How did you find out about the possibility of studying abroad?
During my Bachelor’s in Psychology at the University of Malta, especially during my last year, several lecturers were willing to give us, students, tips and suggestions on what our next steps should be after we graduate. One of the options they mentioned was the possibility to enroll in a course (MA or MSc), by correspondence, at a University based overseas. It means that you would be studying at a University outside of your country, from your home country, using the Internet.
How did you make the decision to try it out?
Since I had a stable job last year, a job I still occupy right now, I thought it would be best if I try to manage to work full time, while I study part-time by correspondence.
What were you studying and where? Did the programme match the topics in Psychology you are most interested in?
For quite a while, I have expressed interest in specializing in Work and Organisational Psychology, as I really do have work-life balance, the health and well-being of the workforce at heart. Due to the fact that the University of Leicester in the UK is quite renowned for its online Masters in Organisational Psychology, I decided to apply for my Masters at this particular university.
What is the application procedure like?
The application process is very similar to what an applicant is required to provide when attempting to apply for a course which the student attends on campus. Along with demographic details, applicants are requested to send a motivational letter, together with 3 referral letters from professors or employers, and also proof of undergraduate studies.
What does studying online look like? What was your typical week like?
The course material is mainly located on a virtual blackboard / virtual learning environment. In this blackboard, one can find journal articles and presentations categorized according to the course modules, tests and assignments which contribute to the assessment final mark, schedule for the whole semester, a section for important announcements, and also access to the student’s mailbox. There were a couple of instances when live audio & chat QA sessions were held, but I could not be present for them. However, the course material is usually posted on the blackboard, and discussions occur in a forum made up of students and professors. I am not sure whether live Skype meetings with professors actually happen, but I would assume that during the thesis, students do communicate with their tutors via Skype.
What made you decide to quit?
Studying and working full time at the same time is not as easy as one would imagine. Since I work until 5:30pm every week day, I had to go home, and try to concentrate on studying. I managed to do so for over a month, but circumstances changed, and I had to make a very tough decision. One of the things that caused me to withdraw from my studies is personal family matters which could not allow me to concentrate on my studies after a hard and tiresome day at work. The second factor is the fact that I realised that studying online is nothing like studying on campus. It is true that concerns can be addressed in the online forum, and professors usually addressed the students’ queries, but the fact that the real life communication between students, and students and professors was lacking, made me feel as if I am not a part of the course completely.
I also think that people who like to be active in campus life, like me, can find it much more difficult to be a part of such a course. Therefore, I decided to drop from my Masters, and restart them again when I get the opportunity to do so, preferably, studying abroad, on campus.
What is positive about studying online?My experience with studying online might not have been a successful one, but that does not mean that reading for a course by correspondence doesn’t have its fair share of benefits. One of the things that attracted me to the course was the fact that I only had to pay tuition fees, compared to the extra costs of accommodation and living while studying abroad. Studying by correspondence is also beneficial for individuals who have already established a career path, and would be unwilling to steer away from their professional life, so they might decide to enroll in an online course, while still keeping their career alive. Other people who might want to apply for online courses are those who have their own family, and would be unwilling to leave home to study.
What do you think is important to think about before making the decision to pursue a degree online?
If you are willing and able to experience student life to the full, I would not suggest pursuing an online degree. Online degrees are mostly for people who are committed to staying home. For those who are open to new experiences, such as myself, it would be best to study abroad.
Any final thoughts or something you would like to share?
I have been told on several occasions that I made a rushed decision, mostly because I did lose money in the process, even though I got partially reimbursed when I resigned. However, I do not see it as a rushed decision. I look at it as a learning experience, mostly as a sneak peek of what a Masters degree in Organisational Psychology includes, since I spent 2 months in the course. If there are people who would actually consider doing their Masters online, I would definitely suggest the University of Leicester, as I found a lot of support from them. They were even supportive when I informed them about my decision to quit. Through this experience, I have also realised that the best decision for me would be to study abroad in the future.