Profile of an Online College Professor

Kelley Justice, Dean of New Students, Strayer University Online

online college professor sitting in classroom

By Sindya Narayanaswamy

"Flexibility," Kelley Justice, Dean of New Students at Strayer University's Online Campus, says, over and over. Because that's what an online university degree program has to offer. "First and foremost, it offers flexibility. You don't have to get into a car and drive and get stuck in traffic. It's important because many students are also working full-time or have families," she explains.

Justice also says that online university courses allow students to pace themselves and graduate sooner, or later, depending on their time constraints. She adds, "You also become more computer savvy using our software. This can help you discover what learning style works best for you. We offer our lectures in text transcripts, audio and video. Almost everything is done over e-mail, so you become really good at writing," Justice says.

Teaching Online

In addition to playing an administrative role as a dean, Justice also teaches two sections of an introductory sociology class. She is highly qualified. Justice holds an MS in Counseling from Villanova University. Prior to joining Strayer, she taught seminars in career counseling. The basic requirement for instructors, Justice says, is "a master's degree in the particular area." "For graduate level classes, the person must have a PhD, as well as practical work experience prior to teaching."

The training process for instructors teaching in the online mode is also rigorous. "They go through training in preparation for online teaching. We turn away some professors who just don't become comfortable enough to teach on our platforms." The instructors teach from all over the United States.

Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Learning

Online classes are taught in one of two formats. "In the synchronous (live) format, students must log in at a scheduled time." The online college professor lectures live, and students have instant access to them via online chat. However, she says, "Our asynchronous courses are more sought out." Asynchronous lectures can be heard and processed at the student's leisure. "It can suit all types of learning styles," Justice declares, "since the audio and the scripts are online." For students who struggle with note taking, this is a boon.

Her classes usually have about 25 students and she tries to remain accessible to all of them. "I provide my email address and phone number and am available Monday to Friday. I also try to post announcements and reach out to students on a weekly basis."

Online University Resources

Strayer's online university degree program does not provide a career center or a formal co-op/internship placement program, but they do offer a myriad of other resources. "Each student has an assigned academic advisor. Since the majority of our professors have outside work experience, they can be a good resource for career advice," Justice says. She adds, "We also have the Library Resource Center, which has a career site that students can visit." Students, she says, are usually quite satisfied with the career boosts that their degrees provide them.

Online Education Caters to Nontraditional Students

The average age of an online student, according to Justice, is about 34 or 35. "Their motivation is usually a little different than students just out of high school going to college. They are a little more focused and understand why they're seeking this program." But times are changing.

"I have recently seen a growth in the number of younger students." The flexibility and convenience of the online programs is attractive to all age groups. "We see growth every quarter, and each quarter we are adding more online classes."

This type of program, Justice believes, is for "the student who is highly motivated, disciplined and responsible." For those with the right attitude, she concludes, "It can be an excellent opportunity to earn a degree for personal enrichment or professional advancement." All from the comfort of your home and the convenience of your personal computer.