Harvesting an Online Education

Carrie O Conner

By Carrie O'Connor
Program Mentor, WGU's nursing degree programs

At WGU, each student is assigned a personal faculty member to work with them as a mentor throughout their time at WGU. Additionally, each course has its own course instructors, subject-matter experts who are available to help students get through course material. Advice from your mentors and instructors is invaluable as you make your way through your online degree program. But we also want you to benefit from the wisdom of faculty not necessarily assigned to you, so occasionally, The Night Owl features advice from WGU faculty in colleges throughout the university.

Humor me for a few minutes as a small-town Texas farm girl shares her love of education, learning, and a way of life. My name is Carrie O'Connor and I am a Program Mentor in WGU's College of Health Professions Nursing Program. I have been a nurse for 12-plus years and a mentor with WGU for just over a year. My husband and I are raising our two children on a small farm in Central Texas where hard work and learning are daily occurrences. I am passionate about education, my family, nursing, and WGU.

Pumkins Harvest Picture

Autumn is upon us, and with the cooler temperatures and beautiful leaves comes the harvest. Harvest marks the end of the growing season, a time to reap what you have sown. And in an interesting way I believe this has a tie-in to learning. So whether you are near the end of your time at WGU or just getting started, I believe it is time to think about the harvest and your education. Here are some steps to a successful harvest:

  • Plowing/Preparation: Just as the farmer plows his land over and over again, we can never be too prepared. Online learning is a challenge that I am not fully certain you can ever be prepared for, but you can plan and plow. Plow out your week by breaking up your day and giving yourself a schedule that can be followed easily. Make time for school as well as family, work, and outside commitments. Understand that you will stray from your plow line and most likely hit some dirt clods, but if you keep moving you will turn over the dirt and get back on the education path.
  • Planting/Learning: Our lives are filled with daily learning opportunities. These opportunities and how we choose to use them are the seeds of our education. It takes planting numerous seeds for the farmer to achieve his harvest goals just as it takes all of our learning opportunities to make an education. Take advantage of every opportunity you are presented and use every seed of information given to you.
  • Growing: The seeds of learning will only grow with more effort and hard work. For the farmer to grow his crop, he must have the proper weather conditions and fertilizer, and he must be able to eliminate the weeds. In education, the same is true. Students must understand that there will be sun and there will be storms; you must persevere. Eliminate the weeds; stay positive, see your education as an investment, and set your priorities. Use your resources as fertilizer; don't ever forget the many resources WGU has to help you grow. Here are some of my favorites: the Center for Writing Excellence (CWE), the Student Success Center (SSC), learning communities, Well-Connect, Lynda.com, the WGU Channel, and last but not least, MENTORS.
  • Harvest: Harvest marks the end of a growing season and leads to products being placed on the consumer market. For large farms, a harvest can be expensive and very sophisticated, but for small farms harvesting is the most labor-intensive activity. Each student is a small farm, and choosing to harvest your education is labor-intensive. You must learn to use your education to make you ready for the global market. Take each piece of knowledge that you learn while you are a student and find out how it benefits you and your family, how it makes the employer want you, how it makes the consumer happy. Put thought, hard work, and time into your harvest and you will reap what you have sown!
  • Festivals/Commencement: Fall/harvest festivals are some of my favorite events and bear another close comparison to commencement. Harvest festivals celebrate the happiness for the fruits of the earth. Commencement celebrates your fruits of education. Just as harvest festivals also can be mixed with the melancholy feeling of the chill of winter weather coming, commencement can be mixed with the chill of a job hunt/change, but in the end the harvest ensures that we are ready!

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