Kendra Magen, Student, Strayer University Online
By Sindya Narayanaswamy
She's 45, a mother of two, a grandmother of three and a country-hopping, higher degree-earning student. Kendra Magen is an online college student at Strayer University. While living and teaching in Mexico, Russia and Germany, she's managed to complete her Bachelor's degree in International Business and her Master's in Education through Strayer University's online degree program.
The hardworking, enterprising Magen says that, these days, with remarkable advances in technology, "there is no excuse not to go to school." Strayer's online degree programs, complete with online college orientation and online graduation ceremony, are available to anyone with a passion for learning.
Common Misconceptions About Online Programs
One of the misconceptions people have about college online, Magen says, is that "they are not serious programs, and that they are just fluff." Magen begs to differ. "It's been work; I didn't buy my degree. Strayer is an accredited university. I've really had to work, and I've learned."
Magen explains the dynamics of her online college student courses. "If it's asynchronous, you log in to the blackboard and access weekly video and audio. If it's synchronous (live teaching), you have a teacher who is live that you watch through a DSL Internet connection. You also have a live online chat during the lecture that the professor sees, where you can ask questions."
Better Communication Online
Magen praises the dedication of her professors. "I would email them and almost always got a response back within 24 hours." She compares her experience as an online student with traditional programs. "I went to a brick and mortar school for my first degree and I can honestly say I had a better interaction with other students through the online program."
The students usually set up appointment times to meet over chat and work on their projects. "It's usually a PowerPoint presentation. You can actually present it to the rest of the class with audio if you have a microphone. Or you can do it over chat." When Magen defends her master's thesis in two months (from Germany), she will do so via video conference.
"Our midterm and finals exams are password protected and timed," Magen says. "Most are open book," she explains, "but that doesn't mean much. You can't be going through the book the entire time you're taking the test." For the most part, except for the in-person interactions between students and professors, online college courses operate exactly like traditional ones.
Keys to Success Online
The key to being a successful online college student is motivation and drive. This type of program, Magen says, is for people who "really want it." Above and beyond what is needed to succeed in a traditional class room setting, an online student needs to be more "self-disciplined, have strength of character, dedication and determination." Magen runs her own business called "The English Club," which focuses on providing English, business and international tourism classes at private universities and businesses. She maintains a very strict schedule in order to complete her daily tasks.
"When you go to school in the U.S., teachers push you along; when you go to university, there's nobody to tell you that 'you have to do this.'" Magen explains that the student is even more independent in an online environment. "You have to be more self-reliant." There is the financial investment as well, and taking the hit is only worth it if you are committed to working hard for your degree.
Just Do It...
From her hometown in Barbeau, Michigan, Kendra Magen really has gone far. What's her advice for those who are interested but hesitant about starting an online degree program? "Don't think about it, just do it…like the Nike slogan. At one time I was working two to three jobs, raising children, with no husband and no child support."
Others in her position might not have been so ambitious, but for Kendra Magen, it's her ambition that's got her to where she is now. She's been to 52 countries. She owns a business. She's a proud mother and grandmother. She completed her bachelor's degree in two and a half years and her master's degree in eighteen months. And she's well on her way to becoming "Dr. Magen."