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Learn HR Online One Student s Experience

June 15, 1999
Related Topics: Your HR Career, Featured Article
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Teresa Wickens, who is pursuing an HR graduate degree online, talks about why she decided to use virtual learning.

First, tell me how you decided to study human resources.
I graduated from the University of Mary, Bismarck, North Dakota in May 1997. My undergraduate degree is in social and behavioral sciences. I decided to pursue a human resources degree when the company I used to work for started demonstrating poor HR practices. With a bachelor s degree, I could only go so far, and it wasn't HR specific.

Why distance learning?
The community I live in doesn t have a four-year college. It offers a satellite program for the University of Utah, but it was 51 hours and required a GRE test. I wanted a school that was fair and unbiased.

How did you decide which school to attend?
I subscribe to Training magazine and found an ad in the magazine for Ottawa University of Kansas City. The school is located in Overland Park, Kansas. When I contacted the school s graduate adviser I was very pleased with the personal way I was treated. The school looks at your resume and you must be at least somewhat active in an HR field.

Tell me about the program.
At Ottawa, all students are required to attend an intensive four-day weekend. A student attends classes from Thursday morning until Sunday afternoon, and gets 32 hours of classroom time in before heading home. Then, the rest of the course is completed online. The school encourages students to interact by doing small-group activities during this time. I created a chat room on my personal Web site for anyone to use during the course.

So everything else, like tests, is done online?
Our quizzes are taken either online or the professor assigns problems and we e-mail responses back to her. There are discussion forums in which the instructor will throw out a question or case study and we have to write a 3 to 5 page response and respond to other student s comments. I can log into the forums whenever and wherever I am, which is nice if an HR person travels a lot. The instructors grade us on our comments and "attendance" in the forums.

Have you had any problems accessing the Internet?
No.

Would you recommend this method of schooling?
I enjoy the classes and the students are great. The good thing is that it requires a great deal of critical thinking and there is no real "rote memorization." I use real-life issues and am encouraged to use problems from my personal situation. The class is perfect for someone who is self-motivated and enjoys learning from any medium. The student definitely needs to be computer-literate and task-oriented.

Is the lack of human contact a problem?
The only negative aspect is statistics is hard to learn and teach over the Internet. The other classes are introduced at the intensive weekends and you meet the other students. If you re lucky, several stay with the program and you go through the classes together for the entire program.

Is this really a profession for online learning? Isn t HR about people?
Actually, by the time a student becomes an HR graduate student, much of the role-playing and other interpersonal stuff isn t applicable. The lessons deal with hiring, budgeting, strategic planning and more analysis. The core courses include planning training, research and organizational behavior. It is a higher level than undergraduate courses and involves a lot of critical thinking and application of theories and laws.

What are your career goals?
To move into HR management, possibly specializing in organizational development or training. I ve had a work setback and hope it doesn t hurt my chances for a good position.

Is this the future of HR education?
I m not sure. I believe people who live in more remote areas will gradually use this medium more to further their education. The intensive weekends make a difference with this one. Other schools don t require any residency.

What s the most important thing you ve learned from your experiences in HR?
Mentor other HR students. Get involved in making sure your organization knows to come to you for the answers to employment questions. Don t let them get away with treating employees poorly or abusing employees trust and faith. Learn everything you can about changes in HR.

Workforce Extra, May 1999, p. 6.

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