Student Perspective: Colleen Goddard –

Immediately after graduating high school, Colleen Goddard attended a small, private four-year college full-time for one year. For several years after that, she attended school at night part-time, while working full-time in the insurance industry. She earned the equivalent of two years of undergraduate credit before family life took over.

The now 41-year-old stay-at-home mother of three has returned to school, pursuing her bachelor’s in business studies through an online degree completion program as part of the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s University Without Walls.

What made you choose to enroll in this school?

Goddard: “I chose UMass Amherst’s UWW program, as I knew UMass Amherst was an excellent school and I would not only be able to receive credit for both my prior work and volunteer experience, but I could receive my degree while taking classes online. Had the online option not been available, I would not have been able to return to school.”

How did you decide on your field of study?

Goddard: “I elected Business Studies because I wanted to receive the most prior learning credit I could, and my prior experience was in insurance and nonprofit fundraising. I felt Business Studies cover these areas the best, not to mention I felt as though I would have more options for jobs after I get my degree.”

What has been your experience with online education? How do you balance your course load with your other obligations?

Goddard: “I have been attending classes online since spring 2011, and I have managed to successfully balance my class work with my responsibilities as mother, wife, and volunteer. I have taken one to two classes per semester and I most recently completed my Stage 2 Prior Learning Portfolio, and my schedule has been more than manageable. I simply would do my class work when my children were at school or in bed.”

Tell me about your online peer group.

Goddard: “I have found that those who are in the classes that are related to the portfolio are a lot like me, as far as age and experience. However, the one required general education course I had to take was made up of more students who were much younger. The dynamics between both classes were very different, yet similar at the same time. I feel like I not only was able to learn a lot from all of the unique perspectives, but I was able to make meaningful contributions at the same time.”

What do you hope to do with your degree upon completion of the program?

Goddard: “Upon completion of my degree, I would like to either get a job during the time my children are in school, or I might continue school and work towards getting a master’s degree, though I’m not sure what that would be in just yet.”

What advice/tips would you offer other students who may be considering online education?

Goddard: “If I were given the opportunity to give others advice or tips about UMass Amherst’s online program, I would first say keep an open mind about learning how to learn in a completely new and exciting way. There was a small learning curve for me in the beginning, but now it’s almost second nature. The online process is very much in line with today’s technology and social media format, which made it very easy to catch on. Secondly, I would suggest that they be open to the positive personal changes they will likely experience, especially if they decide to go for the Prior Learning credit. An important self-exploration and adult development piece are covered while preparing to write the portfolio. I found this to be an incredibly important exercise and helpful when writing my portfolio. I also feel that it was something that led to a positive change in me.”

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