Working Adults, Parents Can Find Success with ODU Online

Dr. Narketta Sparkman-Key
Dr. Narketta Sparkman-Key, Director of Faculty Diversity and Retention at Old Dominion University in 2019

More than half of ODUGlobal students care for a dependent. 57%, in fact. When you factor in that 79% of students also work at least part time, that can make for a busy day and a tight study schedule.*

Dr. Narketta Sparkman-Key, Old Dominion University's director of faculty diversity and retention in Academic Affairs and associate professor in human services through June 2022, knows a thing or two about being a college student with a full time life. "I was one of those people," she said, surrounded by pictures of her kids on her desk. "I got my PhD online as a single mom with two kids."

"Whether you want to be a person starting a business, we can support you. If you want to grow in a certain field, we can fit that growth. There’s a lot of ways ODU fits."
- Dr. Sparkman-Key

Old Dominion University is proud to embrace a diverse student body and have many degrees and programs that fit into busy schedules. Dr. Sparkman-Key agrees. She says, "being more flexible in how we offer things is important so we can capture all populations. Online students have all different types of things going on--single parents, people who are military vets and their spouses... so much going on."

But it's not just the classes and programs that must be flexible for students. Dr. Sparkman-Key says that the professors have seen it all. "Often our [online] students have children who pop in when we have face-to-face interactions. I see a lot of little faces via webcam," she says with a smile. 

"There are a lot of people who have started with a GED and now have a PhD. Just because you struggled in the beginning doesn’t mean that it’s the end. We have the resources to make sure that you come in strong." - Dr. Sparkman-Key

And it goes further than the gracious invitation of little voices into the conversation. Dr. Sparkman-Key goes on to say that Old Dominion University professors understand that busy, committed students often have a different way of learning entirely. Teaching faculty at ODU understand that busy students often work ahead to accommodate busy schedules.

"We understand that they’ll ask about future modules and why," says Dr. Sparkman-Key. "They know that next week their schedules may change. Many of our students plan ahead and turn in assignments early or seek feedback early to make sure they’re on the right track, and we work with them on that."

"Whether you want to be a person starting a business, we can support you. If you want to grow in a certain field, we can fit that growth. There’s a lot of ways ODU fits." 

Dr. Sparkman-Key could talk for hours about all of the work ODU does to be flexible and affordable for busy students. Updating technology to optimize support, accessibility and partnerships, getting more programs online, and keeping costs as low as possible are just a few of the measures ODU keeps a diligent eye on.

Ultimately, she wants to share with current and future students that they can do it. "[Students] often come thinking they can't do certain things," she shared. "The cool thing is that sometimes the instructors have had the same experiences. Being able to have somebody who really understands the journey and can say, 'it won't be easy and there’s no magic solution, but it’s doable,' makes such a difference."


*ODU online student data from Fall 2019.

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