Depending on how interested I think they are, I either just say that all the classes are online, or I start to talk about the different tools professors have used to structure the classes ("Some teachers have recorded lectures, sometimes there are discussion boards or blogs, sometimes they just post assigned readings and you do them on your own time..."). After listening for a while, they usually give me one of three reactions:
- You must be very disciplined.
- It must be nice to set your own schedule.
- It must be weird and kind of hard not to ever meet anyone.
So far, so good. Point three is the kicker, though. It is difficult not to meet anyone. It's hard to get to know people in an online environment, even though I am comparatively tech-savvy and have a lot of experience with online communication. I still have to go out of my way to meet other people in any kind of social setting, much less a physical one. I keep in touch with some classmates over Google chat. I go to conferences. Even so, many of the people I meet are not nearby. I envy my roommate (also currently in grad school) who brings her friends from school over to the house. She confided in me that she had considered the SLIS program here, but had decided not to enroll because she needed the structure and social environment of a traditional classroom.
I am very happy with the academic aspect of my education. I just wish I had gotten to know a greater number of people as more than words on a page.