Thomas Edison State College alum pens book about online learning
ProctorU recently caught up with the author of “The Nontaditional College Student” Libby Hancock, a recent graduate of Thomas Edison State College who wrote about her online college experience and using ProctorU.
ProctorU Media Coordinator Franklin Hayes (FH): Can you briefly describe your path to a college degree and why you chose to use the methods described in your book?
Libby Hancock, Author of The Nontraditional College Student (LH): Great question! I knew I wanted to earn a college degree, but the amount of college debt most students must go into to earn one was astonishing and was abhorrent to me. Timing was another issue. I have to admit, I wasn’t all that thrilled about the idea of spending the majority of my first year in college re-learning what I’d already studied in high school. My family and I did much research, and finally discovered a method that would enable me to graduate in less time, and spend about $13,000 on my entire degree. Now that’s more like it!
FH: Why was it important for you to write a book on this topic?
LH: As I talked with different college students and their families, they all had many questions about how I earned my degree. The more they learned, it seemed, the more questions they had. I wrote “The Nontraditional College Student” to be a guidebook, to help those who would like to take a similar path. I wrote it to answer those questions and coach others on how to save money and complete their degree faster.
FH: Why did you choose Thomas Edison State College?
LH: I chose Thomas Edison State College (TESC) mostly because of their liberal transfer credit policy. I also appreciate that while TESC offers on-site classes, they mostly cater to students wanting to complete their degree from home while maintaining a busy schedule. One example of their flexible scheduling would be when I had a short trip planned during one of my online courses. Generally, I would have continued submitting assignments over the Internet. However, this time I was going somewhere with limited Internet access. My professors were understanding, and told me I could work ahead on the essays and catch-up on the discussion posts once I had returned home.
FH: How long did it take you to earn your degree?
LH: It took me three years. Believe it or not, one of my brothers managed to earn his four-year Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree in two years. So, I think he has me beat there! In fact, he was nineteen when he completed his degree!
FH: What did you think about your first time using ProctorU?
LH: I first used ProctorU for a TESC midterm. I was excited about being able to schedule my test at any time of the day, and was looking forward to taking a test where I felt most comfortable working. However, I was a little nervous about the fact that someone would be watching me on a webcam during the entire test.
What a pleasant surprise it was when I met my proctor at the beginning of the midterm. His apparent concern made me feel comfortable, and I was no longer worried about knowing someone was watching me on my webcam.
The one thing that really stood out to me was how much easier it was to take the test with ProctorU on the computer at home — instead of having to take a paper-based test with a proctor elsewhere. For one thing, the test went much faster (it was nice not to have to fill in those annoying circles), and, I could re-write my answers to the essay questions much easier. On a paper based test, once the answer is down, that’s it. I believe it also made grading easier for my professor because he didn’t have to try to read my handwriting!
FH: What do you think was the most challenging element of going to college this way?
LH: For me, the hardest thing was keeping my life balanced, especially when it felt like I had to cram in order to make a testing deadline. However, a month-long cold and a failed test taught me that, as with any other part of life, keeping balance while earning a college degree is essential. You can’t stop living because you have school to do. Instead, it’s wise to schedule time to work, time to study and time to play.
FH: What type of work have you found since graduating?
LH: Since graduating, I’ve done some freelance writing for a web-design company and a publishing firm, written “The Nontraditional College Student,” and currently work at a small Christian college in Indianapolis, Indiana, called Verity Institute. Here, I help students do exactly what I did, except in two years instead of three.
While in college, I also worked a full-time internship at NASA Glenn in the Community and Media Relations Office. That was an outstanding experience, and made for a great summer! I believe everyone would benefit from working at least one internship. The hands-on experience is priceless.
FH: Do you think using an honor code alone is enough to ensure academic integrity in online exams?
LH: Sadly, no. In the past, living by a code of honor was part of everyone’s core beliefs, but now people seem to be leaving that behind.
FH: What are your thoughts about Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)?
LH: Personally, I have never used a MOOC, so, unfortunately, I can’t speak from personal experience. However, I did use something similar, Assessment and Learning in Knowledge Spaces (ALEKS). While it was great to be able to take the class online, the process of applying for credit was rather complicated.
FH: Do you think MOOCs are a passing trend or the new way for nontraditional college students to achieve college credentials?
LH: I think the general idea of earning college credit by taking courses online is great, however, right now, MOOCs are not very streamlined. I’m hoping that, over time, a student will be awarded college credit just for taking the course, instead of having to request credit evaluation.