~ Archive for ALM ~

The Value of Good Teachers

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While completing the coursework for my master’s degree from Harvard’s Extension School, I was very impressed with the quality of the teachers. It is easy to find experts, but finding an expert who is truly skilled at teaching is much more difficult. In the vast majority of my classes the teachers were very good–not just at their subject matter, but also at conveying that subject to others.

How do you recognize a good teacher? For me the hallmark of someone skilled at teaching is their ability to consistently take students beyond their capabilities. This was my experience at HES. At the beginning of a semester I’d look at the final projects listed in the syllabus. Usually these seemed so far out of reach that often I considered dropping the class.

The immediate problem sets seemed out of reach as well, but not completely out of the range of possibility. With a bit of hard work I was always able to complete the first assigned project. This type of experience builds a strong trust between the teacher and student. This trust is vital in getting maximum performance from a student.

Students that trust their teacher in this manner are willing to take a leap of faith and give 100% toward a project because they have the foundation that says: “Even if I don’t think I can do this, my teacher does and he/she has always been right in the past.”

This type of trust is even more important in online classes where there is less human interaction. A great deal of the complaints I’ve seen about online education from other institutions comes down to the fact that the students don’t trust the teacher to be skilled at teaching.

To some extent an extremely motivated student can push through in spite of a bad teacher. On the other hand, tackling a tricky problem with confidence gives a completely different experience than launching into an undertaking where you expect to fail. The brain isn’t wired to try to do succeed at stuff where failure is the expected outcome. The mental overhead of pursuing a lost cause is much greater than what goes into a task that is approached with optimism.

ALM in IT Master’s Degree

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In 2010 I finished my ALM in IT degree. I finally took the time to write about the experience from the perspective of being someone with an undergraduate and graduate degree in music composition who was working in technology.  The post is up on my personal blog and I tried to cover a lot of ground showing how the ALM in IT master’s degree worked well for what  needed at that point in my career.

Master’s Degree Complete!

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After many years I’ve finished my second master’s degree. This one was Harvard’s ALM in IT degree through the Extension School.  Overall I was pretty impressed with the quality of the program.  However, distance education isn’t for everyone.

Personally I think it is a lot harder to sit in front of a computer watching a lecture than attending a real live class with real live students.  Still there are significant benefits in not having to travel and had it not been for the distance education aspect, I probably would have gone to a local school instead of Harvard.

The biggest hang up I had in completing the degree was getting a thesis director.  My original thesis proposal was so out of date by the time I was assigned a director that I had to start over.  (Make sure you choose a topic that will be relevant even if it takes a year to locate an director for your thesis.)  The second thesis director took quite a while to locate as well.

In the end it took me 9 years to finish the degree.  About half of that was spent on the thesis with most of that time spent getting the proposal approved and an director assigned to me.  Of course life doesn’t stop and during those nine years I got married, had two kids, started a business, moved out of the country, moved back, bought three houses and sold two.

Being finished feels wonderful, but since I’ve been enrolled in some type of educational institution for about the past 30 years I feel an odd urge to start work on another program.

Waiting for a Thesis Director

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I’ve finished all my requirement toward the ALM in IT except for my thesis. I had a thesis proposal approved and about a year later I was assigned a director. Unfortunately my topic was irrelevant after waiting a year as I had already completed the project on my own to solve a business problem I had. I wrote a new thesis proposal and submitted it in June 2006, when I wrote back to check on the status in August, I was told the proposal was fine, but they were still looking for a director.
Fortunately this time my topic isn’t something I’m going to complete unless it is for the thesis, so I don’t mind waiting. In one way I’m enjoying the delay because it means I still have access to the Harvard Library online resources. It is very nice to have easy access to all the journal articles.

On the other hand, I am interested in finishing the thesis up sometime in the near future.

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