Pandemic offers real-world lessons on remote learning needs
Class of 2022 grad Kelsey Shields’s experiences as an educator in rural Saskatchewan drove her doctoral research
The story of my doctoral journey is an interesting one that started as an elementary school administrator in rural Saskatchewan during a pandemic.
My career in education has driven my research interests, which evolved even further as the COVID-19 pandemic threw education into a whirlwind.
Originally, I planned to focus on equality for students living in rural Saskatchewan when I began to realize the number of challenges that rural students were facing as my own children grew older. The reality of distance education being a necessary part of rural students’ education was evident. Throw in the pandemic and my research took a change of direction.
The realities of what was happening in education were magnified once the pandemic challenged education. Teachers, students, and parents were not prepared for what we experienced. My goal with my research was to bring light to the current state of education in Saskatchewan, as well as give teachers a voice.
Working as an administrator during the pandemic, as well as being a full-time doctoral student, was a challenging task but an unbelievable experience. I was living my research in real time. Everything that I was reading and focusing on, I was also experiencing every day.
The realities of what schools were about to face because of the pandemic were unknown. Administrators went to work every day not knowing what the next challenge was going to be. This became evident in the research I collected. Although it was challenging to collect research around experiences that no one else had experienced previously but were happening in the here and now, the satisfaction that I experienced while living my research was indescribable.
As I have progressed through my career in education, I always knew that earning a doctoral degree was on my bucket list. But living in rural Saskatchewan, two hours away from the nearest university, was a challenge. When I discovered that Athabasca University offered a program where I could complete my studies through distance education and earn my degree while supporting my family and working full-time, I jumped at the opportunity. Without AU, I would not have been able to commit to earning my Doctor of Education in Distance Education degree with the other responsibilities I have. Distance education opened a door for me in more ways than one.
I encourage anyone who has a doctoral dream to go for it. It is a rewarding experience that will give you an opportunity to grow not only as a professional, but also as a person. I have met some spectacular people that I have no doubt will be lifelong friends.
Even though our connection was through the virtual world, the support we each provided was critical for our success. Live your dream!