What Makes a Good College Professor for Online Learning

Scott Camp

Scott Camp, Student & Alumni

When it comes to being a student within a traditional higher education setting, I am about as much of an authority as a one can get. To illustrate, of the last twenty-seven years of my adult life, over a third were spent physically attending an institution of higher learning. As such, I have made the acquaintance of quite a few professors, and have experienced just about every type of teaching style from every type of instructor that you can imagine. Just for kicks, let’s see if you recognize some of them, which I will list in no particular order.

There is the:

  1. My Teacher’s Assistant Will Teach Most of the Class While I am Away” professor
  2. “There is No Attendance Policy – See You at the Final” professor
  3. “Trying to Get a Job at a Better College” professor
  4. “Vaguely Grouchy at Something or Someone” professor
  5. “Human Ambien” professor
  6. “Did I Mention That I Worked in the Reagan Administration?” professor
  7. “…But My Real Passion is Competitive Scrabble” professor
  8. “Too Much Information” professor

Did you see any that you know? I’ll bet you could add many more from your own experiences!

When it comes to higher learning, paying tuition and showing up to class is only half the battle. Our teachers, for good or ill, have a great deal to do with our overall learning experience. As Mike Tyson once mused, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face, and an unrepentantly quirky professor can really test the limits of a theoretical plan for scholastic success. Though a poor student-teacher relationship might prove less fatal than a few minutes in the ring with a heavyweight champ like Iron Mike, an unanticipated left hook in the form of a mumbling, derisive professor can cause existential damage to an otherwise healthy academic psyche.

Not knowing what to expect when I first began the online Communication Masters program at the Brian Lamb School of Communication here at Purdue, I simply assumed that classes here would be no different than at any of the other institutions of higher learning, with each new term triggering a spin of the College Professor Wheel of Fortune.

Imagine my surprise when my slightly jaundiced view of college professors was met by Purdue’s different breed of educator, the kind that blends professional experience with empathetic teaching practices.

To a person, I have found them to be cheerful, fair, collegial, and sincere. I am over halfway through the online MS in Communication program and in spite of their differences in education and life experience, they are reasonable and accessible, as concerned with their humanity as they are with their status within the academic community.

So to whomever is reading this, please know that while some universities trip over themselves to get professors who value publishing more than teaching, and  who employ notable ex-CEO’s with bigger reputations than pedagogical resumes, the Purdue online Communication masters program is not among them. Instead, they have gathered accomplished, earnest professionals, who understand their role is as much about listening as it is about talking, and that a student’s time in school should be about learning and community, and not about navigating the idiosyncratic personalities of those who lord over classroom podiums.

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Scott Camp is a student in Purdue’s online Master of Science in Communication degree program. The program can be completed in just 20 months and covers numerous topics critical for advancement in the communication industry, including crisis communication, social media engagement, focus group planning and implementation, survey design and survey analysis, public relations theory, professional writing, and communication ethics.

*The views and opinions expressed are of the author and do not represent the Brian Lamb School of Communication.