Beth Wolfe
Academic Innovation

Beth Wolfe, DHS, Shares Insight into Online Learning

Beth Wolfe

For many healthcare professionals looking to advance their careers, online learning can be the perfect complement to their busy lives.

Beth Wolfe, Doctor of Health Sciences (DHS) works full time as an Injury Prevention Coordinator and Research Assistant at Tufts Medical Center Division of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery and is currently working to earn her DHS through MCPHS Online.

We sat down with Beth to gain insight into MCPHS Online and hear her advice for making the most of the online learning experience.

Why should students consider online learning?

For me, I am a self-taught techie, and incorporating online curriculum with an advanced degree was very enticing for me. Although I sometimes miss being with people in a traditional classroom setting, the freedom to do work and projects on your own time is a very nice.

Was there anything that surprised you about the online learning experience?

The reduction of cliques and social status based on your year in the program is a positive aspect of online learning that I didn’t anticipate. You will notice that I don’t call the other individuals in my program my classmates. I refer to them as my colleagues. They are hardworking, highly educated healthcare professionals, and we see and respect each other as equals. Although I may be further along in the program, I do not see myself as the more experienced or higher credentialed senior member of the class. We are all in this program to grow our knowledge and skills and to learn about other healthcare professions with mutual respect.

Describe a typical week at MCPHS Online.

Typically, on Sunday night or Monday morning, the professor will post the assignment for the week. The assignment will have PowerPoint or Prezi presentations, research articles, TED talk videos, or an audio book from YouTube. They also post the pages or chapters we will need to read from our textbooks.

What are your assignments like in the DHS program?

Depending on the week you will have either one or two assignments that are usually 200-400 word responses to a question or scenario based on the readings that week. Your initial posts to the assignment are due by Wednesday at midnight, and then you must respond to two to three of our colleagues by Saturday. Your responses must be of a scholarly nature and include supplemental articles that you find on your own to either agree, add to, or rebuttal what your colleague says. This creates some great discussion and opportunities for great questions.

How do you manage your time during the week?

I try to do all of my initial posts on Sunday so I can spend the rest of the week gathering articles to respond to my colleagues. I spend about two hours on my initial posts and about two to three hours for my follow up questions and posts.

How does the flexibility of MCPHS Online help you balance your coursework with other commitments?

I like to have downtime and am involved in numerous other activities in Boston, so I like that I can plan and dictate which nights I will do my homework. Sometimes we do have deadlines that may require me to adjust which nights I do my homework, but I’ve not really had too many problems. I travel on a frequent basis for my job, and this past spring I was out of the country for a week. My professors were flexible and I completed my initial posts before I left and they allowed me to complete my follow up posts a day late once I got back in the US. The faculty knows you have a life and a job that require you to travel, and their flexibility is great.

How do you collaborate with your colleagues in the DHS program?

In our weekly assignments and discussions, we share our own experiences from our current occupations as it relates to the topic of the week. Additionally, we also share research articles and news headlines from our own cities and countries that are great for conversation. Although I might not be with my colleagues in person, I feel as though I am because of the interactive and dynamic format of the program. Our professors also use Twitter so we can tweet at our class hashtag so that we can carry on conversations and post articles from our social media outlets.

How do you connect with your professors?

If I have any questions my professors respond within 24-48 hours. If I can’t get ahold of them on email, I call their office and they either answer on the first ring or call me back by the end of the day. They are very responsive and timely in their replies to my questions.

How do you balance your online learning with your career responsibilities?

In order to balance my full-time job, classwork, personal time, and other professional commitments, I have had to become an incessant time manager. My friends joke and say that I am OCD about my calendar and budgeting time, but if I don’t schedule and block out time for the commitments in my life I won’t be able to keep all of the balls in the air at the same time. Something will get dropped!

It’s all about setting a balance for yourself. How do you do that?

One valuable, but yet very difficult, habit that I have had to overcome since I started this program is saying “yes” to people. There are only 24 hours in a day, and although I think I might be super human and can juggle anything that may come my way, the truth is I am only just human. Saying no and creating time for my classwork and me is more important than falling behind or over-committing myself.

What’s your advice for students considering online learning to advance their careers?

I have enjoyed my online experience thus far, and for those who are apprehensive about it, my advice is to stay ahead of your work. By using technology, you often work smarter and not harder. It really makes homework and classwork easier when you can do it electronically, and not by hand!

MCPHS offers a variety of online programs spanning the healthcare spectrum, including bachelor's, master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs.