Interview with an Online Professor: Three Tips for Being Successful

In an effort to bring you, our reader, the most relevant information about online education we are conducting a series of interviews. In this article we are interviewing an online college instructor. Be sure to also check out our other interviews with online students. Today, we are interviewing Dr. Rebecca Snarski, a professor from one of the largest online universities in the country, Capella University.

Interviewer (Yoseph): Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to me. I think our readers could really learn a lot from you about online education.

Professor Snarski: I’m happy to help out. Maybe I’ll have some of your readers in my classroom one day.

Interviewer (Yoseph): Maybe. So, today I want to focus on how a student can be the most successful in their online education. I’ll begin by asking, what is the most important piece of advice that you give your new students?

Professor Snarski: The most important thing that I tell my students is to try to enjoy the experience of learning. I know, I know, it sounds all goofy and cliché. But if you think about it, this one piece of advice covers a lot of areas. If you enjoy your learning, you will really commit to it, you will make the time to learn. Also, if you enjoy the experience then you will go out of your way to be interactive, communicating with other students in your course. Finally, if you enjoy the experience, you will pay better attention to the material and spend more time reflecting on what you learn, thinking about how it fits into your current knowledge.

Interviewer (Yoseph): That’s really an interesting perspective. So, do you find that most of your students seem to enjoy their courses?

Professor Snarski: Ooh, that’s a dangerous question. (laughs). I mean, I think that most of my students enjoy the experience to some extent. But, unfortunately, many of them are there to get that piece of paper, and they do not really let themselves feel the experience – they rush, try to “get it done.” It makes me sad, because they could learn so much more if they would take their time and enjoy it.

Interviewer (Yoseph): Is that situation specific to online education?

Professor Snarski: Oh, definitely not. What I said about too many people just getting by with the minimum is true of school online and in a traditional brick and mortar; when it comes to online degrees vs traditional universities, all students have this issue of just trying to “get by”. Though, the need to really enjoy the experience is more aimed at online learning, because of how online learning requires a student to be so proactive.

Interviewer (Yoseph): Is there any type of person that you would suggest not take online courses?

Professor Snarski: Well, yes, actually. While I think that most people can be successful in online education if they apply themselves, I do think that online education works better for a person who has matured, someone who is a bit older and more experienced. I would not want to see someone coming straight out of high school and into online learning.

Interviewer: Why not?

Professor Snarski: Well, partly because I think the experience of being on campus is so great at that age. And, partly because most kids at that age do not have the dedication to do well unless they are really immersed in the culture of a school, watching other kids run to class. Online learning takes a lot of self-motivation, and really works best for adults. Also, if a person specifically knows that they have trouble being accountable to themselves alone – they know they need a teacher to ask for their homework – then online education may not be for them. But, hey, anyone interested should try it with at least one course. You just never know.

Interviewer: Thanks so much Dr. Snarski for your responses. May I come to you with more questions in the future?

Professor Snarski: You are welcome; ask whatever you like any time.

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