On any one day of class I may interact with someone from India or New York, from Kazakhstan to France. I may face time zone restrictions that push meetings to unconventional hours of the morning or night. I am more surprised to meet someone from my own state than I am to meet someone from halfway across the globe, and I get the perspective of culture as much as academics. I am a World Campus student. My halls are the roaming corridors of the internet and my classes are virtually boundless.
When I first started as a Penn State student, flush with the pride of acceptance and ready to tackle the rigors of distance learning, I did not know what to expect. I did not know how valuable an “internet degree,” as I heard more than one person call it, could be. If I am honest, I shared some of their skepticism.
The truth is that online education is sometimes a hard sell, but technology is catching up with necessity and the rigors of distance learning are on par with that of traditional education. There are so many tools to bring the experience in line with traditional education. And someday I fully believe that online education will surpass the traditional as the technology grows. In this day and age, geography should no longer be a deterrent to a great education. The fact is that a lot of us are too settled, with families and lives, to pick up and head toward the physical prestige of Penn State, so we are satisfied with the virtual prestige of it.
There are challenges to distance learning, to be sure. Motivating yourself. Digesting difficult material. The occasional issues of coordination and understanding among different cultures and experiences. But there are just too many obvious advantages to dismiss. I get to make my schedule week to week. I get the freedom and flexibility that fits my life. If I want to play Hot Wheels with my son, or spring out of the house for an hour run after work on a warm day long overdue, I can. What’s more, I always have the course materials on hand and access to the professor and to the wealth of learning tools that enhance the experience.
And then there are those advantages I could not foresee. One of the real unexpected joys of my World Campus education so far has been the diverse perspectives that I enjoy on a regular basis. It is as though my academic experience is being magnified by the lens of cultural reference. Not only do I get to share in the wealth of experience that my fellow students bring, but I get to hear the way that their experience is shaped and sharpened by where they are from in this world, and where they are going in it.
Being a World Campus student is more than getting an online degree from a distinguished university, it is about becoming an alum of the world. You share the honor and prize of your education with a community of students that stretches across boundaries we may never physically reach, but will do our best to virtually breach.
The World Campus education offers you the opportunity to learn, not only about those academic interests you are pursuing, but the people like yourself from different parts of the world that are also pursuing it. It is a chance at enrichment beyond the mere accumulation of facts. It is a chance to interact with the world!
Now, I am not going to say an online education is for everyone, but I know that I found a part of myself in the community of such disparate others and we share a goal and a computer screen we call class. You are welcome to join us anytime, but make sure you bring something to share. Everyone else has.