Helping the Working Learner Thrive
Before I became a faculty member at University of Phoenix, I was a working learner. With two babies in my lap, a career that was gaining traction, and my dissertation project on deck, there were times when I questioned my own limitations and whether I had bitten off more than I could chew. The challenges of the working learner are felt by many; but when you are a student juggling life and school, the load feels yours and yours alone.
Today, I teach doctoral dissertation and doctoral residency courses at the University of Phoenix School of Advanced Studies. With a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology, over 16 years of practitioner experience in organizational business strategy, and my own consulting company, I understand firsthand the intricate balance between working and learning. When I joined the faculty body at University of Phoenix four years ago, my goal was to help students become leaders in their fields while maintaining their jobs and their family lives. I wanted to provide exceptional learning for those who are experiencing what I experienced, and to remove the barriers I faced with my own learning.
The structure of University of Phoenix is ideal for today’s working learner. With flexible online programs, the ability to take one course at a time, and high interaction with peers and practitioner faculty, University of Phoenix is designed with the working learner in mind. But to offer added value to this platform, I wanted to bring my own unique insights and background as a scholar and practitioner.
The first thing I teach my doctoral students is time management. From my own experience, I know that time is the greatest challenge for working learners. I tell all of my students to make appointments. These are real appointments to work on their dissertation and should be treated as important meetings that cannot be cancelled. I suggest that my students speak with their loved ones about how significant earning a doctoral degree is to them and to ask that they respect these appointments. The best student support that working learners can get is from their loved ones. Once students become proficient at budgeting their time, the curriculum becomes that much more effective.
The School of Advanced Studies curriculum focuses on developing organizational leaders who incorporate research, theory and practical experience into their personal and professional lives. This approach centers around the Scholar, Practitioner, Leader (SPL) Model, which is the School’s educational framework for integrating scholarship and theory with practical skills and knowledge. For working learners, the SPL Model is the perfect vehicle to help content come to life in a relevant and engaging way.
Within the SPL Model, I aim to help students see the immediate application of what they are learning, right now in the real world. We know from research that immediate application is crucial to adult learners. And the most compelling way a faculty member can integrate their industry and field experience is to provide real-world examples to illustrate concepts.
For instance, the discussion topic might explore where and when it is appropriate to conduct a quantitative survey research study. I might share with my students a business problem that a real client of mine experienced that led them to utilize a quantitative survey research study. I will provide them with a description of the problem, why a survey was the appropriate choice, and even share the actual survey with them.
Working learners are a highly beneficial group to society. In my opinion, working learners have real experience that allows them to see information in different and many times more valuable ways than traditional learners. If these working learners had received the information prior to having their experiences, the learning may not have been as great. And when the learning is not as great, the application can suffer. My desire as a faculty member at University of Phoenix is always to have my students learn, then apply.
University of Phoenix makes it easy for faculty to teach with working learners in mind. As a faculty member, practitioner and lifelong learner myself, I look forward to the future of higher education for working learners.
This article originally appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education, UOPX Campus Viewpoint section. To review our current faculty articles, visit: https://chronicle.com/campusViewpoint/University-of-Phoenix/29/.