In pursuit of education
Class of 2013 Success Stories
Online learning design program proved to be right degree at right time
By Julie Carle
Life didn't always go as Meredith Flynn planned, but education was the constant that provided her pathways to new opportunities.
The nontraditional student completed her second BGSU degree this month, when she earned a master of education degree in learning design. Her first degree was a doctorate in theater in 1984, when she took and taught classes on campus. This time the classroom was in her home on the computer.
She started the online learning design (formerly Career and Technology Education) program several years ago while she was employed in BGSU's Information Technology Services (ITS) department. The lifelong learner saw the online program as the perfect option to continue learning while working. The program ended up being even more ideal when she moved to Colorado in July 2012. Though she was 1,400 miles away from campus, she decided she was too close to completion to simply abandon the degree.
Most of her life has been a series of opportunities that took her to places and jobs she never imagined, Flynn admitted. Growing up in Massachusetts, she knew college was an expectation, but when she was ready to graduate from Colorado College, she wasn't sure what she would do with her theater degree. She was offered an assistantship to pursue a master's degree in theater from the University of Wyoming (UW), and teaching theater became her new career focus.
Fate brought her to BGSU in 1977. "I saw the Ph.D. as my way of survival," Flynn said. Her UW professor C.W. "Sonny" Bahs, a three-time BGSU alumnus, convinced her Bowling Green's program would be a good fit as she prepared for an academic career.
"Of course, when I graduated in 1984, that was at the time of one of the recessions," she said. "Higher ed was not hiring, especially in theater departments. I was competing against experienced faculty members."
She stayed in Bowling Green after she found a job with a local company that produced computer textbooks. Her dissertation-typing skills earned her a secretarial position where she input information others had written.
"They realized I could probably do more since I had written my dissertation," she said. First she researched and wrote little highlights to be inserted into the computer textbooks and eventually she was asked to write the textbooks from a layperson's perspective.
"I am happy I could take advantage of BGSU's program. I got another opportunity that will lead to another great career.""I studied and wrote about how to use a lot of the early software programs including Word Perfect and Lotus," Flynn said. That job led her to work as a freelance textbook author for a number of years.
"I had wanted to be a professor, but at that point writing was providing a career."
But serendipity prevailed yet again and sent her back to the teaching arena. She got involved with the continuing education office and began teaching theater to area schoolchildren. That part-time foray into teaching proved to be an important connection that led to her participating, first in the BGSU summer musicals, and then as an adjunct faculty member in the early years of the Chapman Learning Community.
"At that time, I was ready for a change and was happy to be back in academia," she said. When that position abruptly ended, she then was hired as a trainer for ITS.
"Ironically, I was back into teaching computers," she said, laughing.
"In that position, I decided to continue my education, something that would help me in my current job," she said. "I did not start the classes with the intent of earning another degree, since I already had a Ph.D., but as I went along, it seemed logical to complete the learning design degree."
Once in the program, it made sense. She wanted to understand how to develop sound education to reach students today.
"I am a nontraditional student who went through the old system and taught that way as a grad student. I needed to learn the pedagogy for putting classes and training online," she explained. "It was interesting to be a student to see what works and doesn't work."
With the degree in hand, she said, "I do feel prepared. The program gave me a strong foundation, even with technology changing daily."
She hopes to take her newest degree into a different environment, such as a hospital or corporation where she can be involved in instructional design. "Everyone has a need for instructional design," she said.
"I am happy I could take advantage of BGSU's program. I got another opportunity that will lead to another great career."