroom they will have the tools to be critical thinkers.

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  2. On-line education appears to be the wave of the future. With so much information posted on the internet how does a student or a teacher discern what is real and what is not, what is false, what is true? For the teacher, how do you determine when a student has an “ah-ha” moment? It used to be that you could see it in their eyes, hear it in their voice.

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    1. You know that student has an “ah ha” moment from their discussion post. Again, a good teacher engages students in conversation, some times debate. In one of my first classes we were talking about post-modern language. I debated with another student over the idea that new words are more than new objects of expression. The debate was over Shakespeare’s new word “eyeball”. I said it was just a new way to say eye. My teacher asked me to think about my response. The next morning over coffee I thought about it. I realized that the word eye and eyeball have different connotations attached to them.I rushed to my computer and wrote a discussion post based on my newly formed ideas. My “ah-ha” moment came across loud and clear. In my final evaluation my professor thanked me for taking the time to rethink my views.
      Often I “hear” my fellow classmates say “I never thought of it that way” or wow, that just blew my mind. These too are “ah ha” moments.

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