Why did you decide to attend Walden University to get your PhD in psychology?
I decided to attend Walden University for my PhD in psychology because I wanted to get a PhD in academic psychology. I needed to attend an online program so that I could continue to work during the day. Walden had the closest program to the specialization of academic psychology. My program is a general degree in psychology with a specialization in general education.
What are your school’s biggest strengths?
I think 1 of Walden’s biggest strengths is the fact that the school has a presence all over the United States and the world. Walden is affiliated with Laureate International Universities, which is a network of educational institutions located all over the world. Walden strives hard to compete with other universities in terms of their academic standards.
Do you view Walden University as a community?
I don’t view Walden as a community, though I know that the school works hard to create a sense of community for its students. Simply because of the limits to online learning, forming a community is very difficult. It is naturally much easier to feel connected to your classmates and professors when you study at a brick-and-mortar school.
Does Walden University have brick-and-mortar campuses?
No, Walden University does not have brick-and-mortar campuses.
How are you paying for college?
I am paying for my PhD in psychology with student loans. I applied for federal financial aid by filling out the FAFSA, which is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA has a website with information about different loan programs, and students can go through the entire loan application process online.
How helpful was your school in assisting your financial aid process?
I think that Walden has advisors who could answer questions if you have any, but the whole financial aid application takes place through the federal website, and Walden isn’t involved in this process. I didn’t need to contact Walden for any reason.
Do you feel like your overall cost of education is more or less than the cost of a degree at a traditional institution?
It is hard to compare the costs of an online PhD in psychology with a PhD granted from a traditional institution. At a traditional school, PhD students would be accepted into a psychology program based on their research skills and the availability of grants that matched their proposed research projects. Psychology PhD students usually don’t pay for their tuition. Instead, they work as researchers, and their tuition costs are waived.
For an online PhD in psychology, students pay directly for their education, since there is no opportunity to received funding for research.
Can you describe the admissions process from start to finish?
When I decided to apply to Walden’s PhD program in psychology, I contacted the school and requested an application. The application included a series of questions about what my goals were and how I wanted to use my PhD. Other questions inquired about my education and background. I also sent transcripts from the schools that I had previously attended.
What did you write about in your personal statement?
In my personal statement, I wrote about my professional career as a family therapist and how this experience affected my academic interests and desire to teach psychology at the university level.
How many letters of recommendation did you submit in your application?
I didn’t need to submit any letters of recommendation with my application to Walden University’s PhD program in psychology.
Did you have an admissions interview?
Yes, I had an admissions interview over the phone. The admissions counselor asked questions about the information that I included in my personal statement and in my application. I was asked to elaborate on some of the things I said I wanted to accomplish.
During the admissions process, did you interact with an admissions advisor?
Yes, I did interact with an admissions advisor when I applied to Walden University. After I started my application to the psychology program, I was assigned an admissions advisor who was available to answer any questions that I had and worked with me to make sure that I completed the process.
How is class material presented?
Class material is presented online through Walden’s website. Once you enroll as a student, you are assigned a password that allows you to log in and view all of your classes. Each class has a syllabus that includes all of the assignments and material that will be covered over the 3-month quarter. For the most part, my program uses hard-copy textbooks that you purchase online and receive through the mail.
All of my classes rely heavily on the discussion board, which is where instructors post discussion topics that we have to respond to. We are given deadlines each week for our responses. The instructor and other students provide their feedback to your discussion posts, and you are also required to respond to other students’ posts. Our discussion posts are archived within our course webpage, so we can revisit anything that is discussed over the course of the quarter.
My courses in psychology also include videos that supplement our textbooks. The videos are usually mailed to us on CDs and include specific topics for classes, like human motivation, social psychology, statistics, lifespan development and biopsychology.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of this style of presentation?
I think that the major benefit to the discussion board system is that students have to do all of the work themselves. When you attend lectures in on-campus classes, the professor provides you with most of the information and you just sit and listen. But when you study online and are required to post to a discussion board, you are responsible for formulating your thoughts and articulating them clearly to the entire class.
But there are drawbacks to the online discussion board system too. Unlike being in a real discussion, you can’t have spontaneous exchanges with other students. We are less able to exchange ideas quickly when we post our responses online.
Are you able to stay engaged in your online coursework?
I have been able to stay engaged in my online coursework, but it is a struggle. In a traditional class, you have the anchor of knowing that you need to be present at 2:00 p.m. to attend your professor’s lecture, for example. But online students don’t have any anchors. Not having an immediate community and set times to meet for class makes it challenging to stay engaged.
Do your professors encourage class participation?
The primary way that my instructors encourage class participation is by posting questions to the discussion boards. Outside of this, online classes don’t give instructors or students many options for participating as a group or interacting with each other.
What method of communication do you use to keep in touch with your professors?
I communicate with my instructors through e-mail. I have never needed to call any of them on the phone. I am involved in a special class right now that requires students and instructors to hold sessions on Skype, but this is unusual.
Can you rate the faculty on a scale of Excellent, Good, Average, Poor, Extremely Poor, in terms of:
|Overall||Good||90% of my instructors are great and 10% are average. My average instructors don’t show very much interest in the class as a whole and don’t go above and beyond to help me understand course material.|
|Qualifications||Good||All of my instructors have PhDs, but this seems like a requirement for instructors of psychology at most schools.|
|Knowledgeable||Good||Instructors often give insightful information on the discussion board, but because of the online format it is hard to have access to a lot of their knowledge.|
|Lectures||1) Content: Not applicable
2) Clarity: Not applicable
|My PhD program in psychology does not have lectures.|
4)Assistance Provided: Good
5)Feedback Given: Average
|Assignments are directly related to the course material. Most students receive individualized feedback on their assignments, but some students appear to receive formulated comments.|
|Grading||Average||Grading seems to be equal and fair.|
|Responsiveness||Poor||I have had trouble getting in touch with my instructors and advisors.|
|Reliability||Good||Instructors post all of the necessary information to the online classroom.|
|Interest taken in class as a whole||Poor||Because there is no opportunity to engage spontaneously in an online classroom, my instructors aren’t able to show very much interest in the class aside from writing discussion posts and e-mails.|
|Interest taken in student as an individual||Excellent||Walden requires PhD students in psychology to attend 4 residencies. Instructors show a lot of interest in getting to know individual students during these residencies.|
What resources does Walden University provide to help you succeed in the classroom?
Walden University has an online library and a bookstore that students can use to find materials for their classes. They also provide a writing center, a student services center that will help with the financial aid process, and academic advising groups that support students who are in various stages of their PhD programs.
Walden provides all of the resources that I need to do well as a student, but I do wish that their website was easier to navigate. For example, I have had a hard time figuring out what academic advising group to join now that I am working on my dissertation, because the website doesn’t provide a clear description of the available groups.
What advice would you give to students to help them succeed in an online classroom?
If you are thinking about studying online, you should know that online programs require a huge time commitment. Some people are able to manage a full-time job and an online program because they are willing to log on late at night to finish their coursework. Make sure that you are willing to sacrifice time to make it through an online program.
You should also realize that online programs require students to have strong writing skills. I would say that 99% of my assignments involve writing. You should probably reconsider enrolling in an online school if you don’t feel confident about your ability to write.
Why did you choose to enroll in your psychology program?
I chose to pursue a PhD in academic psychology because I want to teach psychology at the university level. I have worked as a licensed marriage and family therapist for many years and would like to make a career change.
Does your program include a dissertation component?
Yes, my PhD program in psychology at Walden University requires a dissertation. Students write a dissertation proposal after they complete their coursework, and their faculty committee approves the proposal before they begin to research and write. The dissertation usually requires 3 chapters which include an introduction, a review of relevant research and a chapter on methodology.
Your faculty committee evaluates the dissertation based on its content and the form of your writing. The dissertation must adhere to the guidelines and requirements of the American Psychology Association.
The final stage of the dissertation process is the defense. You are asked a series of questions by multiple faculty members that examine your research and require you to clearly articulate your ideas. The dissertation defense usually happens in a conference call.
Are you given an advisor to assist you through the dissertation process?
Yes, I have a instructor who chairs my dissertation committee and acts as my main contact person for the dissertation process. I am also involved in an academic advising group that supports students who are working on their dissertations.
Does your program have a residency requirement?
Yes, my PhD program in psychology at Walden requires students to attend 4 residencies over the course of the program. These residencies last between 3 and 6 days. They are great opportunities to establish more personal relationships with instructors and get to know some of the people who I have been studying with online.
What are your program’s biggest strengths and weaknesses?
One of the strengths of my psychology program is that students are broken into groups according to their specializations. For my specialization in educational psychology, we are exposed to job opportunities in our field and have the chance to stay connected to alumni of Walden’s psychology PhD program.
The psychology program isn’t without weaknesses though. I think that 1 of the biggest problems with earning a PhD online and writing a dissertation in an online program is that there is no way to determine that I am truly writing my ideas. The school can’t prove that I am who I say I am. Though my dissertation does have to be approved by the Integrity and Compliance Institutional Review Board, which will check my research to make sure that it is accurate and isn’t plagiarized, my research could still be something that I worked on with another person. I think that this is a major flaw in the online system.
If you were to do it again, would you sign up for Walden University’s PhD program in psychology?
If I were to do it again, I’m not sure if I would get my PhD in psychology. A PhD is a lot of work, and at this point in my process, I do find myself doubting my motivations and wondering why I decided to start such a demanding and challenging program. I think that this is a common thing for PhD students to feel though.
If I did decide earn my PhD again, I would still sign up at Walden. Walden University is a strong school, and they know what they are doing. Many of the problems that I have encountered as an online student are problems that occur in every online school and even in some traditional universities.
What general advice would you give to a student who is considering a PhD in psychology at Walden University?
I would advise students who are thinking about studying online to figure out if they really need to get their degree. Be clear with yourself about your goals and what it takes to reach them. For psychology in particular, you need to be aware of the requirements in your state to enter the particular of field of psychology that you are interested in. Make sure that earning an online degree will actually allow you to become a certified practitioner.
Students should also consider their finances before they decide to enroll in a program. My PhD in psychology is a big financial investment that I expect will only pay off over a long time. Make sure that you are aware of the financial burdens you may carry to earn your degree, especially if you will need to take out student loans to cover tuition costs.