If you’ve ever considered taking online classes, you’ve probably thought about how you will manage your time outside of a traditional classroom. Online courses have similar curricula and assignments as their on-campus equivalents, but completing all the required materials means blocking off sufficient time when you are at home or in a public workplace. Being able to focus, find a distraction-free environment and balance your academic, personal and professional commitments are the pillars of success with online learning.
How can you ensure you have the time and space to finish your online degree? Start by finding a program that offers you maximum flexibility. The Master of Science in Engineering (MSE) from the University of California, Riverside (UCR) is a 100 percent online degree track with seven specialization options. No residency is required, plus the program can be completed in as few as 13 months, compared to the two-plus years typical of most master’s degree programs.
In this way, the general structure of the online UCR MSE is perfect for balancing your education and your career. Let’s take a look at some of the more specific benefits you get from choosing online engineering courses.
Enhanced knowledge acquisition and retention
Online learning usually involves much more extensive use of multimedia resources such as videos, infographics and recordings than classroom-based instruction. Fortunately, a 2015 study by researchers at two Croatian universities found that the use of high-quality multimedia materials contributed to efficient knowledge acquisition and retention.
Multiple comparative analyses of the learning outcomes of online and traditional classes have also found similar results in terms of exam performance and grade-point averages. Accordingly, students can be confident that a top-notch online program will confer all of the academic and career benefits they expect from earning a master’s degree, while going beyond textbook-based instruction with more varied multimedia experiences.
There’s significant variance between online programs, so make sure you choose one like UCR MSE to gain access to rich, multimedia-enhanced learning, led by experienced and widely recognized instructors. The credentials of the UCR faculty combined with the university’s excellence in engineering and physical sciences make the online MSE a worthwhile investment for engineering students.
Opportunities to master new technologies
Since there’s no physical classroom, fully online learning requires the use of multiple technologies to access course materials and interact with other students and instructors. Key applications might include content management systems, video conferencing solutions and chat platforms.
These tools are among the most popular utilities, not only in distance learning, but in team collaboration at numerous organizations. For example, in recent years instant messaging, VoIP telephony and video conferencing — often as parts of larger unified communication suites — have rivaled email and phone calls as preferred methods of collaboration. Students who become familiar with these solutions during online learning programs gain skills that may come in handy at future positions.
The quality of modern communications apps also helps online students stay engaged in their coursework, perhaps to a greater degree than their counterparts in on-campus classes. A comparison of in-office and remote teams published in Harvard Business Review found that the latter were the more engaged, thanks to adept use of technology along with sharper focus on how to get the most out of discussions and meetings. The same difference can apply to online degrees versus on-campus learning, assuming students have access to a well-designed curriculum and the right supporting tools for their engineering courses.
Easier participation in discussions
Discussions of class materials are as fundamental to online degree courses as they are to on-campus ones. However, there remains the obvious difference of where these conversations take place. Online programs usually facilitate discussions via a message board or similar service, which stands in for the roundtable formats and hand-raising systems in classrooms.
The online setup has some key advantages in this domain. Since there’s no physical classroom, introverted students — who may have previously chosen not to engage with classmates or instructors — don’t have to worry about where they sit or how they look and sound when they participate in classroom discussions. In other words, they might be more willing to participate thanks to the freedom and quasi-anonymity of an online format.
Additionally, there’s the advantage of a somewhat more level playing field. Since time constraints are less applicable with online engineering courses (i.e., each class doesn’t have a precise time block), students have more opportunities to contribute at their own convenience. They also don’t have to worry about a single diversion taking up a huge amount of class discussion time, thanks to the asynchronous format of online communications, in which contributions can be submitted and responded to at different times. Students can plan participation around their own schedules.
Flexible learning environments
More broadly, pursuing your engineering degree online, instead of in-person, offers clear advantages in how you set and follow a schedule. Rather than needing to work around the inflexible time blocks of a campus-based program, you can complete assignments and contribute to discussions at times that don’t interfere with your obligations outside of class.
You lose less time and money to commutes and could save on housing expenses, too, since a dormitory or apartment near campus isn’t necessary. One of the key ways distance learning helps you strike a work-life balance is by simplifying your educational experience. There’s no pressure to get to class on time, to speak up, and to rush to other commitments once done.
Is the UCR MSE right for you?
Students in the UCR MSE program can choose from seven different specializations and earn online engineering degrees that can help them compete for desirable positions in the field. If you are interested in a flexible and rigorous program that will expose you to the latest knowledge in engineering and management, be sure to check out our main program page, where you can find additional information along with a questionnaire for receiving our free program brochure.