We have a very special “Meet Your Professor” blog series to bring you today! If you will recall, a little while ago we did a Student Story on an exceptional alumna of the Child and Family Studies Master’s program, Mya Rome. We talked about how she worked full-time, traveled with her husband, and prepared for the arrival of her very first baby all while earning her Master’s Degree online with Southern Miss. (We even shot this awesome video of her and her family!)
She said the program was so wonderful that show would choose the program over again in a heartbeat!
This wonderful success story now comes full-circle!
Mya Rome is now a visiting instructor for the School of Child and Family Sciences! That means that an instructor in your degree has been through the exact experience that you are about to go through! How exciting is that?!
I asked Mya a few questions about her teaching style and some pointers for future students looking to earn their own online Child and Family Studies Master’s Degree, and she gave some amazing, thorough insight!
Grab a cup of coffee and continue reading! You’re not going to want to miss a word of this!
Q. Do you feel that online learning is different from face-to-face learning? If so, how?
A. Absolutely! When it comes to online learning, there are a variety of factors influencing how effective the class can be. As an instructor, I try to appeal to a variety of learning styles by offering powerpoint presentations, videos, guided lectures, experiential learning activities, and additional articles or current events. As students, it is imperative to interact with each other and with the instructor to make the class an enjoyable and informative experience. I realize that in an online setting, students may feel that they are not able to connect like they would in a traditional face-to-face setting, but I find that many of my students make more connections online due to the increased need for communication. In a face-to-face classroom, you may interact with a couple of students near your seat throughout the semester. In an online classroom, you are regularly sharing your work, stories, thoughts, and questions with everyone on almost a weekly basis. Your voice is ‘heard’ and you can begin to develop lifelong friendships with your classmates and instructor.
Q. What is something unique about your teaching style that is positive towards online learning?
A. That is a tough question. As I just mentioned, I think that my teaching style focuses on presenting the material in a way that appeals to a variety of learning styles which works out great in an online classroom. Some students in an online class prefer to move through the class quickly and read through the text and PowerPoint presentations in order to finish assignments as soon as they are available. Other students prefer videos of my lectures, so they can see my expressions and watch my hands flail around in an attempt to tell a story. I enjoy the challenge of discovering new ways to appeal to my students and keep them focused on learning and applying the material.
Q. In your experience, what is the most common misconception about online learning?
A. I believe that the most common misconception about online learning is that it will be easier compared to a traditional classroom environment. Some students think that the work may be easier or that the answers will be provided so they only need to click a few links each week to pass the class. Other times I feel as though students make the experience more difficult when they hesitate to reach out to the instructor, maybe this is because I seem less “real” since they do not sit in my classroom each week. In my experience, online learning seems a little more difficult for a student because they have to be intentional in everything they do. If a student needs a little more clarification on an assignment or lesson, then they can simply ask the teacher when it comes to mind in the classroom. In an online setting, I will not know if a student is confused or needs more guidance unless they tell me. I always make attempts to connect and reach out to students in an online class as a way of opening the door to continued conversation throughout the term, but is up to students to put in the effort and take a step through that open door. While online learning is not necessarily easier than traditional learning, it can be easier to attempt when you, as a student, reach out and connect with your professor and classmates.
Q. What advice would you give a student who is new to online learning?
A. For a student who is new to online learning, I would suggest that they reach out to their instructor from the first day. Send a simple email and establish that open line of communication, and make sure to keep that line open for the entire course. Also, time management is essential. From the first day of class, print out your syllabus to view your course schedule and assignments. Create a color-coded calendar if necessary. Since it is an online class, you will have to make the time to review the material and complete the work. If it were a traditional class, you would have to set aside a few hours a week to attend the class. You need to make the same arrangements to complete your online coursework, but luckily this can be based on your schedule.
Q. What is one of your favorite aspects about teaching online?
A. One of my absolute favorite aspects of teaching online is the ability to meet people from outside of this town. I love to see the connections that students make when they share their interests. In a way, they connect more online than they ever do in the traditional setting. Online I am continuously surprised by the very interesting mini world they create. Students are willing to speak up and share their stories, photos, and life lessons with each other in this virtual world and it makes for a wonderful class experience.
Q. What are ways that you help your students to balance their online school work with their current full-time job?
A. This is a difficult, but not impossible task to accomplish. I am always so proud of my students who are able to successfully balance both. The main suggestion I have is to plan ahead and manage your time wisely. Students may know that they have these three tasks to complete by this due date, but they postpone and procrastinate and decide to wait until the deadline to complete those assignments. As they begin to work they realize that it requires more work or research than they imagined. Many just submit what they can by the deadline or decide to skip the assignment entirely. If they were to plan ahead, then they could look at their work schedule and say, “I can set aside 30 minutes on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday and conduct all of the research I need to write this paper on Saturday.” Something this simple can give you an hour and a half worth of productivity without sacrificing too much time on any given day. Every year I find that stress and unexpected life events seem to cause the most issues for my students. I think it is important to learn effective time management skills in order to avoid burnout. Your mental and emotional health are so very important. When you plan out your day, week, or month, you need to make sure to pay yourself with time first. Once you pay yourself then you can focus on giving time to other priorities like school and work. And in line with my previous responses, if life becomes a little too hectic at times, reach out to your instructor. Tell them the truth and you may realize that they can be understanding individuals.
Q. Do you have a fun fact about yourself that you would like to share?
A. I like to think that every fact about me is a fun fact! To keep it short, I was raised as a military brat and I am a first-generation college student. While my father served in the Army for 23 years, I had the opportunity to meet and connect with people from all over the world. This is why I enjoy my position here at USM since I can continue to do the same thanks to teaching in both face-to-face and online environments. I am also a first-generation college student and I like to think that I sparked a trend in my family. After receiving my undergraduate degrees, I proudly watched my brother go to college and receive his degree. When I entered Southern’s CFS MS fully online program for graduate school, I encouraged my father to go to college online as well and we graduated together which was a wonderful experience.
Since you were once a fully online student in this very program yourself, your insight is invaluable, Mya! Thank you so much for taking the time to let us get to know you more and giving us great words for wisdom!