It’s been a long time, been a long time

For those of you who know me well, you know I had a hard time with my doctoral program last year. For those of you who don’t, here’s the backstory and an update.

The program I selected wasn’t meeting my needs. I decided to take a semester off to evaluate other options. I have a continuous web presence thanks to social media, so it is not worth trying to mask the identity of the school, Endicott College. Please do not assume that my opinions or experiences reflect those of my former classmates or others involved in the program.

Picking & Choosing a Program
When selecting a doctoral program, I didn’t really know what to look for but I had a lot of encouragement from friends and associates, those currently working toward advanced degrees and those recently graduated. I chose Endicott College’s EdD program in higher ed leadership because I felt compelled to be a part of the development of a new program. It was rough around the edges and very small, but seemed promising.

Problems surfaced very early on. Because of my experience in instructional design and academic technology, I couldn’t help but critique the curriculum and the instructional design of the program. Being a member of the second cohort, I knew there would be issues but I overestimated my tolerance for it. I also struggled with the smallness of the cohort. I quickly learned nuances of my classmates and the limitations of their professional experience. Responses to topics in class became laughably predictable within a few months. I felt like I was in high school again, bored, restless and tired of waiting for the rest of the class to “get it” so we could move on to the next topic. I’m not the most patient person. By the end of my second term I was ready to leave, but stuck it out through summer session, still hopeful.

Having fall semester off was invigorating. I got a ton of work done around the house and in the yard with my family. We went on vacation. We built a garage. We replaced windows on the front porch. We cut down some small trees and split firewood. I took full advantage of not being in school for a few months. I also did a thorough program investigation.

My search began with six notable institutions and I ended up with a shortlist of three programs – University of Southern California, Northeastern University, and University of Nebraska. I applied to USC and NEU and was accepted. I spoke with students at each school to learn about foundation courses, quality of classes, etc. After a cost analysis, I chose Northeastern.

In my old program I learned about admissions and student affairs, the role of the board and its relationship to the president, faculty affairs, alumni and the campus environment, and I learned about campus budgets and operations. I learned about myself, too, and what I need to be a successful student. It was easy to apply all that new knowledge when evaluating programs.

I selected a new program focus, too. I started off with higher ed leadership at Endicott but changed to organizational behavior because its theories are at the core of my research in higher ed (structure and impact of an internal group within the organization).

Same Old, Same New
The Endicott program met every other weekend for two full class days on campus (32 hours per month). Additionally, the assignments between the face to face meetings required 10-15 hours of work per week. Adding in my commute to campus and the overnight between Saturday and Sunday classes, I was spending a lot of time participating in the program and not enjoying much of it.

Comparatively, I have about 12-18 hours of coursework each week at Northeastern with only a short summer residency requirement. I admit that if I hadn’t had some doctoral experience at Endicott and if I didn’t have the self-discipline I’ve developed being a remote worker, it would be much harder than it is. I appreciate the luxury of being able to participate in the class discussions when I want and for however long I want. My time studying at home on weekends is much better utilized than driving to campus 80 miles away and sitting in an 8 hour class that should have ended after only 4.

I know, I know… Those of you in the elearning industry are thinking “duh!” as you read this, but I honestly had high hopes for face-to-face learning at the doctoral level and I wish it had been a better experience. I like being on campus and sitting around with people debating issues. I wish it had worked out at Endicott.

Throughout all of this, I never wavered in my decision to work toward a doctoral degree. I feel like I picked up where I left off and I am looking forward to the next few semesters.

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This blog post was drafted over a month ago. It was bitter and nasty and it took me a long time to scrub out the emotional distress I felt about these experiences. I needed to get it off my chest, and I did, even if no one read it. Blogging is therapeutic. So is time. Glad I took my time to reflect and revise. :D

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