Nearly one year ago, I started a third graduate program.  During the past twelve months, I've completed eighteen (18) hours of coursework, a combination of research methodology at core doctoral classes.

While courses such as "Models of Professional Development" have been intriguing, I've learned the most from the three research methodology courses.  

Research Design was a solid overview of well, research design.  I learned about theoretical frameworks, ethics when engaging in human subject research, critiquing research methodology, and this thing called mixed methods research design.  The instructor was well organized, supportive, yet challenged my thinking about educational research.

Quantitative Research Methods was the course that came easiest to me in the program so far.  If one were to examine my undergraduate transcript, it would be pretty obvious a calculus-based statistics course was the one I struggled with the most.  It was only fitting my principal asked me to teach an introductory statistics class to high school students for six years.  One and two sample hypothesis testing made sense in this graduate course, because I learned from many mediocre attempts facilitating these same ideas with teenagers.  Ironically, the course left a bit of a foul taste in my mouth.  Quantitative research methodology seems to me so distant from the action.  Crunching numbers is not currently my idea of meaningful educational research.

Qualitative Research Methods was by far the most interesting course in the program so far.  Our professor was really into ethnography and in turn our primary task was to integrate ourselves into the culture of a virtual world.  After a long write-up of our data collection, analysis and conclusions, the professor asked my group and several others to make some serious changes with a quick turn around.  For some, the timing was not idea.  For me, it was a 48 hour opportunity to figure out areas of qualitative research methodology, specifically theoretical frameworks, I had a false sense of mastery.  To make a long story short, this course was filled with trials and successes, but throughout the semester I feel I grew tremendously as a consumer and critic of educational research.

Cohort Camaraderie
Whenever colleagues or family ask me about my experiences as a distance education doctoral student, my immediate reaction goes something along the lines of "I'm thankful to do most of my coursework after 9pm and on the weekends" in comparison to driving to class in the midst of Iowa winters.  I enjoy putting my son to sleep and then getting after coursework rather than missing this time due to commuting.  

Another response I often share with inquisitive minds is the uniqueness of classmates in multiple timezones.  Most recently, my group work has consisted of a guy in California and another in Georgia.  The three of us have an ongoing texting thread in which we clarify assignments, coordinate our group work and keep up on each others' personal lives.  We established a routine of using a three way conference call while working collaboratively through Google Drive beginning around 9pm CST.  

Our entire cohort continues to share class questions and personal updates through our closed social media community.  About ten of our twenty one cohort members continue to participate actively in this online community.

Looking ahead to years two and three
Beginning this summer, the coursework emphasis will change a bit.  Because I was able to transfer in twelve elective credits in educational leadership, I will continue taking two courses per semester.  During three consecutive semesters, we will be taking a "dissertation mentoring course" in which we'll learn about the dissertation process and write the first three chapters.  This leads up to summer 2016 in which we'll each (hopefully) defend our dissertation proposals on campus.  

In year 3, we will continue to take a core doctoral class in addition to dissertation research hours.  If all goes well, I will collect data summer 2016 and write it all up fall 2016 and spring 2017.  Defending in early April 2017 is an ambitious dream.  I'll keep you updated during the next two years!