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Sunday, June 14, 2015

What Can You Learn from Your Online Professors?

Follow on Twitter as @Melissa_Venable
"One of the items frequently included on lists of “tips for being a successful online student” is: Get to know your professors. But making these connections at a distance isn’t always easy. What is the benefit of a professional network that includes your instructors and how can you go about building it?" according to Melissa A. Venable, PhD, Education Writer for's Inside Online Learning blog and host of the weekly #IOLchat.
Photo: Inside Online Learning (blog)

What My Favorite Professors 
Taught Me During last month’s Teacher Appreciation Week several groups asked for responses to this prompt via social media: “My favorite teacher taught me ___.” When I saw it, I immediately thought of that small group of professors I’ve encountered who had a lasting impact. And that impact was often a piece of advice shared outside of class, after the course ended or even after I graduated.
  • Prepare for multiple career paths. A professor in my doctoral program, Dr. Breit, advised me to be ready to work in as many areas of my field and related industries as possible. This was unusual advice for a PhD student, but on target for the economic times to come. 
  • I could advance to the next level. As a master’s degree student, I was fortunate to have multiple courses with Dr. Prieto, who challenged me to think more clearly about my career goals and articulate what is was I wanted to do in the future. Through many email messages over the following years he provided guidance on selecting a doctoral program and wrote multiple letters of recommendation.
  • Practical experience is critical. Another graduate-level professor, Dr. Fountain, demonstrated that adjuncts can be amazing teachers. There’s a lot of debate about part-time faculty, and the course I took with Dr. Fountain was a long time ago, but he epitomized the benefits of having someone with current, professional experience in the field bring real-world examples and strategies into the classroom. While this may not be as relevant to all subject areas, it was appreciated in the business, education, and psychology programs I completed.
  • It’s not all about academics. Preparation for life after graduation comes from many directions. A member of the Military Science department, Command Sergeant Major Mitchell was just one of the people who influenced me as an undergraduate student. During an alumni event a few years ago I was repeatedly asked about the faculty members I remembered most, and they were the members of this department – I could name every one, but had trouble naming others, except for Mr. McNeill (see below). 
  • Keep an open-mind – there are many options, choices, possibilities. Mr. McNeill, my freshman English Composition instructor, was the first to encourage my writing. His feedback was specific and constructive. Mr. McNeill extended my academic experience by offering me a work-study position that opened my eyes to a new world of library archives, and more authors and types of writing. Mr. McNeill also made calls and wrote letters on my behalf as I navigated vague career plans and employment opportunities during my senior year and beyond.
      Source: Inside Online Learning (blog)