The best online instructors are understanding, flexible, excited about distance learning, and well trained in the online environment.
What better way for an online instructor to gain experience with online education than to actually be an online student?
Meet Cindy W., an online doctoral student who also teaches online classes for the University of Phoenix. Cindy, a 47-year-old married mother of two from Seale, Ala., has been pursuing her Ph.D. in Business Administration with a specialization in Management since July 2006. Cindy had previously earned a B.S. in Environmental Science and her MBA from Troy University.
What do you currently do for a living?
I work in Inventory Management at a Fortune 500 paper company in the United States. At this time, I do not plan to switch careers, but I do plan to move within the company. I enjoy my work and my degree will increase my opportunities within this organization.
Why did you choose to pursue a Ph.D. in Business Administration?
The Ph.D. in Business Administration is a natural progression from the MBA. My hopes are to increase my career opportunities in my full time job.
I also teach adults at the University of Phoenix, and the Ph.D. will enhance my skills for that position as well. Throughout my life, I have sought opportunities to learn and share the knowledge that I have gained through education.
Why did you decide to go with distance learning?
I actually teach classes online and love the flexibility and the self-pacing for learning. I work full-time and the only way that I could possibly go back to school is by taking distance learning courses.
Why did you choose Northcentral University?
I have a friend who is attending Northcentral, and he recommended the program highly.
When I finally decided to take the plunge, I gathered materials from all of the online/mostly online schools with management programs. I called the schools and talked to various members of the administration.
Northcentral's schedule, which is basically self-paced individual work, appealed to me. My schedule is very tight and the program is rigorous and interesting.
When do you expect to complete your Ph.D.?
I was accepted to Northcentral University on my birthday this year, May 23. I am in my second course working toward a Ph.D. in Business Administration with a specialization in Management.
With my transferred graduate credits applied, I had 51 credits left at initial enrollment. I have completed one 3 credit course and am enrolled in another 3 credit course. Each course is 12 weeks long.
In the future I hope to take more than one course but at this time, I am limited by time and funds to taking one course at a time. I hope to complete my studies in five years.
How much will your degree cost?
According to the school's website, the estimated cost of attendance is $26,225.
How are you paying for your degree?
I am paying for my education by myself. I received tuition assistance from my company when I worked on my MBA.
Since I pay out of pocket, it is very expensive. I am taking only one course at a time. I would love to be able to take two at a time (and finish twice as fast!) but that is not an option at this time.
How do you manage work, school, and your personal life?
I organize from day one, using simple office tools like three-ring binders and file folders. I get out of bed about an hour earlier than I need to, and use this time to work on assignments or check on my student newsgroups. My books and notebooks or whatever project I am working on is always with me in my briefcase. If I am waiting at the doctor's office or taking lunch at my desk, I am working on an assignment or reading.
When gathering materials for papers and projects, I make sure that I know how to research in the online library that is provided. I have learned some short cuts through practice. I use APA software (StyleEase) which takes the stress out of the details of writing papers, and I can concentrate on the subject itself.
My children are now grown, and my husband is my best cheerleader, giving me opportunities to retire to my home office to "work."
I believe that I would not be able to keep up if my family were not as supportive as they are. They believe in my success and make sure that I know it—and believe it myself.
What is your biggest challenge as a distance learning student?
My biggest challenge is time management.
I have so many responsibilities that time flies away from me. I have found that taking a vacation day and writing a paper all day long is about the best way for me to keep up. I am tired at night when I come home from work and it is hard to concentrate on a paper.
What are the best and worst things about distance learning? Please give examples.
The best thing about distance learning is the self-paced instruction. At this point in my career, I do not need to sit in a classroom to read and learn about a subject.
I like to be in charge of my learning and education. The second best thing is getting back a good grade on a paper that I struggled over.
For me, the worst thing is doing research online. I miss the dusty halls of the library and the beautiful learning that occurred there. Online research can be hit or miss. There is so much information available; sometimes it is difficult to narrow a topic.
Do you have any advice about distance learning for potential students?
I believe that it is imperative for potential students to weigh all of their options. Distance learning is not for everyone.
The distance learner must be organized and focused on his goal. Asynchronous learning is very different from "normal" classes, and the student must be fully in charge of their learning experience.