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Interview with Barbara Bailey, PhD
For over 25 years, Barbara A. Bailey, PhD has served as a full-time or adjunct faculty member for various colleges and universities, teaching economics, management and leadership, research methodology, statistics, and presentation skills to undergraduate, masters, and doctoral learners. Currently based in Atlanta, GA with her company, Biz Productions, Inc., Dr. Bailey also participates in various entrepreneurial activities and joint ventures. In 2009, she and her current business partner formed a non-profit organization, The Healing Bridge Foundation, Inc.; she currently serves as Executive Director to shepherd the development of their veterans’ full service supportive residential communities. Dr. Bailey’s blog, “Hiking the Half-Step Highway” launched in spring 2013 and her book about women in conflict is scheduled for a 2014 release.
We had the pleasure of chatting with Dr. Bailey about her experiences in the classroom, both online and face-to-face, as well as her thoughts on education in today’s technology-driven milieu.
- To get us started, could you share with us a bit about your background and what directed you into studying organization and management?
- How did you become interested in online learning and what prompted you to teach online classes?
- As an educator, what do you regard as your greatest professional achievement so far, and what impact has it had on you?
- Online programs have really expanded in the last few years. In your opinion, what are the benefits of online learning and what does it take to succeed in an online class?
- What are some exciting developments in higher education and online education delivery?
- What advice do you have for someone interested in pursuing their PhD online?
1) To get us started, could you share with us a bit about your background and what directed you into studying organization and management?
My father worked in management positions during my childhood and, as his oldest daughter, I watched and wanted to emulate my hero. However, I always wanted to teach and could not see a way to combine both of my passions. It was not until I worked in corporate America and pursued my master’s degree that I found my path of teaching management and pursuing business experience through my own entrepreneurial interests. Since that time, I have combined my passions and continue to feel a deep sense of purpose and satisfaction.
2) How did you become interested in online learning and what prompted you to teach online classes?
In 1999-2000, my academic dean asked me to pursue an online adjunct position to investigate the online learning platform. After a round of applications, I accepted my first online teaching assignment and remain an online part-time faculty member at the same institution that put me on payroll! I have worked with other institutions simultaneously; however, as my entrepreneurial interests have grown, I have cut back my online teaching activities to the one that started the process for me. The online teaching experience continues to provide me with the challenge and reward only found in this kind of higher education delivery platform.
3) As an educator, what do you regard as your greatest professional achievement so far, and what impact has it had on you?
Whether on-ground or online, my greatest professional achievement as an educator has to be serving as a mentor and participating in the excitement of each one of my doctoral mentee’s degree completion. My doctoral mentor remains a mentor to me, a friend to me, and a light of inspiration. His impact remains in my life as I mentor my own students and my mentees’ continuing relationship with me fulfills my desire to be the type of professional that my mentor’s example set for me.
4) Online programs have really expanded in the last few years. In your opinion, what are the benefits of online learning and what does it take to succeed in an online class?
The benefits outweigh the non-benefits; however, online programs do not meet everyone’s needs as a student. Success weighs heavily on realistic expectations on the part of the student and many excellent students do not fit in the online classroom. It’s not a lack of talent or drive; it simply is the mismatch between their expectations about time management, workload, personal responsibility, and communication protocols with colleagues and instructors that create an unpleasant experience for everyone concerned. As much as the benefits might be viewed simplistically (the only difference in an online versus on-ground program is the ‘show up in a seat factor’), the online learning environment works ‘best’ for the student who takes the time to investigate its reality with instructors, students, and administrators before he or she makes the commitment.
5) What are some exciting developments in higher education and online education delivery?
Technology continues to bring new opportunities ‘to learn with and learn from’ for instructors and students. If I want to hold a webinar, I can. If I want to use the technology to talk ‘face to face’, we can. When I started, we had the computer, a predominantly static environment, and no expectations of talking with each other. Now, we chat by phone, by text, by Skype, and often, we find ways to meet because we want to! I travel to meet my doctoral students when possible; they travel to meet me. The exciting development of higher education continues to be technology’s effect on the desire to connect outside the expectations of the online platform.
6) What advice do you have for someone interested in pursuing their PhD online?
First, be sure that you want to pursue the doctoral degree to completion. Ultimately, the only sustaining driver to completion is the student’s own vision of completing the pinnacle degree in his or her field. I ask a possible student if he or she feels ‘the charcoal burning in the gut’. In other words, can you imagine your life being fulfilled if you do not pursue and complete this degree? If the answer is ‘yes, I can imagine fulfillment without the degree’, that student is not ready for the sacrifices and challenges of a PhD. Second, as I mentioned before, a student should talk to other online doctoral learners currently in a program, those who have completed a program, and those who dropped out of a program. Talking to instructors and administrators only provides more opportunity to gather a realistic picture of a doctoral journey that has no guarantee of ever meeting colleagues, faculty members, or dissertation mentors. After investing that time and effort and you decide to join an online doctoral community, I wish you nothing but success. It will change your life!