David Harms

The online platform isn’t for everyone, so I advise students to take it very seriously. If you are a self-motivated student and you have good communication skills, you will probably do well. But you should still realize that the online classroom isn’t any easier than a traditional classroom.


Walden University


Master of Education in Education Technology, Lourdes University (2008); Bachelor of Science in Education, Bowling Green State University (2002)


PhD in Education




Why did you decide to attend Walden University to get your PhD in educational technology?

I decided to get my PhD in educational technology from Walden University because I am a high school social studies teacher and needed a program that would allow me to continue teaching while I fulfilled the course requirements. Since no on-campus program would be flexible enough for me, studying online seemed like the most viable option. I chose Walden because they had a program in educational technology and not many schools offer this concentration.

What are your school’s biggest strengths?

Walden University has high-quality instructors. The school has been around for a while, so the course design is sound, and the education program in particular is very strong. Walden is also affiliated with Laureate University, which is a worldwide network of schools. I think this lends credibility and visibility to Walden as an institution.

I don’t think that the online environment is always the best, though. Sometimes when you are studying online, whether it is at Walden or any other online school, you will have an instructor who you can’t completely understand or who you don’t see eye to eye with. Without in-person contact, it can be hard to work through these kinds of situations.

Do you view Walden University as a community?

Walden tries very hard to create a sense of community for students. They have an online presence and network that gives students the opportunity to connect with each other. In my education program, we are also required to participate in 4 residencies in 4 different locations of our choosing, so our program has found a way to increase the sense of communication and personal connection. But finding a community hasn’t been as important to me as gaining a doctorate-level education.

Does Walden University have brick-and-mortar campuses?

No, Walden University does not have brick-and-mortar campuses. Their main location is in Minnesota, where they occasionally offer residencies and gatherings.


How are you paying for college?

The cost of my PhD in educational technology is high, and I am paying for it by taking out student loans. I pay roughly $20,000 each year to attend my program at Walden. That cost includes tuition and fees.

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

Walden was very professional throughout the financial aid process and made it very easy for me to figure out how to finance my degree. Their financial aid advisors were there to help me fill out the necessary paperwork, though I had already gone through the process before when I enrolled in my masters degree program.

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

I think the cost of my online education is about the same as the cost of attending a traditional university for a similar degree. Though the tuition and fees are higher, I don’t have to pay for gas or spend my time commuting. While I was working toward my masters, I commuted 25 minutes each way to school, and those costs added up over time.

Admissions Requirements

Can you describe the admissions process from start to finish?

Before I was admitted to Walden’s educational technology PhD program, I spoke with an admissions advisor while I was studying for my masters degree at Lourdes University. Later on, representatives from Walden took a handful of students out to dinner and made us feel like the school cared about creating a sense of community.

In terms of the actual application process, I had to submit a paper as an example of my academic work, in addition to transcripts from my previous programs and a statement of purpose. Not too long after I submitted my application, I received a phone call telling me I had been accepted.

What did you write about in your personal statement?

In my personal statement, I tried to speak to Walden’s focus on social work and making a difference through education. I highlighted ways that I wanted to make an impact in secondary education and how I wanted to help secondary students, especially technical and vocational students, to improve their learning experience and retention rates.

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

I submitted 3 letters of recommendation in my application to Walden’s PhD program in educational technology. After I graduated from Lourdes University with my masters degree, I was offered a job at the university. So when I applied to my PhD program, it was very easy to approach my boss, who had been the dean of my masters program, to ask for a letter of recommendation. I also asked a co-worker and the principal of the high school where I teach to write letters for me.

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

I know Walden values students who have good grades and strong letters of recommendation. It was relatively easy for me to gain admission, so I think if other students’ applications have similar strengths, they should do fine in the admissions process.

During the admissions process, did you interact with an admissions advisor?

I interacted with an admissions advisor before I was actually admitted and then after I gained admission to Walden University. Once I was accepted, I worked with advisors to get into the online system and start the financial aid process.

Classroom Experience

How is class material presented?

There are 2 ways that I have seen class material presented at Walden. Classes are either broken down by week, so that when you log on to the class platform you can view the assignments and requirements for each week, or they are broken down into modules, which are usually 2-week segments.

For classes that use the week system, you have weekly reading assignments and post responses on the class discussion board. You have to respond using APA style, and you have to cover key points in the reading to show that you did your work thoroughly. For most classes, you have to post by Wednesday or Thursday of each week and respond to other students’ posts by Sunday of each week. We often have 3-page papers due on Sunday as well.

In classes that use modules, usually 1 week follows the model that the other classes use, then the following week we are required to submit a 5-to-6-page paper.

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

One of the biggest benefits to these 2 types of presentation style is that I always know what to expect no matter what format the class uses. I can always look ahead and see what is coming, and I can make room for my assignments in my schedule. Since I work multiple jobs, this is very helpful.

In terms of drawbacks, if you don’t understand an assignment, it can be hard to get clarity from the instructors in time to complete the assignment correctly. Sometimes teachers will change the assignments if a majority of students don’t understand the requirements.

Are you able to stay engaged in your online coursework?

Yes, I am able to stay engaged in my online coursework. Earning my PhD is very important to me, and I take it very seriously. The courses are challenging, but I get a lot out of them. I work hard to stay engaged in my program because I am hoping that it will help me to expand my job opportunities once I graduate.

Do your professors encourage class participation?

The main way that instructors encourage class participation is through the discussion board. While we individually post responses to the week’s reading and also respond to each other’s posts, the instructors also respond to students’ posts and ask questions. Sometimes, instructors will pose a question to a student that demands deeper critical thinking and requires us to go back to the textbook and reread the assigned section.

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

I mostly communicate with my instructors through the discussion board and through e-mail. Some instructors set up weekly phone calls with students, but this is fairly rare. Other instructors use Skype to communicate in real time with students.

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

Criteria Rating Reasons
Overall  Excellent Instructors at Walden are leaders in their fields. Many have authored textbooks that are widely used.
Qualifications Excellent Instructors have graduate degrees and years of experience.
Knowledgeable Excellent Instructors have a deep understandings of the subject matter that they teach.
Lectures 1) Content: Not applicable

2) Clarity: Not Applicable

Walden’s PhD program in educational technology does not use lectures.
Assignments 1)Relevance: Excellent

2)Reasonable: Excellent

3)Clarity: Good

4)Assistance Provided: Good

5)Feedback Given: Excellent

The assignments require students to delve into their assigned reading and ask students to dedicate an appropriate amount of time to completing them.
Grading Good Some instructors grade harder than others, but overall the grading is fair.
Responsiveness  Excellent Walden has a policy that requires instructors to respond to questions within 24 hours.
Reliability  Excellent I can always count on my instructors to have thought through the assignments and to be available for feedback.
Interest taken in class as a whole Excellent I have not run into a single instructor at Walden who isn’t passionate about teaching.
Interest taken in student as an individual Good Some instructors have taken more interest in me as an individual student than others.

What resources does Walden University provide to help you succeed in the classroom?

Walden offers a great online library in addition to tutoring services and a writing lab. Students can also turn papers in online using a program that will check for basic grammar errors, and Walden also offers an online plagiarism checker that is very helpful as well. I have also used Walden’s academic advising services to help plan my degree.

I have heard that you can also sign up for a dissertation service which is an intensive 4-day retreat. It is expensive, but an instructor will work with you during those 4 days to help you develop your dissertation topic and nail down a schedule that will get you on track.

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

The online platform isn’t for everyone, so I advise students to take it very seriously. If you are a self-motivated student and you have good communication skills, you will probably do well. But you should still realize that the online classroom isn’t any easier than a traditional classroom. And for students who may not be as self-motivated, or whose first language is not English, just know that you will probably need to work harder than other students.


Why did you choose to enroll in your educational technology program?

I chose to enroll in an educational technology PhD program because I wanted to increase my job opportunities as a high school social studies teacher. Teachers in social studies are having a hard time finding jobs, and I wanted a degree that would set me apart from the rest.

Does your program include a dissertation component?

Yes, my educational technology program includes a dissertation component. It is a very demanding and challenging part of my program. Before you begin writing, you conduct a review of the important recent literature in the field and suggest your own innovations in terms of research. You draft a concise description of what you will cover in your dissertation. Once this is approved, you can begin writing the actual dissertation.

Students usually write their first 3 chapters before they move on to the experimental stage of the dissertation, which often involves conducting surveys or interviews with a certain population. Before you can begin this, you have to obtain permission from an Institutional Review Board (IRB).

After you complete the experimental phase and finish your write-up summarizing your findings and how they relate to your first 3 chapters, you have a dissertation defense, which is held on Skype with your dissertation committee.

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

Yes, I have an advisor who plays a huge role in my dissertation process. He was an instructor in a couple of my classes, and he is a very important person in the field. He actually wrote many of the textbooks we use.

Each semester that I spend working on my dissertation, I have to turn in a plan to my advisor which outlines the progress I intend to make. He approves this plan, then we have a few discussions over the course of the semester to check in and make sure I am on track. At the end of the semester, I turn in a report. The assumption is that your advisor will also serve as the chair of your dissertation committee, which will also include 2 other faculty members. One of these members on your committee is a silent reader, so only your chair and 1 other instructor actually give you feedback on your work.

Did your program have a residency requirement?

Yes, my educational technology program at Walden University requires PhD students to attend 4 residencies over the course of the program. These residencies are held around the world, and we can choose what locations we would like to attend.

If you were to do it again, would you sign up for Walden University’s PhD program in educational technology?

Yes, I would definitely sign up for Walden’s PhD program in educational technology. I have learned a lot so far and I think the program will help me reach my goals.


What general advice would you give to a student who is considering a PhD in educational technology at Walden University?

If you are considering earning a PhD in educational technology, you need to have great time management skills and self-discipline. Without these traits, the program will be very difficult to excel in and you may be tempted to quit before you even get to the dissertation phase.