Our second ever winner of the Online Outstanding Graduate Student Award is Alyssa Eason. Alyssa exhibits all of the characteristics of an Outstanding Student including leadership, community involvement, balancing multiple commitments, and the motivation to succeed.
Alyssa is a member of Cork Tree Creative, Inc., a public relations and marketing firm located in Edwardsville, Ill. She specializes in social media management, writing for the media, and client-project management. Alyssa was a full-time student in Webster University’s Master of Arts in Communications Management program before graduating this May with a 4.0 GPA. Even with this busy schedule, she still found time to assist the Online Learning Center as a Peer Volunteer for students taking their first Webster Online course. She also volunteered for different projects around Webster’s campus such as running the @mywebsteru Instagram account.
OLC: Why did you want to do your degree online?
Alyssa: I was ready to pursue my master’s degree and I knew Webster University was where I wanted to study. I loved their Communications Management program. Unfortunately at the time, I wasn’t at a location or in a position where I could attend courses in a traditional manner. My schedule didn’t allow me the time I needed to dedicate to sitting in a classroom weekly. Online courses at Webster offered me the flexibility I needed to complete my degree with my demanding schedule.
OLC: What advice would you give students who are considering getting their degree online?
Alyssa: Like most big changes in life, take your time with it! Make sure you start by choosing the right program for you. If you don’t like your program, you won’t succeed. Second, make sure you can motivate yourself. You’ve got to be a self-starter and dedicate time to your classes. There were days I worked 16 hours all-day on my feet. When I came home the last thing I wanted to do was read my textbook or open my laptop and answer discussion questions, but I knew I had to. With online courses, you must set a schedule and dedicate some time to them weekly so you don’t fall behind. The beauty with online is you get to dictate what time you log on and off, and where you do it. If you can do that, then nothing can hold you back.
OLC: What was the hardest part about doing all of your coursework remotely?
Alyssa: It can be very bizarre not seeing your professor or classmates at first. Your first day of classes is just you, sitting in your apartment, house, etc. and logging online. It can draw you out of the moment very quickly – but stick with it! Most courses utilize a lot of the more interactive functions in the WorldClassRoom Canvas portal like videos or chat, which allow you to see your professors and chat with students or groups for projects. It helps bring the “classroom” back to you.
OLC: We usually recommend that online students set a time and place to “go to” class. Did you do this and can you give us some details?
Alyssa: Yes! Setting a schedule really held me accountable for my coursework. My schedule was (and still is) ever-changing and completely hectic. Every Sunday I would sit down and look at my upcoming week ahead for my course or courses. I chose Sunday because new weeks started on Mondays, so I wanted to be ready when Monday came. I looked at what all needed to be accomplished (discussion boards, papers, homework assignments, etc.) and then I compared that to how my week looked. I mapped out when I could get my reading done (lunch breaks, early mornings, whenever) and when I had time to write my papers and finish my assignments. It can be time consuming and a little overwhelming, but it held me accountable for logging in and completing my work.
OLC: How long did it take you to feel comfortable with the fact that you would never see your classmates? Do you feel you got to know some of them better than others throughout the program?
Alyssa: The online portal is very welcoming. I was comfortable after my first course. The thing to remember is that you’re not alone in this. Everyone in your courses – literally everyone – is in the same shoes as you! They are working and taking care of their families just like you, and they don’t see any of their classmates just like you don’t. Don’t forget, teachers don’t see students either. It’s a new world for everyone, so no need to feel overly nervous. I found that I actually got to know my peers a little better this way throughout my program than I think I would have vs. a traditional setting. In class, I don’t know if we would have had the opportunity to talk as much or as frequently as we did online. Maybe I wouldn’t have raised my hand in-class. Maybe I wouldn’t have said anything. Perhaps weather or work would have caused me to miss a day. There’s a number of factors that could have hindered our relationships. The online environment really allowed all of us to interact as open and often as we wanted. What I found most refreshing was the level of courtesy and respect in each course, even on controversial topics where opinions greatly differed. I’m grateful for that.
OLC: How did you approach your class on a daily basis – did you have a set pattern for accessing certain tools or parts of the course each day?
Alyssa: Depending on the class, each day was different. Something important to do is check your Webster email account every single day. Whenever someone comments on a post, a new assignment is posted, grades are announced, etc. an alert is sent out – that alert goes to your Webster email account. Those are lifesavers! If you have multiple email accounts to check every day (like I do) you can forward your Webster email to an email account you check daily. Learning that was a huge help for me.
OLC: What was your most memorable course and instructor? Can you elaborate why?
Alyssa: All of my classes were memorable! With each class I got more and more comfortable, and started seeing more and more familiar faces. It was awesome to have a growing network of friends/classmates as I progressed in my courses. The class that stands out most recently is MEDC600 – my seminar in Media Communications with Dr. Debra Carpenter. Writing a 100 page thesis seemed so daunting. I didn’t know where to start… I had zero ideas, I didn’t know where to look for any ideas and I was overwhelmed with the thought of all that primary and secondary research. Add all of that to working full-time and trying to maintain a social life – talk about overwhelmed! However, I was lucky to have Dr. Debra Carpenter as my capstone professor. She was the best! She was full of energy, encouragement and advice at every turn. As every week passed, she guided each of us through our discussion boards and always checked in on the status of our papers, made sure to offer help to us and provided feedback on different parts of our papers we submitted for approval. She took time with each of our papers individually and gave us the attention we needed to produce a quality thesis. Without her guidance, I wouldn’t have made it through the class! (And I can’t leave out my wonderful classmates. I was lucky to know about 75% of them – I had courses with most of them before. Those I didn’t know, I got to know very quickly. They were all so supportive and encouraging. We were all in the same boat: working long hours, writing a huge paper and trying to keep our heads above water. This class was an enormous undertaking but we all did it together.)
OLC: Would you encourage fellow students to come to the main campus commencement?
Alyssa: Absolutely! I’m so glad I made the choice to attend the main campus commencement. I was able to meet some of my online classmates in person – it was an experience I will never forget. I’ve been taking courses with them for so long, it feels like I know them so well, so to finally have an opportunity to meet some of them was incredible. Even though it rained on us this year, it definitely didn’t dampen the fun we had meeting each other.
The Online Learning Center would like to congratulate all of the nominees of this year’s award. The nominees’ commitment to their education while balancing numerous work, family, military, and charitable commitments is truly commendable!