Thoughts From a Distance Education Student

By , February 22, 2011 8:18 am

[This entry has been provided by Debi Rosenberg, who is a PhD candidate from UMKC’s School of Nursing. She lives in upstate New York and attends UMKC via the distance learning degree program.]

I am a 50 year old mother of a college freshman and a high school senior and I live in the northern suburbs of New York City.  When new acquaintances ask me what I do for a living, I respond that I am a pediatric nurse practitioner currently working toward a PhD in nursing.  “Oh, at Columbia University?   N.Y.U.?”  “No,” I reply.   “Actually, I attend the University of Missouri-Kansas City.”  Jaws drop.  

Being a doctoral student in nursing via distance learning has the obvious advantage of not having to commute to attend class—good for me and good for the environment.  Although in a sense, I do commute at least annually.  Each July, first and second year students in my program are required to attend the week long School of Nursing PhD Summer Research Institute, something like a PhD boot camp in which we sit in class all day learning how to write research proposals and NIH grants, then hold up in hotel rooms all night completing the written work which awards us two credit hours for the week.  But Summer Institute is also a psychologically necessary part of this distance-learning experience, as it is the single opportunity to connect in person with the members of one’s cohort, as we are scattered about the United States.  The week also allows for the type of student-faculty contact that cannot be truly replicated via telephone, e-mail, or videoconference.

For me, the greatest challenges are psychological and technological.  Without regular contact with faculty and peers, I feel isolated.  In the absence of face-to-face contact with colleagues both in the classroom and in the hallways, it can become difficult at times to stay motivated.  Distractions abound.  Technologically, I experience something that is a combination of both a challenge and a fear.  In one hour, I have a synchronous session in statistics.  It is now time for me to begin praying that Wimba Classroom will work the first time.  I gather the necessary equipment and prepare enough snacks to get me through a three hour online statistics lecture.  Okay, who moved my webcam?

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