Iris Cornell


If you are going to participate in online courses, you have to be motivated and put in the effort. Make sure that you know what you are getting into, and make sure that you are ready to make the commitment. Above all, remember that you can do it.


Capella University


Master of Science in Nursing, Walden University (2008); Bachelor of Science in Nursing, University of Michigan, Flint (2006); Associate of Science in Nursing (1981)


PhD in Education


Nursing Education


Why did you decide to attend Capella University to get your doctorate in nursing education?

I decided to attend Capella University to get my doctorate in nursing education primarily because it is 1 of only a few online schools that offers a specialization in nursing education. I also appreciated the fact that students can complete Capella’s program within 2 years, which I was able to do.

What were your school’s biggest strengths?

The biggest strength of Capella University was the way that it integrated colloquia into the graduate degree curriculums. I didn’t attend a residency when I earned my masters degree in nursing at Walden University. I liked spending a week intensively learning a specialized subject of my choice with other doctoral students during the required colloquia.

But the school did have some weaknesses. My program was technically a doctor of philosophy degree in education with a specialization in nursing education. Students with this specialty needed to be instructed by professors who were nurse educators, but not all of the teachers that I worked with specialized in nursing education. I know that it is a new program at Capella, so that explains the lack of nurse educators, but it was a little frustrating.

Did you view Capella University as a community?

I absolutely view Capella University as a community, because like any other institution of higher education, it is a community of learners.

Does Capella University have brick-and-mortar campuses?

I don’t think that Capella has any brick-and-mortar campuses.


How did you pay for college?

I paid for my education at Capella almost entirely through student loans. I took out around $50,000 to pay for my PhD in nursing education, and I paid cash for my last term so that I could bypass the financial aid process.

How helpful was your school in assisting your financial aid process?

Capella was very helpful in my financial aid process. They communicated very well with me, and when I had a question or didn’t understand something, I was able to call and immediately get the information that I needed.

Capella also helped me file the necessary paperwork to get my financial aid, and they let me know when the money had arrived in my account. If there was any aid left over after paying for my fees and tuition, Capella would refund me the difference. I took that remaining amount and applied it immediately to paying off my loans so that I was only taking out exactly as much as I needed.

Do you feel like your overall cost of education was more or less than the cost of a degree at a traditional institution?

I am not sure if my online PhD in nursing education cost more or less than a similar degree at a brick-and-mortar school. I did think about attending another online program, but I would have had to travel once a month to a physical campus. Those travel costs would have been in addition to about $40,000 for the tuition. When I compared the costs at Capella to these costs, it seemed like Capella was the best choice and would be much less hassle since I wouldn’t have to travel nearly as often.

Admissions Requirements

Can you describe the admissions process from start to finish?

The first thing that I did in my admissions process was to contact Capella. I spoke with an admissions advisor and told him that I was just checking out the program. He was very helpful, explained how the program worked, and didn’t pressure me to make a decision. That made a big difference, because I tend to back out of things if I feel like I am being coerced.

The whole process was very fast. I initially contacted the school in November and I was enrolled in January.

How many letters of recommendation did you submit in your application?

I believe that I only needed to submit 1 letter of recommendation. For the letter, I approached a professor from my undergraduate degree at University of Michigan who I actually teach with now.

Do you have any insight on how Capella University weighs the different parts of an admissions application?

I think that all of the parts of my application played a role in obtaining admission to Capella’s program, including my GPA, letter of recommendation, transcripts and road map. The road map was an explanation of how I planned to use my education at Capella to further my own goals.

Classroom Experience

How was class material presented?

Class material was presented through readings, discussion questions and online assignments. The heart of the class was the online discussion board. Students were required to respond to discussion questions that were posted to the discussion board, then also read and respond to the other students’ ideas.

The classes in my PhD program for nursing education were entirely asynchronous, meaning that students were never required to log on at specific times to attend class, and there weren’t any real-time discussions. This was helpful because students in the program were attending from all over the country and had different schedules and job commitments. It would have been very difficult to get everyone online at the same time.

What were the benefits and drawbacks of this style of presentation?

The biggest benefit to the asynchronous discussion board system was being able to interact with other students and engage in a conversation that didn’t require everyone to be sitting down at the same time. You could watch the discussion unfold online and refer back to posts that were made earlier. In my opinion, there aren’t any major drawbacks to this style of presentation, since it encourages a diversity of ideas to be expressed and challenged, and also allows students to participate in education who may not otherwise be able to because of other work or life commitments.

Were you able to stay engaged in your online coursework?

Yes, I was absolutely able to stay engaged in my online coursework. I love it, honestly. One of my favorite classes was a course called Critical Skills for Online Facilitation. We used a fishbowl method, which is a discussion method that requires 1 person to act as a facilitator. The facilitator moderates the discussion and draws people in. After you facilitated a course, you had to write a summary of the experience. I found this to be a very engaging way to hold a class.

Did your professors encourage class participation?

Yes, professors often encouraged class participation by presenting opposing ideas on the discussion board. After a student voiced their opinion, the professor would play devil’s advocate, or try to show the other side of the issue. This really prompted other students to get involved.

What method of communication did you use to keep in touch with your professors?

Depending on the instructor, I used e-mail or phone calls to keep in touch with my professors. Some professors preferred students to just pick up the phone and call them, while others held online office hours or were more responsive to e-mail.

Can you rate the faculty on a scale of Excellent, Good, Average, Poor, Extremely Poor, in terms of:

Criteria Rating Reasons
Overall Average Professors were high quality, but compared equally to other faculty at other schools.
Qualifications Excellent Professors held PhDs or EdDs and had experience in their fields.
Knowledgeable Good Some were more knowledgeable than others, but overall they presented up-to-date information.
Lectures Not applicable Capella’s PhD program in nursing education did not use lectures.
Assignments 1)Relevance: Excellent

2)Reasonable: Average

3)Clarity: Average

4)Assistance Provided: Good

5)Feedback Given: Good

Overall, professors presented thoughtful and challenging assignments and gave consistent feedback.
Grading Good Some professors graded harder than others.
Responsiveness  Excellent 99% of professors were very responsive.
Reliability  Good Most professors were reliable, though some were less consistent.
Interest taken in class as a whole Excellent Professors were very engaged in classes.
Interest taken in student as an individual Excellent Professors knew students by name when we met for colloquia.

What resources did Capella University provide to help you succeed in the classroom?

I found Capella’s library to be very useful, and I also used the librarians to help me complete the research for my dissertation. I sent out for many books while I was writing my dissertation and was able to have them mailed to me.

I also liked that all of the material that was presented at a colloquium was put online so you could revisit it at a later time. Capella also had a variety of other research resources, but they were buried within the online system. You really had to search them out.

What advice would you give to students to help them succeed in an online classroom?

If you are going to participate in online courses, you have to be motivated and put in the effort. Make sure that you know what you are getting into, and make sure that you are ready to make the commitment. Above all, remember that you can do it. Online classrooms take a little bit of adjustment, but if you reach out to your professors and other support staff at your university, you will do very well.


Why did you choose to enroll in your nursing education program?

I decided to enroll in my PhD program for nursing education because I want to continue to teach nursing to students and possibly pursue a career in higher education administration. I currently teach at University of Michigan as well as 6 other universities, and earning my doctorate has opened up even more teaching opportunities for me.

Did your program include a dissertation component?

Yes, my program included a dissertation component. The most important things to have as you begin this process are a good topic and a good mentor. You also need to be able to take constructive criticism. Your mentor is a very important person who will be able to give you insight into your dissertation. Pay attention, and don’t blow their comments off. They have been through the process before.

At the same time, though, don’t accept any treatment that you don’t deserve. Be ready to stand up for yourself, but do it in a professional way without threatening anyone.

Overall, the dissertation is a major milestone. When I completed mine, I ordered several copies. When they arrived in the mail at my house, I literally cried. It is a huge achievement.

Were you given an advisor to assist you through the dissertation process?

Yes, I was given a mentor to support me through the dissertation process. Mentors play very important roles, and you should make sure that you get along with your mentor.

When I attended Capella, they had a shortage of mentors for PhD students in nursing education who were in the dissertation phase. If you are looking into a PhD program, make sure that the program will have all of the necessary resources, including the necessary people, to help you succeed.

Did your program have a residency requirement?

Yes, Capella’s PhD program in nursing education required students to attend colloquia. These usually lasted for 5 or 6 days and consisted of seminars. Students stayed at a hotel and were able to meet and network with other students and professors. The colloquia were a big help for me, and it was great to talk to professors in person about my ideas for my dissertation.

If you were to do it again, would you sign up for Capella University’s PhD program in nursing education?

Yes, I would sign up again for Capella’s PhD in nursing education. The program is relatively new, so it has gone through its growing pains. But I have been a nurse for over 30 years, and I love the field. I know that we need more nurses and we need more nurse educators, so Capella’s program fills a gap that currently exists in the medical and education fields.


In what ways has the fact that you studied online affected your future goals?

I don’t think that earning my degree online has had any adverse effect on my goals or my job prospects. In fact, I was just offered a full-time management position. Out of all the other candidates, I stood out, and I was able to negotiate a good salary. I have even had headhunters approach me after earning my degree. So I don’t think that other students will find that an online PhD in nursing education is any less valued by employers.

What general advice would you give to a student who is considering a PhD in nursing education at Capella University?

If you are considering earning a PhD in nursing education, I would tell you to go for it. I think that the PhD in nursing education is a more versatile and valuable degree than a PhD in nursing practice, which is another common degree for people to earn in my field. Ultimately, though, you need to consider what your career goals are. If you want to teach, this PhD is definitely the way to go. If you know that you only want to do clinical work, then sticking to the doctorate in nursing practice may be the best avenue. Whatever route you choose, commit to it fully and don’t look back.

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