Working Hard, Studying Online

Meet Camille Z.  Camille is about to graduate from the Fashion Marketing program, and has uniquely studied both online when she lived in Austin, Texas and now on campus after moving closer to NYC, in the Fall of 2012.

Meet Jon M.  Jon lives in Boston, Massachusetts and gave up his former career, to pursue the depths of Fashion Marketing at Parsons. Jon, in his second semester, takes all of his classes online.

I recently sat down, over coffee with Camille, and over Skype with Jon, to learn more how they are making it work.

GH – Gretchen Harnick, Assistant Professor and Editor, Parsons 560
CZ – Camille Z, Fashion Marketing Student, studied both online and on campus
JM – Jon M, Fashion Marketing Student, 2nd Semester, studying online only.

GH: What made you choose this program, and at this point in your life?
JM: Taking the program now, is the most important thing in my life. I have made personal and professional sacrifices, and am back in school to pursue my career goals of working in Product Development.

GH: It has to be very difficult to stay organized when studying at home. How do you make sure you don’t forget anything in your classes?
JM: I created a personal planner binder for myself, each semester. I have tabs for each of my classes, and insert the Syllabus first.  Then each week, I have a weekly schedule and I actually write down, what is due in each class. Whether I have to write discussion questions, read certain chapters or articles, write a blog post for my Trend Spotting class, etc. It helps me prioritize and “see” what I have to do each week, written in my own handwriting.
CZ: I set a daily routine for myself. I would wake up at the same time each day, have my coffee and breakfast, go for a morning walk, shower and then get myself dressed. Sometimes I would even wear a nice outfit, put on my jewelery and nice shoes.  I realized that I was presenting myself to class, just like I would for a job or on campus. It made me feel more professional and take it more seriously than if I were still in my pajamas.

GH:  Did you fall off the wagon?
CZ:  Certainly! But I paid for it. Days where I stayed up late the night before, or slept in later than usual, I found myself less focused. I worked harder but it was not productive work.

GH:  What is the first thing you do, when you enter class each week or each day? With so much work in all of your classes, how do you prioritize where to start?
JM:  I do the class discussions first. These are time sensitive, and start the same day each week for the most part. I find that if I jump into discussions later in the week, I have so much catch up to do, with reading my classmates posts and article links. If I’m first in, then I am able to be actively engaged and follow along. This helps me learn more about the topics. And, I also pop back into the most active Discussions, the last thing of the day too!

GH:  Is it challenging working all by yourself, all day long?
CZ:  Absolutely it is. Studying online is sharing of yourself and your knowledge, every day. I found that I had to take Talking Breaks with my sister, via Skype. She was a new mom and this gave us both companionship and the chance to help me work through class assignments too.
JM: If you saw my to-do list you would laugh. I schedule “Eat Lunch” and also “Do Dishes” to give myself a study break. But it’s worth it and I like checking it off the list each day.
CZ:  I also became active on social media, Twitter and FB gave me an outlet to talk about other interests. And I love to cook, so this was a great study break for me to use my hands in a different way.
JM:  I just connected with a classmate, who lives in the Boston area. We were so excited to see each other in person, and look forward to staying in touch outside of class as well. I know local Meet-Ups are great to network, and build connections but I’m so busy with classwork it’s hard to fit that in right now.

GH: What about remaining creative and relevant, did you do anything offline to help your online creativity?
CZ:  I volunteered reading to elementary age children. This helped me to relax, but also to laugh and play in a very open and creative way. I was changing from a very corporate career into a creative one and working with the kids helped me to find the space to play.

GH:  Any last thoughts or tips for others out there interested in studying online?
CZ:  I remember the first time I met our Dean, Simon Collins. You, Gretchen, had organized an Online student weekend and we had tea with him in his office. He told us that he wanted Parsons students to add value to a company. This has stuck with me and it’s something I try to incorporate in my studying and projects every day.
JM: I have found that it is okay to give up my free time, in pursuit of my education in this program. Because I’m doing it for the reasons I’ve mentioned here, engaging in the classroom through discussions and chatting offline with the professors has been the most valuable process. If you are interested, and know exactly why you are in it, then you will be a success.