This website is the final portfolio and project in my pursuit of the Masters Degree of Distance Education (MDE) offered by the University of Maryland University College (UMUC) and demonstrates the scope of work completed in this pursuit. In it, you'll find my educational history, course descriptions and examples of my work as well as a brief discussion of each class taken while at UMUC, my employment history and a brief section offering a glimpse into the more private side of my life.
You'll find that there is a wide variety of educational pursuits and subsequent employment changes. I've never been able to imagine myself spending 40 years of my life doing the same thing and have averaged about 10 - 12 years per career before finding something different (or maybe more precisely, something different finds me and piques my interest!) All the changes have offered me something new that I can feel proud of and build my next career off of, and I expect that upon graduating from UMUC, I'll continue on towards the next step. No hurry though; I still enjoy what I do!
Why Ask Why?
I'm often asked by others, "Why pursue a Masters Degree?" The answer is simply because I want to. I know many believe that education is for the young and that at a certain point in life, the return on investment is not in my favor. To that, I say, "Blah"!! It comes down to the level of enjoyment and purpose one gets out of the education and educational journey not the mathematics of potential earned income! The most beneficial byproduct to me is that in achieving this degree I feel as though I can better serve the students I now teach, adding quality to my current teaching role in a face-to-face environment. Perhaps at a later date a shift in careers will once again occur and I'll work my way into distance education management, but until then, I'm very happy with what I'm doing!!
I'm also asked by many, "Why a Masters Degree of Distance Education"? (assuming the person I'm speaking with understands the difference between pursuing a Masters Degree "of Distance Education" and pursuing a Masters Degree" through distance education"!). The answer to this question is a little less obvious but generally it's because I feel the field of distance education is ripening and has become more accepted not only by the educational community but also the community of learners. For distance education to be utilized effectively, teachers, managers and administrators need to be trained in the pedagogy and theory that is uniquely that of DE. Additionally, new methods of teaching require the use of new methods of leading and the MDE program at UMUC has certainly assisted me in gaining this knowledge. Although not easy, the pursuit of the MDE has been a fantastic experience, offering me a new perspective at teaching (and learning), insight into issues that I had never considered, and completion of this degree will have marked the end of an experience that ranks among the most enjoyable in my life thus far.
I found the classes to be very challenging, energetic and filled with in-depth discussions and revelations. Over time, there was certainly a sense of community built with some of the students that seemed to be in the same courses each semester and together, after sharing some of the same feelings, we came to depend on each other for academic guidance, emotional support and for comic relief in an asynchronous mode (not easily achieved yet some students managed to do so!).
It was the Best of Times… and the Worst of Times!
As in every experience there can be good and bad, hardship and success, and the MDE was no exception. I found the constant flow of reading to be monotonous at best and with taking multiple courses each semester, the resulting overlap of assignments which seemed to be due in the same week was stressful to say the least. But at the end of each semester I felt as if I had truly accomplished something I could hang my hat on and be proud of. This occurred each and every semester but there were periods of time that were harder than others with the most difficult period of time being in the first 2 semesters.
I was not new to DE as a method of learning, as I had completed my BS degree via distance education and in fact, it was the facilitator of my undergraduate cohort at Florida Hospital, College of Health Science who introduced me to just how effective DE can be through organized and supportive delivery and in fact, directed me towards graduate school and distance education. (I'm eternally grateful to Deena for this!). However, being experienced in undergrad DE doesn't prepare you for graduate level work and found myself wondering at several occasions whether or not I'd gotten myself in over my head. The degree of constructivist learning required, the wide-reaching topics given to write about but given so few words in which to complete the paper and most of all, the newness of this type of theoretical material really threw me off course and felt that I would be lucky to achieve a passing grade in those initial semesters. (I'm much more at ease with science-based, hard fact type of information.) Then came OMDE 607 as one of my two classes in my second semester led by Dr. Som Naidu.
I felt at home in that class as it was more hands on and consisted of information that I could transfer into traditional educational environments and begin using immediately in my face-to-face classes! Dr. Naidu explained material very purposefully, completely and clearly and I found myself in the enjoyable position of being able to not just pass, but truly excel in comprehension and purpose and was ecstatic when I realized I had earned an A! Perhaps I succeeded here where I had not previously because of the hands-on learning fitting my learning style; perhaps it I benefited from the increased amount of practical information and decreased theoretical information in this course, or perhaps it was just because I was "seasoning" as a graduate student. Whatever the cause, it is considered to be one of the best experiences while in the MDE.
In the same semester I took OMDE 607, I also took OMDE 602 (now OMDE 609) which was probably the most difficult class taken while in the program. As I was excelling in one class, I felt as if I was drowning in another. In OMODE 602, I truly felt as if I was doing good work but the remarks and grades from my professor told me otherwise, particularly in the beginning of the course. It seemed as though I was heading in a direction opposite of that intended with every assignment and discussion piece but I vowed to work even harder in order to pass the course. I spoke one-on-one and synchronously with the professor, worked more diligently that I could have imagined and by the fact that I'm here, I did achieve my goal of passing that class and in fact, look back at that class as being one in which I understand very well now. Between those two courses, it was quite a conflicting period within my educational life but one that I can look back on as being both the largest hurdle I successfully leapt over as well as the largest hurdle I stumbled over!
Now, with this being the last class prior to an anticipated graduation date of May 17, 2008, I have a fair amount of trepidation on whether or not my final project will be of the quality I expect. I'm sure like all the other times during the last 2 1/2 years this last hurdle will proved to be difficult yet extremely worthwhile and something in which I can be very proud of in the end!