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Labor Day classes start

By Amy Nielsen

Nothing like stepping off the proverbial master’s degree cliff into your next career step - on Labor Day.

While I just completed a year-long, online certificate program, this beginning feels so much bigger. I am embarking on something I had no idea I would ever in a million years need to do, let alone want to do. I am so stoked for this educational adventure it makes me giggle.

My beloved has been working his way through his bachelor’s over the last few years, using various online learning platforms. I have used only the one my last program created as a proprietary system. It did use a module structure, which the current program uses as well. It is very helpful to have someone in the family who has already used this platform. He has figured out all sorts of tricks to make it easier to work with, like importing my assignment calendar into my google calendar. That he prefers this platform over all of the others he has worked with makes me feel more at ease.

I really like the module system. The Instructor for each class creates one module per week. All of the required work for that week is neatly packaged in reading order for you to step through completing assignments along the way. Usually there is a quiz at the end of the week to tie it all together. Each assignment remitted is date and time stamped and often logged into a collective forum where students can interact with each other. It’s like getting a shoebox full of the week’s work, no need to try to follow along with the syllabus.

I am full up with my schedule having chosen the two-year completion option when I registered. That means that I take five full-time classes a trimester. In reading the syllabi for each class some Instructors have neatly detailed out the expected minimum and maximum time to complete each module and assignment. This makes it much easier for me to plan out my weeks.

I had so much already planned for the fall before I embarked on this massive undertaking. I had travel plans, education plans for my homeschooled children, classes and workshops for my startup practice, not to mention regular housework and garden maintenance.

Honestly my biggest hurdle, and my biggest fear, is the timing of this whole process. In my other course, weekly class work was self-paced. If I missed a week for a trip I was on, I could catch up with my work and was not docked for being tardy. The only time-sensitive assignments were the four exams and the six conference calls.

This master’s program is back to hard-on academics. Time management at school has always been a weak point in my educational toolbox. I tend to do best if I can binge focus on a subject for a few days and get everything done at once. My hope is that the Instructors have not locked the modules in such a way as to not allow me to work ahead if I get a few free days.

Interaction among students is key for this degree program. It is highly emphasized through weekly discussion board assignments and chats. Because we are working on learning about the collaborative structure in integrative health care it is imperative that we learn to communicate effectively across a broad spectrum of peoples and fields. This is why timely interactions are weighted heavily and mandatory in nature. That makes it difficult to binge watch physiology.

I am planning to use the free hours between clients at my office to get school work done as well if I can get the internet system worked out.  If I can’t I can at least print out or download the articles I need to read, and then there are always the test book assignments to read. Plenty to do if I can’t get the internet working properly to stream the lecture videos.

There are two other areas in my student interface that I am interested to learn more about. The online access to the library and the open student forum. Back in the day when dinosaurs roamed and we used card catalogues, the library was one of my favorite places on campus. Visiting was like sitting in the chambers of the heart of the campus beast. Every library sort of feels like that to me now. I wonder at the feelings I will get from the virtual library.

I once took my baby brontosaurus butt to the volunteer student run vegan café in the student union for conversations and announcements among the bagels, chunky wool sweaters, rideshare boards, and oily black bean water. Now, this online student forum will be interesting and perhaps a bit less juicy than my previous collegiate experience.

All that being said, the hardest classes are going to be the self-paced mandatory “how to be a college student in the digital age” classes all incoming students have to take. I have a fluid writing style that is sometimes hard to fit into an academic format. I love to read and research but my citations are never done correctly the first time. I have two of these classes this trimester and they are going to be killers.

I am giving myself this first trimester to get my feet on the ground and sort out the ins and outs of this program. I will complete everything but I am also allowing myself a week or two of beginners mind and practice not perfection mantras while I wrap my brain around the amount of work I have just undertaken.

I suspect that within the next month I will at some point look back on today and wonder what all of the fuss was about. I will be running on autopilot, completing assignments with ease, switching from course to course like a seasoned student. I love learning. I love new information. I really dig academics. What I am terrified of is the school part of this journey. The deadlines and commitments. It’s going to be one heck of a march, but I have done harder and this one ends with a really great reward.

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