grad school Archive

The Last Two Years

Posted November 28, 2010 By Steve

“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” — Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr

I’ve been blogging at eLearners.com for two years now, but that part of my relationship with them comes to an end this month, so I thought since I’ll be directing people here again for the first time in a while that I ought to summarize what I’ve been up to.  As things stood then, I was working for Marymount University as their Director of E-Learning Services, and had just decided to attend A.T. Still University’s Doctor of Health Education program.  Neither of these things is still the case.

In the professional sphere, I left Marymount in mid-2009 and have been writing articles and doing research for Education Dynamics ever since, including work on their GradSchools.com and eLearners.com web sites, among others.  I’ve also continued as an adjunct instructor at LCO Ojibwe Community College, designing and teaching online courses in IT for them.

On the student side of things, I was in the A.T. Still University program for three terms, and while it was okay, I found myself being pushed away from my real research interests in favor of studying psychological motivations of students, which isn’t really my cup of tea.  I realize that doctoral students must be flexible, but at the same time one must be able to sustain interest in one’s topic, and I knew that would be a big problem.

So I withdrew.  But I didn’t abandon my interest in earning a doctorate.  I applied to a PhD program in Economics through Swiss Managment Center, but I once again found out that the topic wasn’t sustainably interesting to me, and I withdrew from that as well, this time much more quickly.

But third time’s the charm, they say.  I realized that I would need to find a solid program in Higher Education Administration or International Higher Education, and applied to such programs at Liberty University, the University of Memphis, and Northeastern University.  I heard back from Liberty University a while back, which was encouraging, but its religious nature makes it the least desirably of the three for me.  A little less than a week ago, however, I heard back positively from the University of Memphis, and am much more excited about the prospect of doing doctoral work with them.

There’s still Northeastern, which has advised me I may not hear back about starting in Summer 2011 until January, which is inconvenient since Memphis expects me to start in the Spring term that begins with the new year.  I like Northeastern, but sooner begun means sooner done, and I’m also considering that the program at Memphis is sponsored by an actual School of Education, whereas the one at Northeastern is through their continuing education school.  It’s true that Memphis is ranked 141st, which isn’t up there with Vanderbilt or Columbia, but it seems like a solid middle of the road public research university that no one will question, which would meet my needs fine, I think.

I realize this meandering path makes me seem indecisive, but I’ve been trying not to be afraid to cut things off when I realize they’re not ideal for me.  Still, it’s my intention that this time around is the last, and when I enroll this time I expect it to be at the school where I complete this task.

So that’s where I’ve been for the last two years.  I expect to blog here from time to time, and as ever, I look forward to any comments!

Doctoral Decision Made!

Posted November 23, 2008 By Steve
I’ve finally made a decision and applied for doctoral study. I’m starting the Doctor of Health Education program through A.T. Still University. I realize that this is a major departure from the direction where I seemed to be going, but I have good reasons.

But, if you want to know what they are, you’ll have to check out my new blog. See, eLearners.com has asked me to blog about my experience with them and I’ve agreed to do so. Check it out here!

Narrowed back down to one

Posted March 31, 2008 By Steve

If you don’t get it, you don’t get it

Posted January 26, 2008 By Steve

Yes, but can you really learn that way?

Posted January 22, 2008 By Steve

So, the last step before applying to any of these doctoral programs, is, of course, to finish the Master’s degree. I have two courses to go, but now that I work at Marymount I figured I’d rather take two courses there for free this term and transfer them back to GW to wrap things up rather than pay to take courses at GW, however good they may be.

So because of my concern about using too much leave, and because GW was concerned that the course I was going to take might be too similar to another I’ve already taken, I found an alternative, a nice course called “Cross-cultural/International Curricula” that, while occurring in a classroom rather than online, is still also an extremely good match for my interests. I sent the syllabus to my faculty advisor at GW, Ryan Watkins, and his response in part was:

Given the situation this sounds like a fine choice to me… it does have a nice match with your long-term interests. My only disappointment with the syllabus is that it will be a campus-based course. Can you really learn in that archaic format? Do they have to check your ID to make sure that it is really you coming to class? Can people really learn with out continuous access to the Web? Hahahahaaaa

It’s certainly nice to see butt-in-seat learning get some of the same undeserved criticism that distance learning gets for a change! Of course, at the same time, I’m also glad Ryan approved the course, you know, despite his reservations.

New Mexico may bite the dust here

Posted October 30, 2007 By Steve
A number of interesting opportunities to travel have been coming my way, so I’ve been figuring out how I’m going to sort out how much annual leave I have with how much traveling I want to do. Get this:

  1. Marymount is offering a class that I could use as my last Master’s elective. The course takes place over a single week in March, all day for five days. I’d have to use a week of leave to attend it, but that’s one course out of the way at pretty much the fastest possible speed. Plus it’s a course in Technology Leadership that looks genuinely interesting.
  2. Heather Ford of iCommons emailed me asking whether I can come to Johannesburg early next year for a gathering of people who will plan next summer’s iSummit.
  3. Wayne Mackintosh has suggested that the WikiEducator Advisory Board should meet early next year in Nairobi, Kenya.
  4. PCF5 will be in London in July.
  5. The 2008 iCommons Summit will be in Sapporo in August.
  6. I’d been considering New Mexico State University, but I’ll need two weeks of leave to do their summer residency.
Now, when I went to Croatia, I didn’t have to use leave, but that was sort of nice of my supervisor here. I don’t expect that items 4 and 5 are both going to be leave-free trips this time around.

It also occurs to me that even if can sort out all these things, I only get two weeks of leave a year, so if I do the NMSU program then barring a change of diurnal activity I will use annual leave for nothing else until 2011.

I don’t want to give up on a doctoral program but I also don’t want to give up on the work I’m doing through WikiEducator or iCommons. A friend of mine has a colorful way of describing situations like this: “I’m holding a red stick in this hand, and a blue stick in this hand. I’m going to hit you with one of these sticks, but, hey, you get to pick which one.”

So I’m trying to decide with which stick I want to be hit, basically. I’ve only used one day of leave since I got here, and I get just ten days per year (Oh, to be French!) so if I take a normal course rather than that week-long one and take NMSU off the list of consideration in favor of zero-residence (or local) doctoral programs, then between this year and next year I have nineteen days of leave to sort out all the other trips. That I think I could do. Still, sheesh!

Dither, Dither, Yon and Thither

Posted September 18, 2007 By Steve

So as if things weren’t already muddled enough, I got an email out of the blue yesterday from the Education department at New Mexico State University. They have a PhD program in Curriculum and Instruction that has emphases in social justice and instructional technology, which means that they’d probably be a good fit with my interests in open educational resources and international education. They also offer in state rates to out of state students not taking more than six credit-hours per term, around which this program seems purposefully designed, making it less expensive than to do a program at George Mason University or the University of Virginia — the only local options still on the table.

They also require two-week residencies on their main campus in Las Cruces for three summers in a row. I’m of two minds on this. On the one had, that’s six credit hours in two weeks, which it pretty motivating. That also means that out of forty-eight credits, more than one third are earned in a classroom, which ought to make it more palatable to those who are biased against distance learning. On the other hand, that’s an inconvenient amount of time away from home, and I’d have to see how my supervisor would feel about what kind of leave I would use. (My preference, of course, would be administrative leave rather than annual leave.)

But anyway, it’s yet another program to consider. For those who came in late, that means I’m up to five, in no particular order:

  1. Doctor of Technology program, Cape Peninsula University of Technology (South Africa)
  2. PhD in Curriculum and Instruction, New Mexico State University
  3. Doctor of Social Science in Human Resource Development, University of Leicester (UK)
  4. PhD in Cultural Studies, George Mason University (Northern Virginia)
  5. EdD in Administration and Supervision, University of Virginia

They’re all very different from one another, and they all have very different pros and cons. I’ve been fine with that, since it wasn’t nearly time to apply, but now that’s changing and I’m going to have to stop dithering and start really deciding.

The Longer and Windier Road

Posted September 15, 2007 By Steve
So this semester I was supposed to take my last two courses at GW, but a number of things that have happened at the last minute have changed my approach a little.

One thing is that I discovered that the University of Leicester has a doctoral program in Human Resource Development that looks like it’s about halfway between education and business. Since my ultimate interests are about halfway between education and business, that’s a program that has my attention. It doesn’t hurt that it’s only £11250, which even with the U.S. dollar in the gutter is only about $22,500. Now, that’s a lot more than the program at Cape Peninsula University of Technology, but it’s on par with the least expensive American or British programs. Leicester also evidently participates in the U.S. financial aid system, suggesting I could defer my existing loans while a student with them and take out more to cover tuition. Leicester is also a top 25 university in the UK, and a top 200 university in the world, which means it ranks higher even than GW, from where my Master’s will ultimately come.

So how does that affect what courses I take to complete my Master’s? Well, I need Instructional Design and one other course to finish up. I can take courses at Marymount for free and GW will accept them in transfer. Instructional Design at Marymount is in the Human Resource Management department, and there are a variety of other Human Resource Management courses that should transfer as my final elective. If I take these courses instead of the ones at GW, I stand a better chance of Leicester accepting my Master’s as sufficient preparation for entry into their program (should I ultimately decided to apply to them).

It’s not a downside to me that these courses will start in January, rather than GW ones that would start now. This semester will be a busy one for me at Marymount, so a little more breathing room will be helpful. Besides, I still need to do my comps, and now I can focus on them and take them this semester without also worrying about other courses.

So that’s the longer and windier road as it stands now….

Grad School Back in the Crosshairs

Posted August 14, 2007 By Steve
I signed up for my final two Master’s courses at George Washington University yesterday. I’ve waited two extra semesters for them to be available and they’re the last two courses for me. I look forward to having them finally done by mid-December and being able to concentrate what time I have for study entirely on doctoral work.

Speaking of, in an interesting twist to the story my prospective doctoral supervisor at the University of Pretoria isn’t at the University of Pretoria anymore. Johannes has taken up the post of Dean of Informatics at Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Cape Town. I gather that as a university recently formed from the merger of the Cape Town area’s two technikons that CPUT isn’t as well known as the more established universities. However, Johannes seems keen to shift their emphasis from exclusively teaching to research, and he’s suggested I work their e-Innovation Academy, which is geared toward the intersection of technology, business, government, and society.

Conveniently, I’ll be in Cape Town next month for a meeting of OER practitioners sponsored by the Shuttleworth Foundation and by going a little early I get to meet Johannes in person and check out his new surroundings. It should be interesting!

Go Tukkies!

Posted March 4, 2007 By Steve
I finally had the chance to speak live (albeit only by phone) with Dr. Johannes Cronje, the fine gentleman I’ve been referring to as a prospective doctoral supervisor at the University of Pretoria. After that great, positive conversation, I’m willing to commit: I’ll be doing my PhD through the University of Pretoria.

My reasons include:

  1. I like my supervisor, and think we’ll get on well. He’s interested in my topic, open educational resources, and we seem to share a dismissive attitude toward bureaucracy. Critically, he also has a great deal of experience supervising doctoral students, including externally. (I have the feeling he’s fun at parties, too.)
  2. It’s not on the North American model, so I don’t need to do any coursework, other than to gain specific knowlege. I may take a course in Statistics to bone up on quantitative research methods, but I can do that for free at Marymount and that’s fine with Johannes.
  3. I can write a series of articles rather than a monograph. This interests me because I’m interested in several different aspects relating to OERs, so once I have a lit review done I’ll want to go in a few directions, but doing so at article length rather than a monolithic monograph is better suited for my temperament. This is also good in that by the time I’m done I’ll have at least five publishable scholarly articles.
  4. Pretoria’s on the list of the top 500 universities in the world as ranked by Shanghai Jiao Tong University. It was in the 401-500 list, which it shares with such institutions as Boston College, Drexel University, and the College of William and Mary.
  5. It’s a South African institution, which means it has the developing world perspective I want, but without the lack of resources that usually accompanies it. And since South Africa’s a Commonwealth country, a degree from Pretoria ought to be locally well received when Adella and I eventually return to the West Indies.
  6. The cost is one tenth what an American school would be. That’s not to say that’s how one should choose one’s alma mater, but saying that saving a truckload of money didn’t interest me wouldn’t pass anyone’s straight face test.
  7. I won’t have to go to South Africa to do this. However, I’ll want to visit, should circumstances permit, say for defenses, even if they could be done by videoconferencing. And there’s graduation. I haven’t gone to one yet, but for the PhD, that seems worth it.

So that’s where I am. I’ll apply for provisional acceptance now, and start doing my literature review while finishing my courses at GW, then hopefully in January I’ll be registered there. Go Tukkies!