The Benefits of Online Education: A Conversation with Michael Esposito

Should I get a graduate degree? Should I take on-campus or online classes? These are two questions that are commonly heard in the workforce today, posed by employees with undergraduate degrees wondering if a return to school can propel them toward career advancement, increased salaries, and enhanced knowledge and skills.

For one student, the answer was clear. We spoke to Michael Esposito, an associate professor of criminal justice based in Virginia. Esposito has an extensive history with higher education, not just from his role as a professor but from his time as a student. In addition to his undergraduate degree, he holds a Master of Criminal Justice from Rutgers University and a Master of Education in Educational Administration and Supervision from a fellow institution. Esposito is also a current student in the Rutgers online Master of Education in Adult and Continuing Education program.

A Long History in Education

Esposito has been involved in some aspect of education for many years. “I taught high school for six years, I taught at the college level for about a year, and now I’m part-time at a community college, teaching criminal justice,” he said. “I’ve been around education in my work with the federal government. I worked at the FBI Academy as a supervisor, and that’s very much like being immersed in the world of adult education.”

Due his past experiences in criminal justice, the Ed.M. in ACE program helped Esposito combine his current knowledge with the program’s curriculum.

An Ongoing Involvement with Rutgers

When it came time to enroll in a master’s in education program, it made sense that Esposito would choose to return to Rutgers. In addition to his prior criminal justice degree from the university, he also sits on the Board of Directors for the Rutgers University Alumni Association.

Esposito cited two key reasons why he wanted to add this degree to his resume, and why the online program was attractive.

“First, as a student, I had been exposed to online teaching in the past, but I wanted to learn more about how to teach online,” he commented. “Second, even though I’ve been a practitioner in these areas for years I figured this program could teach me additional ways to be more effective in either consulting work or in teaching community college students.”

A Valuable Online Learning Experience

Online learning is becoming increasingly popular across the U.S. According to a study by Digital Learning Compass, in partnership with the Online Learning Consortium, Pearson and Tyton Partners, between 2013 and 2015 the number of students enrolled in distance education increased by 3.9 percent. Overall, more than 6 million students were enrolled in at least one online class that year.

For Esposito, elements of Rutgers’ online Ed.M. in ACE program that set it apart for him included the faculty and how quality instruction helped build a sense of community.

“When you have a skilled instructor, even in a distance learning forum, a very, very strong community of learners can be developed,” he asserted.

He cited an example from one class where the professor integrates many different learning techniques to encourage class participation and interaction. This either occurs in group or one-on-one interactions.

“The group projects were designed so online learners who would not necessarily get to know one another are encouraged to get to know one another,” Esposito continued. “As a result, you become a community of learners, a support system.”

An Engaged Online Learning Community

Esposito reports that the students who are enrolled in the Rutgers online Ed.M. in ACE program end up working together far more than some might assume. Smaller class sizes, learning techniques and required collaboration help keep students talking and engaged.

“You end up with some very close working relationships with some of the people that you’ve been in a number of these classes with,” Esposito mentioned. “When you get to the next-to-last semester or the last semester of the program you may have been in four or five classes with the same people. You tend to get to know these people pretty well from their posts and discussions.”

As a part of the Adult and Continuing Education program, Esposito has expanded his presentation skills, student-teacher communication strategies, and has developed a deeper understanding of philosophies that influence and shape education. With the online aspect of the degree, he can maintain his personal and professional lives and continue to expand his knowledge of education.

If you’re interested in experiencing these types of learning opportunities by joining Rutgers University’s community of educators and learners, reach out to one of our enrollment coaches today.


Interview with Michael Esposito

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