Jump to content
  • advertisement_alt
  • advertisement_alt
  • advertisement_alt

Noob Seeks Advice from Internet Strangers (distance ed)


Recommended Posts

Hello, everyone. I'm new to the site, and I'm glad to be here.

So, I'm an MFA'd adjunct who works at a place I like very much—the security is nil, and I've had to pick up classes at other local colleges to make ends meet. 

I've been considering going for a PhD for years, and finally bit the bullet and applied to a few schools this past December. (Wish me luck!!!) Even this was a hard decision, because a PhD is hardly a guarantee of an improved job, and I've got my foot in a couple of doors in this town—

—which got me to thinking: might a distance learning option be wise? I've done a lot of googling on the topic, and have been astonished by the relative lack of information. Of course, it's a more expensive option, and that's a serious obstacle; however, if it allows one to continue to teach, shouldn't the option be seriously considered?

Do any of you have experience, either your own or another's, with distance learning programs in the humanities? A friend of mine went to the controversial European Graduate School, and his academic situation has improved greatly since. I am struggling even to pin down which universities are worth their salt; it's just an entirely new world, and I'm a little overwhelmed at the prospect of learning about it.

I would appreciate ANY feedback, as I am really at a loss. My apologies for the ill-formulated question. I'll keep this thread open and respond to any follow-up questions you may have, since I've surely not provided enough info about my situation. Thank you.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As someone who adjuncted for years before going back for my PhD, I can commiserate. Here's some thoughts:

1. Are you doing a PhD in creative writing, or English? If the creative writing track, there's some great programs out there, but still the most important thing for getting jobs is your own work/publishing/etc. (which you don't need a PhD for). 

2. Most (all?) reputable PhD programs wouldn't have online classes for the coursework part of the degree, although you may be able to write your dissertation from a distance, depending on the funding situation (most PhD programs are funded-- but are funded on the requirement that you do some sort of work, which is usually teaching. You obviously can't do this from a distance). On top of that, the job market is so shitty that what really gets you into a decent job is a lot of things that would be really hard to accomplish from a distance (developing relationships, having live conversations about your papers, being observed teaching, being part of the academic community etc.). 

3. Are there places you could get your PhD from where you're at/within reasonable commuting distance? If staying there is important to you, that might be the best option. 

4. Even as an adjunct, having a PhD gives you a (very small) pay boost. It might also improve your chances of getting a full-time position at a community college. If those are your goals (as opposed to, say, trying to get a full-time job at a four-year university)-- you might be able to find some distance learning program that could give you these advantages. That being said, you'd probably have to pay, and wouldn't receive a stipend, so I'm not sure you'd end up on top financially.

5. If you're worried about the low stipends at many programs, you could always consider TEACHING an online class or two to supplement. Someone in my program does that, and while it adds work to an already-overloaded schedule, it also gives them some financial padding.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

11 hours ago, lordweary said:

Do any of you have experience, either your own or another's, with distance learning programs in the humanities? A friend of mine went to the controversial European Graduate School, and his academic situation has improved greatly since. I am struggling even to pin down which universities are worth their salt; it's just an entirely new world, and I'm a little overwhelmed at the prospect of learning about it.

i can't really speak to the rest of your queries, but I do know a couple of people who've been to EGS, and my sense is that no, it isn't as much of a cash cow as everyone makes it out to be. classes there are terribly intensive (you're only going to be up in saas-fee for a few weeks anyway), and you are going to be talking to, and learning from, some of the best minds in the profession -- it's really like no other phd experience. the only things are that: 
1. learning at EGS is highly self-directed, which means that the onus is on you to make your time and money worthwhile. 
2. their courses are very much centred around continental theory/philosophy as well as cultural/media studies, so if those aren't your areas of interest, then you probably shouldn't be looking there. 
3. you'll get no training on the teaching side of things, which will likely put you at a disadvantage in the job market. (then again, most people go there only for the opportunity to study with certain star academics who don't teach elsewhere, so i doubt that is their primary concern.) 
other than that, i guess the only other thing that you really have to weigh against the value of the experience is the cost of the degree itself -- it is prohibitively expensive, so perhaps a conventional phd route (with a stipend) might suit (whatever little I know of) your situation more? 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@urbanfarmer 

1. I'd go with English literature for exactly the reasons you mention: pubs are the real end-all be-all, so I'd rather diversify my qualifications etc. 

2. You raise a series of wonderful points, especially about those intangibles which an online experience cannot get you, such as networking in particular. Distance work, in light of these points, seems like an inferior option.

3. There is a possibility of pursuing my Master's in English locally — this idea is becoming increasingly tempting, as it would allow me to hold on to a section here, while also letting me really polish up the ol' transcripts. If my current cycle of PhD applications flops (it may well, and perhaps ought to), I was thinking this might be a good alternative. Thoughts?

4. Yes, the things needing paying for would probably offset any benefit of holding onto some sections—you show how it's at best a wash, and more than likely a financial decline, compared with the small stipend lifestyle.

5. Landing something online while doing the PhD seems like a really good solution, mate. I will definitely look into that.

Thanks so much for your thoughtful reply! I'd appreciate feedback about the Master's idea, if you care to keep helping me; otherwise, thanks for your feedback!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@flungoutofspace

Thanks for your great reply, Flung. Yes, I think EGS is more legit than it's given credit for, but the drawbacks you list are serious; I think there's a way to shoehorn pretty much any specialty into their milieu—but perhaps not. I will be meeting with an alum soon to ask whether my pursuit of poetics and versification could actually be nurtured there, or if, by various deflections, it will stagnate as I become some sort of radical continentalist. Meanwhile, the cost is considerable. Thanks again for your reply. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

23 hours ago, lordweary said:

3. There is a possibility of pursuing my Master's in English locally — this idea is becoming increasingly tempting, as it would allow me to hold on to a section here, while also letting me really polish up the ol' transcripts. If my current cycle of PhD applications flops (it may well, and perhaps ought to), I was thinking this might be a good alternative. Thoughts?

I think getting an MA can be a great idea if you feel like you're a bit out of the academic game and want to get back into the swing of things! Again, though, I'd just caution you to think about the financial situation... I know if you search around on this forum you can come up with some threads that talk about all the funded MA programs out there-- or else doing one by you might be a good option if there's some aid and you have a job/etc. As I'm sure you're aware, though, especially in a shaky job market, it's always best to avoid loans whenever you can!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.