Indonesia Expat
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Online Learning: Should I? Shouldn’t I?

The most obvious benefit of online learning is the convenience: you can work at your own pace, from wherever you want. As an expatriate in Indonesia, you may be inclined to obtain a post-graduate degree from your home country or from a specific university that is widely accredited and well-recognised. You may be looking to take courses whilst you work full time, or accelerate your graduation date while you are unable to work, or job-hunting.  Online learning makes all of these possible. Many people can’t afford the career break needed to increase their education.  Choosing to study online is a great way to get that certificate or add a line on the resume, whilst expanding your mind and your understanding, enhancing a different set of skills from your norm. You can do this whilst catering to all the other things going on in your life, such as work, family, travel, etc.

E-Learning has Improved

Online learning is a new form of education when compared to classroom learning, but it has evolved significantly from what it started as.  First, the technology has gotten better. There are a variety of e-learning platforms that make navigating the online classroom intuitive to use. Online video meeting rooms, user-friendly blogs, access to online libraries, and easy drag and drop functions to submit assignments make the “technical” stuff a non-issue. Also, universities have adapted their approach to give you a better learning experience. More research has been done to confirm the benefits of online learning, specifically what works and what doesn’t.

Online Learning is BETTER

Recent research has shown that online learning, if executed properly, is actually more beneficial to the student than a traditional classroom. The biggest argument against online learning is that the support network of students and peers is no longer there, but that simply isn’t true. Your network actually expands further and faster through online classes. If you want the advantage of a vast and international network after graduation you can opt for an online course that has group work. With modern technology we are more connected than ever before, and developing meaningful business relationships online is now possible.

Classroom participation can be very useful for outgoing and extroverted folk, but many find classrooms distracting and daunting. Online classrooms have the advantage of veiled anonymity. Though this is a double-edged sword that requires a knowledgeable instructor to be able to manage it properly, it can be great for those who are too shy or uncomfortable to speak up in a normal class.

Here’s how the online version typically works: professors ask for blog entries on a regular basis. A question is posed and the blog is intended to invoke critical thinking about the topic being studied. Each student must respond – something that is not possible in a traditional classroom, and generally makes a lot of people annoyed and uncomfortable. The opportunity to learn from classmates is increased markedly online because the environment is simply more conducive to sharing, and allows time for more thoughtful, and well-researched responses. It must be mentioned however, that this veil of anonymity can be dangerous, as sometimes is seen in cyber-bullying cases and with trolls on social media.

Professors have the responsibility to set up ground rules immediately and monitor their classroom chats to ensure a professional and courteous environment is maintained. Limiting the number of words on a post, and also asking students to always err on the side of friendly are good ways to make a classroom blog successful.

Access to World-Class Educators

This benefit will likely only become more relevant in the future as more educators sign up for teaching online. Sitting on a university campus as a tenured professor may not be of interest to many of the educators who travel the world working on their research and development. Being mobile is becoming more important for people across the globe. Oftentimes the students and teachers alike are global citizens, moving around at various points in their life.

How to Choose a Programme?

Take your time to research which schools have good programmes. Information is often available about how likely you are to be hired, and at what salary, after you graduate. It is highly recommended to reach out to recent graduates in the field you want to study to get some honest feedback. This should be easy to do on LinkedIn. Beware, there are MANY online schools that really have no business being in education. Many have had lawsuits filed against them and are accused of being scams only after money.

Unfortunately, there is no gold-standard or rating system for education across the globe. If you spend some time looking at the number of graduates, post-graduate hiring rates and their salaries, student satisfaction, and also the type of teaching methods used. Other questions you should research are: is there any group work required? Is it entirely individual and self-directed study?  Even though many will groan at the thought of group projects, the programmes that require group work usually yield higher learning achievement and student satisfaction.  Growing your network is a key advantage of education that should not be overlooked. Are there actual deadlines? How does their grading system work? Take a look at the roster of teachers and their background – are they all PhDs? Do they all have published research and vast experience teaching?

It takes a great deal of time to complete this research, but it is worth it. You may shell out around 20,000-30,000 USD for a degree, you want it to be a good one that both has a good reputation and teaches you things you didn’t know before (sounds obvious, right?).

Things to Consider if Taking Online Courses While Living in Indonesia:

Time Difference:

Check out your desired programmes, if they don’t post the schedule requirements on their website, contact a student advisor to determine if there are specific times you must log in.  Some programmes are completely self-directed, but many others require you to phone-in or video in at specific times (via Skype, WebEx, etc) with the professor directly, or a group of other students. Ensure these times can fit with your schedule in Indonesia before choosing the programme.

Textbooks:

Not all textbooks can be purchased here, and not all publishers and distributers ship to Jakarta in a timely manner. Amazon is a good source for textbooks, but often shipping takes a long time. If this is the case, it pays to make friends with classmates so they can scan the first few chapters of their book while you wait for yours to arrive in Jakarta. Also note that even e-books are not available in all regions. This is when having a VPN, and credit cards in multiple countries will ensure you can access the e-books as required. In summary, don’t delay once you get your reading list, order quick to avoid a headache.

Co-Working Spaces:

An immense amount of reading and writing is required to complete an online degree, so avoid going stir-crazy and get out of the house. Co-working spaces provide comfortable areas to plug-in your laptop, print documents, relax, have a snack. Being surrounded by other people that are working can be more motivating than being at home. Also, these spaces can provide new business and learning opportunities since there is a vast network of people using them every day. You can often pay-per-visit, or buy a monthly pass.  The co-working space industry is growing rapidly for a reason, check them out! Jakarta and Bali especially have many co-working spaces and facilities, ranging in price and amenities, and some even serve free beer and coffee.

Online learning. You should.

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