Happy New Year, readers! Our first student spotlight for 2016 is on Michael Hancock, a high school teacher in Ohio who has taken several of our Ecampus Chemistry courses.

  • Please share your background so we can get to know you better—what career are you in, or working towards? What inspired you to choose this path?

I am a high school science teacher and I’ve been teaching for eight years now.  Interestingly, I never started out to be a teacher.  My undergrad B.S. degree is in biology and after college I began a career at Battelle (a science research facility in Columbus, OH) for four years.  Later, the state of Ohio began increasing its science requirements for graduation and found itself short on science teachers.  So, they started seeking those who already had a strong science background and only needed the courses in pedagogy, which the state would pay for.  My wife was already a teacher and we had just been talking about how great it would be to raise a family if we were both teachers with the same schedules as our children.  So, when I heard the radio announcement for people with a background in science who were interested in becoming teachers, I applied.  Within a year, after an intense teaching program at Muskingum University, I passed the state exams (both to prove I knew biology as well as the pedagogy) and became a licensed teacher.  Within the next year I had a Master’s in Education and was teaching full time in Columbus City Schools.

Since my original degree was in biology, I was only licensed to teach Life Science courses in Ohio.  Recently, I got a job in the Licking Valley School District, which was much closer to home.  However, they needed a teacher with a license to teach chemistry, not biology.  Since I minored in chemistry in my undergrad I was confident that I could take one or two courses, if necessary, to get the chemistry licensure.  I was right… and wrong.  I did have enough undergrad chemistry credits to get a supplemental license to teach chemistry for two years.  However, during that time I would need to take 10 semester hours in chemistry and pass the required state chemistry test.  I searched high and low, scouring the internet for online programs that offered higher-level chemistry courses.  Most schools either did not offer any chemistry courses online above organic chemistry, or required that I seek a degree.  Finally, I found Oregon State’s Ecampus program that did offer just the right amount of chemistry courses that I had not already taken in my undergrad and I could register as a non-degree seeking student.  It was perfect!

  • What do you like most, or least, about our online classes?

I like the design of the courses the most.  I especially liked having the liberty to work and study at my convenience rather than trying to make it to a scheduled class, which would have been impossible while also working full time.  Some classes were designed better for online study than others.  I would like to mention Environmental Chemistry CH_390 taught by Marita Barth was the best online course due to the way it was organized; very clear directions, each topic was broken down and thoroughly explained with pencast tutorials as well as PowerPoint lectures and other tools, and there was little mystery as to what was expected of me as the learner.

What I liked least:  In nearly every course, during the audio recordings of the PowerPoint lectures, there were multiple references to things that were happening in the classroom that I could not see.  For example, one professor constantly referred to group activities and discussions that took place in the face-to-face class but never explained any detail nor provided any alternative exercise I could do at home.  Another professor would write and draw on the chalkboard during the lecture but never provided those images in some form online – so I was left with my imagination for what was being referred to on the board.  It would seem that could be improved with current technologies (even by snapping a photo and posting it to Canvas somewhere).  Perhaps lectures could even be video recorded and linked to on Canvas.

  • Do you have any advice for other online students?

Do not think that distance learning is somehow easier than face-to-face classes.  I found myself sometimes working and studying harder than I did in most in-person lectures because I couldn’t simply raise my hand to ask a clarifying question or talk to a peer after class.  Please don’t misunderstand, the benefits of Ecampus are too numerous to mention here and well worth the effort.  Just don’t be naive enough to think that the coursework will be less intense because you can work on it at your own convenience.  There are still challenges, the rigor can still be intense, and the expectations are still high.

  • What do you like to do in your spare time (or perhaps to relieve school stress!)?

I am the youth pastor at Christian Apostolic Church in Newark, OH and I serve the district of Ohio as the Ohio Youth Division Secretary for the United Pentecostal Church International.  I love being involved in ministry.

  • Do you have a family you would like to tell us about?

I am the husband of the best woman in the world, Ann Hancock and together we have two precious daughters, Ragon (5 years old and just started kindergarten) and Adley (5 months old and just started kissing her mom and play-fighting with her dad, as babies do!).