Being an Online Student

Dr. Richard L. Pattenaude

I am afforded many opportunities to talk about Ashford University, its programs, its values, and its students. One of my favorite questions to be asked is, “Who are your students?” I can answer that question demographically with just a few quick facts. Our students are typically adults with an average age in the mid-30s, about 70% are female, around two-thirds of them work full-time, roughly half are students of color, and approximately one-fourth are military or in a military family. These are important stats to know but, in my mind, stats don’t truly capture the nuances of who our students are.

I think of our students as adults with busy lives who are focused on their education and who face many challenges. There are often obstacles that can get in the way and prevent students from completing their college education. All too frequently, life simply gets in the way of finishing a degree. That’s why I am so impressed by students who make the commitment to return to school and pursue their education.

It is particularly challenging to be a busy adult student in the online environment. Online students typically study alone, often late at night, and without a lot of feedback. There are no cheerleaders or football teams or classmates to chat with after class over a cup of coffee. It is a solitary endeavor. We try to make it pleasant and interactive but, ultimately, it is the student, the course, and the assignment. That is why I tell people that our students are brave. They are academic warriors fighting for their own futures.

There are some important things students can do to increase their success and some valuable resources they can utilize. Certainly, family and friends come first, providing students with support when needed. Online interaction with course mates can reduce isolation and add to the learning experience. We think Ashford has responsive advisors, great teachers, and efficient systems that provide guidance and support. So, even as our students labor quietly and often alone, there are ways to connect and reduce isolation. But, still, it is a different experience than going to a classroom one night a week.

For all of the above reasons, I am very pleased by our students' accomplishments. It is such a joy to feel the energy at commencement. And, when I see all of those successful students joining the 80,000 Ashford graduates who have preceded them, I reflect upon their journeys and how much commitment and discipline they have given to their work. It makes me proud to serve in my role as president of Ashford University.

Dr. Richard L. Pattenaude is the President and CEO of Ashford University.

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