I’m only 8 weeks into my very first semester as a doctoral student but I’ve finished my first class! This semester has an interesting model for courses: I’m taking one course the entire 16-week semester, but I’m also taking two other 7.5-week courses back to back along with it. TEL 707 is 16 weeks, I finished TEL 706, and I’m starting TEL 705 in one week from now.
In my last post I told you all about the program’s focus on action research. This program is really hammering on our problem of practice, our research questions, and our study design. I’ve so far learned how much I don’t know – about my topic (building community in online courses) and about how to read articles. In my courses I’m learning to dissect research studies and critique them. I thought as a former librarian I was an excellent researcher. I was an expert at finding information but I tended to read articles superficially. Now I’m being forced to closely study one article at a time, follow the research study design’s thread, and pick it apart.
Another effect of being a student in this program is the growing empathy I have for my own students when they can’t remember which class is which. I teach in an online graduate program and I frequently have students turn in work labeled with another class number. Well, guess what – I can’t tell TEL 707 from 706! I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve clicked into the wrong class or the wrong folder on my computer. I’ve even tried color-coding the course schedules as a memory device, but alas.
Graduate Degree as a Continual Choice
I also better understand the sense that a graduate degree is a choice to which you have to continually commit. I’ve been wanting to earn my doctorate for a really long time. I debated it for several years. I’m proud to be a doctoral student, but perhaps the cost of it makes me continually reevaluate my desire to finish it. It’s so expensive and until now, through a bachelor’s and two master’s, I’ve avoided student debt! This EdD will probably be $45k in student loans once I’m all done after 3 1/2 years of study and dissertation. I assume it will be worth it in the long run, because I have to have a doctorate to achieve leadership positions in higher ed, but that price tag definitely stays on my mind.
So I’m not debating truly dropping out, necessarily, but I also think about how much I want to earn an EdD versus a PhD. I’ve done the tenure-track route as a librarian and didn’t enjoy parts of it. The presenting I really enjoyed. The writing and the service not so much. But I’ve been so lucky to have such a flexible career as an instructor in an asynchronous program that that thought of working an 8 to 5 gives me the willies.
Right now, my goal is to grow my side business so that I’m the master of my own destiny and have the flexibility I want. Having an EdD will give me more cachet in that aspect. But I don’t want a tenure-track teaching job…right? Because if I do, I should get a PhD. But those take much more time to earn!
Higher Education is a Racket
All of this dithering is also a testament to the inherent capitalist nature of higher education. Why should degrees be so expensive? So that we end up chained to working more than we like to pay it back? Who knows.
However, I do have a win to share since I’m halfway through this semester: I’m doing well at balancing my time between work, school, family, and exercise. The key is planning ahead, which is a skill I’m still working on, but at which I’m mostly succeeding. (The other key is not cleaning the house.)