Thursday, July 5, 2012

Reception of online degrees at brick and mortar universities?

I'm still digesting the idea of online versus in person degrees... So I wrote this quick email:
I am currently considering enrolling at the University of Boston in their online Applied Linguistics program.

I am doing an informal survey for my blog, trying to get a sense of how online programs are received at other universities.

Do you admit any students into your program who might have received a degree from a real institution, but did their degree online?

At this point, would you be aware of it?


I sent it to Professor Bertram Malle, in the Brown Linguistics Department, among others. He was kind enough to give me this reply:
I have not encountered a case, and if I did encounter one I would do additional research into the institution and the program.  Ultimately it's the whole application package (incl. research experience, letters, etc.) that raises students to the top.  I could imagine that online study may have negative consequences for some of the package elements (e.g., research experience) even if the degree itself is of credible quality.


Bertram Malle
I received a short reply from Professor Buckley, who has been grad-chair for the past several years of the University of Pennsylvania's Department of Linguistics. He replied:

We would presumably judge as when a student has limited
background in formal linguistics (NOT applied). We have
never received such an application.

Dr. Katherine Kiss, the professor of the class I am currently taking at Umass Boston's online program, responded this way:

I am not sure I am one to respond to this[.] I teach only in the online offering of the UMass apling master's. I can only say that the few students I am aware of from the online MA who have applied to Ph.D. programs have gotten into excellent programs in the country, and in one case in the UK. Others have gotten University jobs. Others have started publishing in peer reviewed journals, including their original research even if our MA is not intended to have a research component.

I think that UMB IS a real University so the question strikes me as strange. Having been involved in the application process, it was never evident to me if the courses on a student's transcript were done online or in a f2f classroom. That was irrelevant to the process. What we looked at included the statement of purpose, the transcript, the accreditation of the degree granting university and the references, among other things.

I'll post more on this subject if I hear anything from the other people I contacted.

Update here!


  1. Hi Julia! I, too, have been trying to do some investigation into some of the online masters programs around (particularly those in Applied Linguistics and International Education). Since you posted this last year, have you made any decisions or started a program yourself? If so, a penny for your thoughts on how you like it thus far! :-)

  2. Hi Alisha,

    (Oops, edited from above)

    Yes, I decided to enter the UMass Boston Applied Linguistics Online program.

    I have taken two classes so far. One was amazing, and one was good. And I have a good yardstick, having been lucky enough to have had an excellent undergraduate experience at Smith, and an often excellent experience at the San Francisco Art Institute.

    I would recommend it. Financially, it's probably the best deal if you aren't going to be getting financial aid for one reason or another, like me.

    In general, I think a school that has a real physical presence does pretty great. My husband has also taken free classes through coursera, and loved them; they are offered by Stanford, Berkeley School of Music, etc...

    Good luck! Let me know what you decide.

    1. So, you would say that you like the online Applied Linguistics program through UMB---for me the price is perfect, and then I like the curriculum as well as the fact that it's online. My schedule makes it pretty difficult to do classes everyday. I've been reading up on reviews and my friend was telling me about "brick and mortar" I'd never heard the phrase until then. The only thing I don't like is having to choose between ESOL and Foreign Language Pedagogy because I teach and have taught Spanish and ESOL, they're both my loves!

    2. Hi Camila,

      That sounds like good news for your career – I imagine schools appreciate having someone who can fill two jobs!

      Yes, I have to admit that the requirement of choosing between non-English language teaching and English language teaching is a bit irritating. And odd, because it seems a little peculiar to make such an emphatic distinction.

      Have you talked with the program director to find out if is possible to straddle the line?


  3. Julia:
    Any update on the program? I, too, am looking into it.

  4. Grumpy Dutch, you have one fabulous pen name! I wrote a little update here:

    Will write more about the content of what I've learned so far.

    Good luck!