Bertrand, online education student with Colorado State University, is a man with an easy manner that immediately puts people at ease. When I talked to Bertrand about his experience with online education, I tried to time my call so that he would have the chance to sleep in a little bit on his day off. On about the third ring, I realized that I had miscalculated and it was still only 8:30 in the morning out in LA where Bertrand lives. When a relaxed, deep voice answered the phone, I asked guiltily if I had woken him up. After reassuring me he had been up for hours, Bertrand began to chat about himself and his experiences with online education.
With his straightforward, comfortable personality and background, it’s no surprise to me that Bertrand ended up in healthcare. His mother was a nurse and Bertrand himself was a Certified Nursing Assistant by the time he graduated high school. After that, Bertrand bounced around a little bit, doing a 12 year stint with the Army and working as a photo journalist, but eventually he came back to healthcare. Bertrand explains that he loves the industry and the feeling that what he does makes a difference. He also admits, a little more sheepishly, that the reason he didn’t look into becoming a doctor is a fear of dead bodies, a phobia which makes medical school impossible. Bertrand has been in a number of different positions within the healthcare industry, everything from claims to auditing to education and training. For now, Bertrand is content to work in the hematology division of a hospital where his title, “Accounting Manager,” he feels, does not accurately represent his role. “I’m really more of the Division Budget Manager,” he explains. Regardless of the position name, it is certainly a job that keeps him busy. With his full-time job, distance education is the perfect way to work towards his Master’s in Business Administration without compromising his current position.
When Bertrand signed up for online courses, it was with the hope that he would be able find more time for himself by multi-tasking: doing laundry during lectures or reading course materials during his lunch break. When he got into Colorado State’s continuing education program, he found his niche. “It’s like a real classroom situation being able to listen to the lectures and the questions. … Hearing the questions on the DVD answers a lot of questions that I had,” he said. The only difference he has found between Colorado State’s distance learning and a traditional class? “I get to lay down during lectures,” he laughed. He also enjoys the real time chats he can have with other students in the class and how responsive his instructors have been. Unlike previous online classes he had with other schools, Bertrand said that he feels connected with his classmates and instructors.
Of course, part of this connectedness is due to Bertrand’s own diligence. Every night, Bertrand logs on and checks out the discussions his classmates are involved in, enjoying the diversity of all the viewpoints. Occasionally, he’ll comment on the conversations, voicing an opinion or offering his own experience. “There’s always something going on!” he says.
His advice to students new to online learning? That’s easy: Motivate yourself in any way possible. He explains that, “It’s really about being motivated enough to log on and be active with the e-mails and online discussions… Participation matters and it helps!” Bertrand himself seems to embody this mantra of being an interactive student, mentioning that he especially likes being able to hear other people’s stories.
While right now he is working on getting his Master’s in May 2011, Bertrand acknowledges that he is playing with the idea of going on for his Doctorate. But for now, Bertrand’s focus is on the two classes he is taking online, his job at the hospital, his family and taking time for himself, like the weekend he just spent in Las Vegas (although he was quick to reassure me that he would definitely take some time out to do some course reading!).
Bertrand has found the structure of Colorado State’s distance learning really helpful to him. Have you had the same experience? What do you find helpful or not so helpful? How can we help make it better?