Mark Burns

I would caution people that online school is not a decision to be made lightly. It requires a serious commitment in terms of finances, time and energy. A lot of people are not able to attend a PhD program through traditional means, and online school offers an opportunity to fulfill that dream. But you have to take it seriously if you want to succeed.


Capella University


Master of Science, Capella University (2011); Bachelor of Arts, University of Baltimore (1999); Associate of Applied Science, Harford Community College (1996)


PhD in Human Behavior


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

I decided to enroll in an online school because I am married with two small children, and my lifestyle didn’t allow me to return to the classroom in the traditional sense. I decided to attend Capella University specifically because, out of all the online schools I researched, it impressed me the most. After I earned my masters degree through Capella University and was satisfied with that experience, I decided to continue on to earn my doctorate degree.

What are your school’s biggest strengths?

Capella University’s biggest strengths are the degrees that it offers and the accreditation of their programs. When I decided to return to school to complete my masters degree, I initially intended to pursue an online program in social work. After researching several schools, I found that none of them offered a social work degree online. However, Capella University offered similar degrees, like human services and counseling studies. That was enough to raise my interest in the school, and it ultimately led to my decision to enroll there.

Do you view Capella University as a community?

In many ways, I see Capella University as a community, and I feel that Capella alumni are proud of their school. Of course, since students don’t physically attend the school, community is more difficult to measure because you can’t see people wearing school sweatshirts or hats. However, Capella University has a significant presence on sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, which is where you get a sense of the community that exists among current students and alumni.

Does Capella University have brick-and-mortar campuses?

No, Capella University operates entirely online. There are no brick-and-mortar campuses.


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?

I was already familiar with the financial aid application process because I attended several different schools prior to enrolling at Capella. However, Capella makes information about financial aid available to all prospective students.

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

The price of my PhD at Capella University seems to be equal to the cost of other schools I have attended. I have had conversations with colleagues who are attending traditional schools, and there doesn’t seem to be a big difference in the costs of our graduate degrees.

Admissions Requirements

Can you describe the admissions process from start to finish?

My admissions process might have been different than a new student’s process because I graduated with a masters degree from Capella University before I applied to the doctoral program. For that reason, the entire process took very little time because Capella University already had my transcripts and academic information. I didn’t have to submit letters of recommendation or a personal statement since I was already enrolled in the school.

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

Yes, I did have an admissions advisor who kept me informed of recent changes to the program like classes that could be substituted for certain requirements. In fact, I still check in with my advisor every 2 or 3 months just to make sure I am doing what I am supposed to do.

Classroom Experience

How is class material presented?

Class material is presented through the university’s website. Each course has its own webpage that contains all the necessary components for the course, like the syllabus, additional resources and the class discussion board. The courses are broken down into units that are 1 week in length, so all the assignments for the week need to be completed by a given day. But I can log on whenever I want to complete my work, which I consider to be a big advantage of online education.

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

The benefits and drawbacks of online education depend on how you learn. Personally, I have never needed a lecture to learn, so this format works well for me. But if you appreciate lectures and depend on someone pushing you to turn in assignments, this learning format would be a disadvantage to you.

Are you able to stay engaged in your online coursework?

Yes, I am able to stay engaged in my online coursework because I work well on my own. This is the type of program that works well for those who are self-motivated.

Do your professors encourage class participation?

Class participation is mandatory. You are required to respond to at least 2 different students on the class discussion board, which operates like an online forum. You are expected to write a detailed response to those students that includes references to your own reading of the material. A significant portion of your grade relies on your participation in the discussion board.

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

I usually interact with my instructors via e-mail, but there is also a private message board built into the website if you need to ask questions that you don’t want the whole class to see. Most instructors also share their phone number so you can call and talk to them. In that case, they usually will tell the class when they hold office hours for you to call.

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

Criteria Rating Reasons
Overall  Excellent
Qualifications Excellent My instructors all have post-graduate degrees and seem to be knowledgeable and experienced in the subjects they teach.
Knowledgeable Excellent
Assignments 1)Relevance: Good

2)Reasonable: Good

3)Clarity: Good

4)Assistance Provided: Good

5)Feedback Given: Good

In terms of discussion questions, instructors do a good job of ensuring that students master the course material.
Grading Excellent Instructors use a rubric that clearly describes the way they are going to grade and why they are doing so.
Responsiveness  Good The few times I have had to reach out to instructors, they have responded in a reasonable amount of time.
Reliability  Excellent The reliability of my instructors has never been an issue.
Interest taken in class as a whole Excellent I have never worked with an instructor who seemed not to be engaged with the class.
Interest taken in student as an individual Excellent They seem to be enthusiastic about working with me. They work hard to ensure my success.

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

Capella University provides resources like tutoring services and an extensive library. Some instructors also offer lecture videos, where they will share additional material besides the regular lessons.

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

I would advise students to keep in mind that procrastination is their biggest enemy. I think that is true of any school, but especially with an online school where you don’t have immediate access to your instructors or a study buddy. Whether you get your work done is fully dependent on your own motivation. So it is really important that you work as hard as you can to get your assignments done on time.


Why did you choose to enroll in your Capella University program?

I chose to enroll in this program because a PhD in human behavior gives me a diverse knowledge base that I can apply to many different careers. This program combines aspects of counseling and sociology, so I will be able to use it in my current capacity as a child welfare advocate and in other areas of social work.

Does your program include a dissertation component?

My program does require me to write a dissertation, but I have not started it yet. I still have about 2 years of coursework before I will be eligible to take the comprehensive exam. After I pass those, I will start my dissertation.

If you were to do it again, would you sign up for Capella University’s doctoral program in human behavior?

Yes, I would sign up for this program again. I have enough experience going to various schools to know what a valuable education looks like, so I am very happy with the school. In fact, I have recommended Capella University to several colleagues and friends.


What general advice would you give to a student who is considering a doctoral degree in human behavior at Capella University?

I would caution people that online school is not a decision to be made lightly. It requires a serious commitment in terms of finances, time and energy. A lot of people are not able to attend a PhD program through traditional means, and online school offers an opportunity to fulfill that dream. But you have to take it seriously if you want to succeed.