Gloria Lewis

The biggest benefit of the online classroom presentation style is that it forces every member of the class to participate. In a regular classroom, it is easy to sit back and watch others participate in debates without putting in much effort. You can’t do that online because you are forced to stay engaged.


Capella University


Master of Business Administration, University of Phoenix (2007); Master of Science in Administration, Central Michigan University (2004); Bachelor of Science in Social Work, University of Detroit, Mercy (1995)


PhD in Education


Educational Leadership


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

I chose this degree program because of its flexibility. My current position as executive director of a Head Start program entails a long work day. I am responsible for 140 staff members and 1,000 kids and their parents. It is extremely time-consuming. I needed a classroom that allowed me to work on school when I could. Sometimes the only time I have available is 3:00 a.m., so traditional classrooms were not going to work.

Even so, there were certain factors to consider before committing to an online school. After looking at a number of schools online I had to weigh my options. I checked to see that they were accredited, because the convenience of online schooling doesn’t matter if it doesn’t fulfill the same goals as a traditional graduate program. I felt like the classroom setup of Capella University mirrored traditional classrooms. For instance, it assigned typical doctorate requirements like a dissertation that had to pass a scientific peer review.

What are your school’s biggest strengths?

The biggest strength of Capella University is that the classroom set-up mirrored traditional classrooms. I didn’t want a stigma attached to my degree because I earned it online, so I was happy to see that Capella University offered a legitimate and rigorous program.

Do you view Capella University as a community?

Yes, I would say that I view Capella University as a community. Even though students are geographically scattered, we are a group of people engaged in the same process who have similar experiences. We can discuss our problems and solve them together, which is what people in communities do.

Does Capella University have brick-and-mortar campuses?

Yes, Capella University has at least 1 brick-and-mortar campus, which is located in Minneapolis.


How are you paying for college?

I am paying for college through student loans from the government.

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

Capella University was some help in the financial aid process because they instructed me to fill out the FAFSA, sign my promissory notes and accept my financial aid. But I didn’t get quite enough aid to cover my last class, which came as a surprise to me. I don’t think that my advisors necessarily did their job incorrectly, but it would have been nice to find out that my money was running out before it actually did.

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 relative cost of online education depends on which offline institutions you are comparing it to. Considering I went to a private school for my undergraduate education, the tuition at Capella University does not cost more. But it probably does cost more than a degree from a state school.

Admissions Requirements

Can you describe the admissions process from start to finish?

The entire admissions process only took a couple of weeks. I submitted my application online, then I had to obtain my transcripts from previous schools. I wasn’t exactly admitted the first day, but it was a fairly painless process.

What did you write about in your personal statement?

In my personal statement, I wrote about the important role that education plays in my life. I explained how a doctorate degree would benefit my career and I discussed what I plan to do when I finish the program.

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

I was required to submit 3 letters of recommendation in order to be admitted to Capella University. I tried to diversify the sources so that the letters wouldn’t all sound the same. I asked my boss to write 1 of them, and I got coworkers who had collaborated with me on a large-scale project to write the others.

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

Yes, I interacted with a person throughout the entire application process. We spoke regularly because he would always send me an e-mail to confirm the delivery of the documents I sent in, like my transcripts. I appreciated his effort to keep me in the loop because it meant that I didn’t have to wonder how things were going.

Classroom Experience

How is class material presented?

At Capella University, they try to present classes much like they do in a regular brick-and-mortar classroom. Initially, a syllabus that outlines the whole class is posted. We are expected to read a significant amount of material each week, then we answer discussion questions through an online forum. The discussion questions are designed in such a way that you have to actually read and cite references. Not only do you need to write your own discussion post, but you need to reply to 2 people in order to facilitate open, productive discussion. In addition, there are individual assignments to complete like papers or presentations.

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

The biggest benefit of the online classroom presentation style is that it forces every member of the class to participate. In a regular classroom, it is easy to sit back and watch others participate in debates without putting in much effort. You can’t do that online because you are forced to stay engaged. But the drawback is that and you do not get to observe body language, and that can hamper communication.

Do your professors encourage class participation?

Yes, students are graded on their participation in the discussion board. If you do not participate, you fail the class.

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

I usually communicate with my instructors via e-mail. I also have my instructors’ phone numbers so that if I ever need to talk to someone in person I can call. I find that reassuring because it is easy to get off track when all your learning is self-directed. Sometimes you need to talk a concept over before you can understand it.

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

Criteria Rating Reasons
Overall  Good  
Qualifications Excellent Instructors were highly qualified to teach the courses in their field of expertise.
Knowledgeable Excellent They always knew how to answer questions.
Assignments 1)Relevance: Good

2)Reasonable: Good

3)Clarity: Good

4)Assistance Provided: Excellent

5)Feedback Given: Good

Sometimes the assignments didn’t seem entirely relevant to the course material.
Grading Good Capella University’s grading scale changed towards the end of my program, which made for inconsistent grading.
Responsiveness  Excellent They always respond quickly.
Reliability  Excellent They have never missed class.
Interest taken in class as a whole Excellent  
Interest taken in student as an individual Excellent The only time I needed extra help, I received it in a timely manner.

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

Capella University provides students with a ton of resources, from getting help writing your resume to an extensive online library. If you need help in any area of your education, you can find it through the school’s network.

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

I would advise students to prepare themselves to be extremely disciplined if they want to succeed in an online learning environment. In an online classroom, you have to contribute to class nearly every day. That means you have to pace yourself and stick to your schedule.


Does your program include a dissertation component?

Yes, my doctoral program requires that candidates write a defensible dissertation. This requirement is what makes Capella University comparable to a traditional brick-and-mortar school. The requirements for my dissertation are strict. I have a panel of 3 people who I interact with at least once a week by e-mail or on the phone so that I can assure them that I am staying on track.

Does your program have a residency requirement?

No, my doctoral program does not require me to complete a residency. I can earn my PhD almost entirely online. I do have to visit a site to conduct my research since my thesis is action-based rather than theory-based. That means I am going to design an original project and measure its success in a real-world setting.

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

Yes, I would sign up for this program again. It has been exactly what I needed, and the online method allowed me to further my education without putting my career on hold. I have even recommended this program to a colleague because I believe in it.


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

I would advise students who are considering getting their doctorate degrees online to develop a familiarity with their calendars. They will need to schedule their time relentlessly to make sure they can complete their reading and contribute enough to class. Online graduate school is a time commitment just like offline graduate school, and you need to be ready for that.