Online Graduate Appreciates Authentic Course Content

This visualization of @NCState Twitter account’s most frequently tweeted words was one of Soraya Campbell’s course projects while enrolled in the Graduate Certificate in Learning Analytics online program.

Soraya Campbell

If you are looking for a graduate program offering the opportunity to work on real-word projects with an immediate impact on your current job, Soraya Campbell recommends the Graduate Certificate in Learning Analytics (LA). She earned her certification in 2021.

Campbell works for Duke University as an assistant director for the Global Education Office. Although she earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and classics and her master’s degree in Latin from the University of Florida, she says analyzing data has always been an integral part of her work life. 

At first, I felt a bit nervous since I had no formal training in data analytics or programming languages. However, this feeling quickly dissipated since everyone was so supportive and dedicated to student success. I was able to build upon everything I learned through the course sequence, and by the end of the program, I felt confident in my skills. This is directly attributable to the fact that the program encourages applying the concepts learned in the classroom to your current work. So instead of working on ‘hypothetical’ datasets or scenarios, I was able to truly work on real-world contexts and solutions, collaborating and thinking about these issues with my peers and professors,” explains Campbell. 

An example of how Campbell applied her newly acquired analytical skills for a Duke University program called Winter Breakaway 2021.

She believes insights gained from data are essential in strategic decision making. And, she credits the techniques she learned in her NC State online program for helping her to understand how to dive deeper into data to find actionable information. In her current role, she manages international programs which includes creation, design, enrollment, team management, crisis management and assessment.

“I was drawn to the Learning Analytics certificate because of the flexibility and its focus on analyzing data in educational contexts – NC State’s program is the only one of its kind in North Carolina in this regard. It was directly applicable to my day- to- day job functions and where I wanted to take my career in the future. That coupled with the support of my employer and their tuition reimbursement program made the program a perfect fit for me,” says Campbell.

Work-Life Balance

Campbell’s daughters.

The flexibility of the program was an important factor because Campbell has two children who were one and three-years-old when she enrolled in fall of 2020. On top of that, the pandemic situation meant child care was not available, and she was working from home. She states the program was “exceptionally attuned and accommodating to working professionals.” Her spouse was incredibly supportive as well which allowed her to focus on her work.

Campbell’s children coloring as she works from home.

“With everything that was going on, I almost reconsidered enrolling. However, I am glad I went through with it. There were late nights and weekends that I spent completing projects and coursework. My children came to expect my routine and started to get interested in what I was learning, which was cute. The kids were sometimes in the background for optional synchronous zoom sessions, and thankfully it all worked out well,” says Campbell.

She found her coursework to be “truly enjoyable” so none of the assignments felt onerous or taxing. Her professors were very understanding when deadlines needed to be adjusted within reason. 

More Than Just A Certification Program

Campbell acknowledges the degree helps her specialize in data in her career. She presents at national and international conferences on ways professionals can use data in international education contexts — everything from marketing, enrollment, strategic planning and resource management. 

One of her instructors, Assistant Teaching Professor Shaun Kellogg, was particularly impactful. She says he invested a lot of time in creating customized guided walkthroughs and tutorials for her courses which were critical to her success in learning many of the programming concepts presented.

“Kellogg did an outstanding job facilitating our learning experience. He was very thoughtful in the course design and made sure that the learning objectives for the courses and the program aligned with our professional goals and interests. I conferred with him a few times on how to translate different projects in the courses into work I was doing on behalf of Duke, which was extremely helpful,” states Campbell.

She also worked part-time at the Friday Institute under the direction of Kellogg developing Tableau dashboards. These dashboards allow a comparison of a variety of data simultaneously. She is appreciative of this opportunity because it furthered her applicable understanding of learning analytics. It also allowed her to practice her skills and understanding of concepts in a collaborative environment. 

An example of a dashboard created by Campbell.

In addition to Kellogg, she is grateful for the one-on-one assistance given to her by Assistant Professor Shiyan Jiang in her Machine Learning course. Jiang guided her through the course project, which centered on using machine learning techniques in an educational context chosen by each individual student.

“Hands-down I would absolutely recommend working professionals who are thinking of continuing their education to enroll in an online program at NC State. As a working professional and parent, it provided me the time, space and flexibility to learn at my own pace while still giving me structure and pushing me to succeed in a highly collaborative environment. The ‘right time’ to invest in yourself is now. And with the high caliber of online programs that NC State offers, it makes it that much easier to develop skills to take you further in your career,” touts Campbell.

Are you interested in pursuing an online Graduate Certificate in Learning Analytics? Visit the program page or online.ncsu.edu/programs for a full list of degree and certificate programs.