An Interview with Hayley Elder

“The single best piece of advice that I can offer to a prospective student is to avoid procrastinating.”

Hayley Elder is studying to earn her online Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. She is a student at University of Phoenix.

Hayley chose to purse a bachelors degree in computer science because she is interested in game design, and hopes to design and write games in her future career. She is studying online because it offers her the flexibility to work at her own pace.

In your own words, what is computer science?

Computer science is everything that involves the computer and its programs. It includes performing work on a computer but not on its individual parts of hardware. Computer science encompasses programming and languages, as well as software and games.

Why did you choose to get a bachelors degree in computer science online?

I chose to earn my bachelors degree in computer science online at University of Phoenix because online study offered me more flexibility. When I tried to earn my degree at a traditional campus, I wore myself out with the time commitments and class schedules. Online school is much less stressful for me because I am able to work at my own pace.

What do you find most and least enjoyable about studying computer science?

I most enjoy the design aspect of computer science. I love being able to create something out of nothing. I especially enjoy designing games and websites, because I have a background in graphic design.

My least favorite parts of studying computer science are the math and business classes. I had a difficult time with the upper level math classes and I did not feel that business classes were relevant to my major.

When you first considered studying computer science online what were your expectations?

When I first considered studying computer science online, my only expectation was to have more free time than when I was studying at a campus. So far, that has been accurate. Because I had experience in graphic design, I knew what to expect out of computer science as a discipline, so my understanding of the subject has not changed.

What kinds of classes have you taken in your computer science program?

I have taken courses on subjects like web design, writing, humanities, business fundamentals, 3-D programming, business systems, SQL programming language and database concepts.

Which of these classes do you think will be most valuable for your future goals?

The most valuable courses I have taken were the classes that involved design. I especially enjoyed my 3-D programming concepts class because it related to my graphic design background and my future career goals.

What classes do you feel will be least useful?

The least helpful class I have taken within my major was the course on SQL for businesses. I do not enjoy working with SQL programming language. Furthermore, the class took more of a business approach and I don’t think that was relevant to my computer science focus.

What resources do you use to help you succeed in your studies?

In order to succeed, I use the online resources that University of Phoenix provides. There is a center for math help and also one for writing help, and I use the writing center for every class. They have programs that scan assignments for plagiarism as well as correct citations, and I find that quite helpful. I also use the online library and the online tutoring.

How do you interact with your professors?

I interact with my professors online. Each class has an online discussion forum, and I mainly communicate with them through that. I am required to post on the forum a certain number of times each week and that is how they gauge attendance, but I don’t contact them much outside of that. I feel that online interaction is adequate for most of my courses, although I would have preferred face-to-face communication in my math classes.

Are you able to interact with your peers while studying online?

Yes, I interact with my peers online. We communicate frequently through the discussion forum, and also have access to each other’s e-mail addresses. My classmates come from a variety of backgrounds and ages. I have not gotten to know any on a personal level, but I did not socialize with my classmates in traditional classes, either.

What personality traits do you think would help a student to succeed in a computer science program and what traits would hinder success?

One trait that would help a student to succeed in a computer science program is having concrete nerves. Sometimes working in computer science is difficult and it can get intense. Computer languages are demanding enough, but most programs also require general education courses and those make studying computer science even more demanding.

One trait that might hinder someone’s success in computer science is not being mathematically inclined. I had a steep learning curve because I did not have a strong math background, and studying computer science involves math.

Another trait that would hinder someone’s success in a computer science program is not being able to communicate. People in this field often can’t communicate well because they think in terms of computer jargon and code. But students have to know how to communicate both in the computer science arena and also outside of it.

What is your weekly schedule?

Most weeks I spend 16 to 30 hours on classwork. Some classes are more demanding than others, and I have taken courses that barely allowed me time to sleep. Typically, I respond to discussion posts 3 days a week, and the rest of the time I spend on studying and assignments.

How do you manage your course load? What study tips would you give to a prospective student?

I manage my course load by trying to get things done on time. In fact, the single best piece of advice that I can offer to a prospective student is to avoid procrastinating. I tend to wait until the last minute. I have had to learn the hard way that it is much more effective to start early than it is to cram at the last minute.

What are your plans for after graduation?

After graduation, I plan to work at a gaming company. I would like to work as a writer and programmer, preferably on role-playing games or other games with a storyline. I especially enjoy writing game storylines.

Do you think the fact that you studied online will affect your job prospects?

Yes, I think the fact that I studied online might affect my job prospects. Actually, I think the fact that I studied at University of Phoenix might affect my job prospects more than the fact that I studied online. I have heard that companies in the computer science field value degrees from other technical universities over my school. I think University of Phoenix has a bad rap and might hinder my abilities to find work.

Now that you have completed 3 years of your computer science program, if you could go back to high school, what would you do differently?

If I could go back to high school, I would gain a stronger foundation in math. I only took the basic math classes that were required in high school, but I have had to compensate for that in my computer science program. If I could change anything, I would take more advanced math courses back in high school.

If you were to redo the past 3 years of college, what would you do differently?

If I could redo my college experience, I would go into a graphic design program instead of computer science. I began studying computer science because that was the closest thing to graphic design at the first college I attended, and when I transferred to University of Phoenix I did not want to start over with a new study track. But graphic design is my passion and I wish I had chosen a graphic design program.

What advice do you have for students who are interested in studying computer science online?

If you are interested in studying computer science online, I would advise you to first consider a traditional school. For 1 thing, a traditional school will offer more opportunity to meet people and form a network in your academic community. For another thing, online schools don’t offer nearly as much financial aid as traditional brick-and-mortar schools. I have enjoyed my online study but I would suggest that prospective students consider those factors before enrolling online.