Sunday, July 7, 2013

I dropped out of grad school and don't know if I am going back

The following is a post that I wrote in anger one evening after dropping out of my grad school courses. I have 3 classes to go for the level I was working on and have not gone back. I am starting to get the urge again so maybe. Here is that post and hopefully if you are teaching online courses you might think about some of these things.

I dropped out of my grad school class. It was a tough decision but I had enough. I am not looking for sympathy and I am not here to throw anyone under the bus. My hope is to inform you of some of the things I felt were lacking in this program. I would like to think people I hang with would not do this if they were online teachers or even teachers in a live classroom. If this causes you to think about how you do things, then I have done my job. I felt there were mistakes on three sides of this equation, the university's, the professor's and my own.
Me - Last year I sat out of grad school for a year due to health and medical procedure reasons. I am also an ordained deacon in the Catholic Church. Along with that I am a high school director of technology, and many of you know my wife Diane. I came to the grad school table with a lot on my plate as so many of us have and yet I thought I could handle it. I was frustrated for most of this semester as I didn't feel I was doing a good job. I like to do a good job.
The University - I don't know what the situation was that brought the University to hire this professor, but I would venture a guess that they were in need of a teacher, they found someone willing to handle an online course that is a core requirement, and with little to no training they tossed the professor in to the deep end of the pool. The university also switched from an online form that they had been using and went to a new system right before the new semester and everyone was scrambling to make it work.
The Professor - With a new PhD and trying to get hired on, the professor said yes to a core course, yes to a new program, yes to an online class and in all likelihood, yes I will figure it out. The first week the recorded lecture video was off. We could only see 1/4 of the screen material. The professor sent us the slides at least so we did have those. One lesson had the same word misspelled throughout the entire slide presentation.
Over the next 8 weeks there was confusion as to where to post things, we were told either the discussion board or the dropbox. I found out later that the professor thought they were both the same thing. I looked for feedback other than from other students in the class who were doing the best they could, but only got one line of feedback in the second week of class. I kept looking for grades in the gradebook, but the only thing there were asterisks and possible points. By the end of the semester, I would have read about 1000 pages, 20 other posts from 20 classmates each week, answered 10-12 weeks of discussion questions on my own as well as written about what new insghts I had that week, listened to an average of 60-90 minutes of lecture online each week, leading up to a major paper, a major reflective essay and a cumulative final exam. I am sorry but rigor - mortis has set in my posterior.
If you are a university, I hope you give your professors all of the help, support and training that they need. If you are a professor, I hope you aren't afraid to ask for help, are willing to give feedback and can get by on fewer than 6 textbooks in a semester and especially for an online course. I also hope you are willing to help your students seek deeper and more relevant thinking. And don't forget to give feedback, feedback, feedback. If you are planning to be the student, make sure you know full well what you are getting in to, I thought I did, but there is also life to live as well.

So much to still try and learn and so little time.


Durff said...

Was it an online or a face-to-face institution? (Guessing f2f) Have you tried the other option? Don't let other people, even me, get in the way of your dream - it is YOURS! Academe, both online and f2f, is full of difficult profs. I had plenty. And then every so often there is a prof who lets you learn your way, urges you to soar, and enables the world. You will meet them, sir, don't give up...........

Paul R. Wood said...

Lisa, It was an online class. While I fully understand the sentiment about it being my dream, sometimes the continual road blocks just get to you. This one did for sure. Taking me awhile to want to get back in the saddle for the final three classes but hope to soon. Thanks for stopping by Lisa.

Kristy said...

I feel your pain. I've been in your shoes as a grad student taking an online course. On the flip side, I've also taught an online course. I can say...what irritated me as an online student motivates me as an online instructor. It seems there's a lesson to be learned in every experience...good or bad. :-)

Kristy said...

I feel your pain. I've walked a mile in your shoes as an online student. On the flip side, I've also taught an online course. I found that what irritated me as an online student...motivated me to be a better teacher as an online instructor. :-)

Mark Dunk said...

My wife was working on a PhD in Medical Ethics and was so disappointed in the professors that she stopped working on her degree. She was turned off by the "ivory tower" attitude. At the time, my wife had over 20 years of experience in nursing home administration, home health care, and pharmacy management, but her professors were not receptive to actual practice but relied on their academic theories almost exclusively.

One of my regrets in life is not getting my PhD when I had the chance. I'm feeling better these days because I can chart my own course with Atomic Learning, Sophia, and many other online resources and MOOCs. Perhaps it is time for us all to embrace the new paradigm by shunning the traditional degree mills and self-actualize online on our own time and terms.