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Online Format Helps Parent of 6 Earn EdD

July 07, 2021 by Karen Grossman |

Mandy Northcutt was a group exercise coordinator and certified personal trainer before deciding to pursue higher education as a career.

“I’ve always enjoyed working with other individuals and teaching them about human movement or different exercises,” she says.

She enjoyed the academic environment while earning a master’s in exercise science and wondered if she would enjoy teaching as well. Now a temporary instructor at Arkansas State University, Northcutt loves her job and hopes to become a professor. She enrolled in the 2017 cohort of the online Doctor of Education (EdD) in Kinesiology program at UNC Greensboro to gain eligibility.

Balance Studies with Family and Work

Northcutt knew she wanted to enroll in a well-known and reputable program. The interdisciplinary EdD degree has a solid reputation thanks to its experienced, distinguished faculty. Students receive research training and collaborate with faculty and peers in a supportive online community.

As a working mother of six, Northcutt also needed a program that was flexible for her family. She didn’t want to uproot them for a degree or lose state eligibility as a foster parent. She and her husband have two biological children, legal guardianship of one child, and have adopted triplets from the foster care system.

Thanks to the online EdD, she can be there for her family, work, and fit coursework into her schedule.

Stay Connected Online

The fully online format allowed Northcutt to leave the country when she needed to and continue to communicate with her group to finish a project.

The program sets students up immediately to understand the technology. That technology helps her group stay connected in different time zones. They use Google Hangouts and video conferences almost daily for assignments and anything else they need to talk about. If Northcutt doesn’t understand an assignment, she’ll ask for others’ perspectives. Sometimes students reach out to each other for feedback on handling work situations.

Build a Community with Peers 

Photo of Mandy Northcutt and classmates engaging in team building activity

Sometimes they need to reach out for more personal reasons. In a short time, the cohort has had deaths, hurricanes, marriages, births, and adoptions touch their lives.

“We have been blessed to have each other through these experiences,” Northcutt says.

Apprehensive about flying to UNCG for orientation, Northcutt wondered whether she belonged in the program. “We all figured out we had the same concerns,” she says. “We all went in as 20 different individuals who didn’t know each other, and we all felt like family or close friends the day that we left. We’ve all stayed connected since orientation.”

She says the support she has received in the program has been the biggest highlight. “I might have chaos, six kids in the background. Maybe the triplets aren’t wanting to go to bed when they’re supposed to,” she says. “There’s such a big understanding. We are helpful to each other, we lift each other up, and we’re accepting of all of our circumstances to get our work done.”

Succeed with Faculty Support

Along the way, professors have been integrating planning for dissertations. That way, students don’t go into it without ideas. “We’ve already been looking at it, going through the process, and seeing what’s feasible,” she says. “Although it is integrated in our coursework for the class, it has allowed us to look at different types of research design, practice with our research question, and learn the statistics, how to analyze the data.”

The instructors inform students about upcoming work, due dates, course expectations, and the quality of work they expect. This helps Northcutt plan ahead, making time for assignments in the evenings.

See Results in Action

Northcutt is already seeing results. She’s learned about assessment, developing and creating a strategic plan, types of leadership, and how to meet students where they are in their learning.

“Especially with online pedagogical methods, we have learned how to develop a course and then the different strategies and methods to implement to engage the student just like you would in a face-to-face classroom,” she says.

Because her background is not in teaching, learning curriculum design has been instrumental in seeing how to design lesson plans to fit a specific purpose.

Northcutt has learned to look at how she teaches and looks at the curriculum, and whether it is relevant to the content. Instead of focusing on how students can use material in the future, she sometimes needs to ensure they understand basic concepts first. They will build on them later.

“Some of the course content I teach is basic demonstrative knowledge,” she says. “They don’t really need to know the future of it yet. They just need to understand the basic concept. To enhance the student’s learning within the classroom, I need to effectively teach the content for the student and to match my methods used correctly to the values of the curriculum.”

Want to Know More?

Focusing on scholarship and professional practice in leadership, advocacy, and teaching, UNCG’s interdisciplinary EdD in Kinesiology program is for practicing professionals with three or more years of experience in kinesiology or related fields. 

The original version of this blog was published in December 2018. It has been updated.

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