As an online or distance education student, it can be easy to imagine that you’re on this ride alone. After all, you don’t physically interact with student or teachers and that can give you the illusion of isolation. Well, you’re not alone. Not only are there other students that you can (and should) connect to through classroom chatboards, facebook groups and other forms of fora, instructors have also signed on to go through this journey with you. One such instructor in Colorado State University’s Adult Education and Training (AET) program is Dr. Jeff Foley.
Before I got the chance to talk with Dr. Foley, I didn’t know much about the online master’s degree in adult education. After he explained to me that the program, which was one of the first programs in Education at Colorado State University, is designed to help the older student make a change, I became intrigued. Most of the students (whose average age ranges between 35 and 65 years old) have reached a point in their careers where they either want to make a lateral move within a company or they want to go into training, teaching or consulting. This latter desire is what prompts some people to join AET.
Dr. Foley explained that this makes his role pretty interesting. When you get a group of people together who are all experts in their various respective fields, you are bound to get people approaching the same paper, project or discussion topic from diverse viewpoints. Dr. Foley says that he gets to learn a lot about various topics from his students. Considering that he teaches four classes a semester, it seems as though life-long learning isn’t just for students.
Indeed, the same benefits and challenges that face online and distance education students also confront faculty. Just as some students struggle to balance school and family, faculty also have to toe this same line and find a way to accomplish their work while at home. Dr. Foley has found that honest and open communication with his wife and two children helps him to separate “work time” and “family time.”
In fact, Dr. Foley is a big believer in communication all the way around. Not only does he recommend that students establish a good line of communication with their partners and family about the time and energy demands of being in a distance program, but he also suggests that the same practice should be used between students and teachers. Letting a teacher know when you’ve had a tough week or you’re overwhelmed is crucial for them to be able
So next time you’re feeling in over your head and alone, be it at school, at work, or even at home, remember that your instructor, colleagues, and family are facing the same pressures. Reaching out to them and your fellow students can help get you through your classes successfully. Not to mention your home and work lives!to help you. Rather than closing up when the going gets rough, Dr. Foley suggests that you instead compensate by “over-communicating.”
It is all about you, but you are not alone!