Why Choose an Online College? Interview with Joan Goudounis

She has the distinction of being one of the very first to have graduated from Walden University's Master of Science in Nursing Education program. So it's no wonder that Joan Goudounis's new degree is opening her up to a number of firsts.

Joan, a married mother of two children, 15 and 19, began working on her graduate degree in 2004.

While it wasn't her first degree - she earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Maryland in 1982 - it was the first time she relied solely on distance learning to fulfill an educational goal.

"Obtaining my Master's degree from Walden University opened up more doors for me and provided me with the tools I need to create a positive social change for health issues in my community," says Joan sincerely.

With twenty-two years of experience logged in a hospital and a private doctor's office, Joan is now an assistant professor of nursing at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, MD. This tireless 51-year-old Annapolis resident says she has plans to forge ahead and continue her education with a Ph.D.

So why choose an online degree over a traditional, face-to-face program?

The online environment made it more convenient for me. Assignments were more specific and I had everything I needed right at my fingertips. I could choose when and where I would study. This would not occur if I attended an on-campus program.

How many other online schools did you consider?

Just one. I looked into attending the University of Phoenix Online.

What criteria guided your decision in choosing a school?

It had to have years of experience with online courses, faculty credentials, and accreditation status. Walden was founded in 1970 and the M.S. Degree in Nursing is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

Why did you ultimately select Walden University?

Besides meeting the criteria mentioned above, the people at Walden University provided no pressure to sign on and were courteous, considerate and helpful. They would say, "You can take your time to think about your decision to attend Walden University. Please feel free to call us anytime and when you are ready we will assist you."

Walden portrayed itself as not being greedy for your money. They did not demand that you sign up immediately. In other words, they were not pushy.

What was your favorite aspect of online learning?

Convenience. All students are on equal ground. Everyone had a voice in the classroom and did not feel intimidated. Also, the learning resources - books, etc. - were sent directly to your door. You also had easy access to other resources such as the electronic library databases.

And what was the worst facet of online learning?

Time zones! If an instructor allows you to call at certain times and it is not convenient for you then this could be a problem.

For example, if an instructor states that you can only contact him from 1-3 p.m. EST and you live in the Pacific Standard Time Zone, then you would most likely be at work and be unable to call. If your computer crashes, or you lose power, you may have a problem keeping up with the assignments and their due dates.

What would you say was the most surprising thing about online learning?

It was well-structured and organized. There were direct, to-the-point assignments. Lasting friendships can be made, too. And the amount of support one has at his or her fingertips is great.

What is the biggest myth about obtaining an online degree?

Unfortunately, there are some people who still believe that online courses are not true courses. These same people think that learning cannot occur online and that friendships cannot be made.

They believe that the courses are below standards and that only the unintelligent people attend online courses. Boy, are they WRONG!

Would you do another degree online in the future?

Definitely! As a matter of fact, I am trying to get the RN nursing program at Anne Arundel Community College to place some didactic courses online so I can help to create and teach them.

That's great - another first for you! Have any advice for others thinking about an online nursing degree?

It takes dedication and commitment to make it through an online course. It is not a piece of cake or an easy ride.

How did you manage balancing work, school and your personal life?

When I was a student, I delegated tasks to the rest of the family. My personal life suffered a bit, but I made it a point to do something at least once a week. I had time dedicated for work, studies, play, and home life.

And what have you learned about yourself throughout this process?

I came into Walden University as a non-thinking person who was used to being told what to do and how to do it, as influenced from the traditional classroom setting.

I left Walden University as a critical-thinking person who searched for what I needed to do and taught myself how to do it as part of an adult-centered learning experience. I now possess the knowledge and tools needed to make positive social change. I can teach multiple learning styles both in the classroom and the online environment and I learned that I can do anything I put my mind to.

And how did you pay for your education?

I paid out of pocket.

Can you estimate what your graduate degree cost you, in total?

I actually received 50 percent off in tuition for being in the very first Master of Science nursing program. I believe I paid $7,160.00 for the entire program.

Anything else you'd like to add?

I want to thank Walden University and Laureate Education for providing me with a new outlook in life and a new beginning.

If you want a great education in nursing (or any other field) that is theory-based, provides a user-friendly environment, and offers many resources and support services for their students, then Walden University is for you.

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