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Alum Finds Online Education More Conducive in Learning Style

Student outcome and success analyst, Giana Malak, will earn her second degree from NC State University in August 2019. But this time as an NC State Online and Distance Education student.

After being out of school for several years, quitting her job and taking out loans to go back to school and pay bills was not an option for Malak. The once traditional, on-campus, musical architecture student credits the flexibility of the online Master of Statistics program as being more conducive to her learning style — not to mention the added bonus of being able to continue to work full time while pursuing her second degree.

Below is a Q & A with Giana Malak.

What factored into your choice of enrolling in the NC State Statistics online program?

Giana celebrating her undergraduate graduation from NC State.

I knew I wanted to pursue a degree in statistics. My undergraduate degree is also from NC State, so I have a high regard for the university and knew that I would be receiving a high-quality education.

I was a traditional undergraduate student and had taken some post-baccalaureate courses on campus as well as online. For me, the online experience is much more conducive to how I learn best. Having the ability to pause a lecture to look something up, then return to the lecture without missing anything is extremely helpful. Class time can be anytime during the week, and it doesn’t have to be the same day from week to week.

How has your degree helped you in your current role?

I currently work for the UNC System Office. I’m an analyst and primarily focus on student outcomes and student success. My department has historically focused on measuring outcomes and reporting. This degree is helping me transition to predicting student success with the goal of being able to identify and prevent potential student roadblocks. This will allow me to help students before a negative outcome occurs, such as dropping out of school.

How did you balance work and school?

Balancing work and school was a challenge at times, but not insurmountable. As a part-time student, it took longer to finish my degree, but it allowed me to continue to work full time. I learned pretty quickly to schedule a half-day of vacation time around exams. I didn’t have to take the exam during the work day, but it was helpful to have the time to mentally prepare. Other than that, I learned to schedule time for class and homework after I got home from work or on the weekends just like I schedule exercise time and other activities. I had to sacrifice some time that I would have otherwise spent doing something fun, but I made sure to schedule some fun as well.

What is your advice for other working professionals who are thinking about continuing their education?

Find out what works best for you. Online courses offer scheduling flexibility, but that means you have to create your own schedule rather than relying on the course and professor to create that structure for you. Online isn’t for everyone – it’s a lot more self-directed. Generally, I estimate 10-20 hours per course, per week including lecture time. If you’re working, then that time has to come out of your non-work time.

Some workplaces are flexible about taking time during the business day to attend class, so don’t be afraid to ask and make sure you’re getting the most you can out of the courses and the program. Depending on your home life, one or two courses per semester should still give you time to be social or make it to the soccer game on Saturday or watch your favorite TV show. But there are only so many hours in a day, so try to have at least a rough plan of what you’re doing and when; otherwise, you might drop the ball on something important.

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