Technical Communications Students Get Involved with the Lubbock Community

by ABBY TOMLINSON

June 02, 2009

Gathered around a child-size laptop secured on the top level of a metal structure, the students of Texas Tech University's New Media Rhetoric class are a picture-perfect team.

Emily Loader, Anne Papworth, Tom Burns, Lora Arduser and Craig McKenney are each pursuing an online Ph.D. in Technical Communications and Rhetoric. In addition to online coursework, these Ph.D. candidates are required to participate in a two-week, on-campus intensive session held in Lubbock, Texas.

For some students, the journey is not short. Loader resides in West Virginia and McKenney hails from Seattle, but each of the classmates remarked on the value of the project-oriented on-campus session.

"The two week seminar, coming to campus and the service learning component really have made me feel like I'm now a part of Texas Tech and I am becoming familiar with Lubbock as opposed to being isolated at home," Papworth said.

The importance of service learning in the Lubbock community was the informal theme of the summer session. Because of the project-based nature of the course, the students were required to choose a project to execute during their time on-campus. They chose to build a display for the Science Spectrum based on XO Laptops, a low-cost computer used to educate children in impoverished nations.

"Most of the projects that we've done during this two-week period have had a community component," McKenney said. "Texas Tech and the online students giving back to the community, that's something that resonated in all of us and we wanted to keep that going."

The on-campus component is not the only part of the program that the students said made them feel in-touch with the academic community. The students spoke at length about the responsiveness and attentiveness of the on-campus faculty.

"I've been so impressed with the accessibility of the faculty. It was a community right from the beginning." Papworth said.

Students cited the accessibility of the faculty as well as relationships formed between the students as reasons why the program fosters a feeling of community. They said that the community feel often does not end when the program is over.

"There are a lot of people that have, because of the relationships they've formed here, gone on and done work together," Papworth said. "They've presented papers and gone to conferences together."

The students each described how they found out about Texas Tech's online programs, and although the narratives differed in the details, they agreed that the online aspect of the program was not the only merit to consider.

"If you are looking for an online program because you can't relocate, I don't think that it would work if that was your only reason for being here," said Arduser. "The fact that you can find people that meet your interest is really important too. It was a very lucky combination."

For more information on Texas Tech University's online Master of Art in Technical Communications or online Doctor of Philosophy in Technical Communication and Rhetoric, visit www.de.ttu.edu.

For more information on the XO Laptop project, read "Students Promote Discovery Through Play" by Stephanie Schettek

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