Fran Dickson believes in accessibility and taking an active part in her student’s educational experience. She goes above and beyond to ensure her online students have just as much opportunity to interact and build a relationship with her as their on-campus counterparts. Dickson’s personal attention and dedication to helping students feel connected makes her a particular point of pride on EKU’s campuses, both in-person and virtual. We take great pride in offering the chance to get to know her a little better.
What brought you to EKU?
As I moved toward the later years of my career, I became interested in working with students who view their education as an opportunity. EKU is a school of opportunity, offering students a chance to advance their education. So, when I saw that EKU had an opening for a senior level faculty member, I applied and got the job.
Tell us a little about your work in your field.
My teaching and research interests are interpersonal and personal relationships, later-life marriages, health communication, communication and aging, research methods, and communication and conflict. I have published articles in the area of family communication, communication and aging, and health communication. My research has also focused on exploring the communication dynamics among later life dating couples. My work appears in Handbook of Marriage and the Family (2nd Ed.), Engaging Theories in Family Communication: Multiple Perspectives, and The Family Communication Sourcebook. In addition, I have published articles in the Southern Communication Journal, Qualitative Research Reports in Communication, The Journal of Applied Communication Research, The Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, and The Journal of Family Communication. I was also a past chair of the Family Communication Division of the National Communication Association.
What moment at EKU stands out as most memorable?
My most memorable moment was when I watched one of my non-traditional students who was a single parent, and military member walk across the stage at graduation to receive her diploma. She had many challenges in her education, but she did it!! EKU provided this opportunity for her. I was proud of her and EKU.
What is your approach to online teaching?
As an online professor, I believe it is critical that my students have access to me. I am very active on email and try to respond to student questions within a couple of hours. I want my students to know that I am available and responsive to their needs. I believe that my video lectures are a way that I can connect with my students as well. I try to have a presentation style that is friendly and personal. I often share stories, make jokes, and connect my lectures to current events. I want my students to feel like I am in the room with them giving my lectures.
What tactics or approaches do you use to aid in your student’s success?
It is critical that students feel confident and secure when navigating my online courses. I achieve this by maintaining a consistent pattern of content presentation and assignments in my course. I also send out frequent announcements reminding students of due dates and assignment requirements. I provide students with individual feedback on their assignments and encourage students to contact me with questions. Again, the more accessible I am to the students, I believe the more likely they will be to succeed in my class.
What do you believe are the biggest advantages to online learning?
Online learning offers students flexibility in their learning experiences. The flexibility and freedom open up education to everyone. Adult learners who might be hesitant to go into a traditional classroom environment can feel safe and motivated in an online classroom. Most important to me is that online learning is available to everyone wherever they are; there is no need to relocate or leave a job and/or family to get an education. I believe that a college education is the best gift one can give oneself. Online learning makes this gift possible for everyone.
What have you been up to lately? (Research, projects, awards, etc.)
I am the perpetual student, so I continue to read and study current research in the marriage and family communication area. Personally, I am also enjoying the new experience of grandparenthood. Since I am a researcher by nature, I study research on ways in which communication with grandparents can enhance a child’s life and try to put this research into practice.
What advice would you give to someone who’s considering finishing their degree, or starting for the first time as an adult?
First, as I said earlier, an education is the best gift to oneself. So, give yourself this gift! An education is also something that can never be taken away from us. Life has ups and down, wins and losses. The only thing that will always be there is your education!
As a professor, I want you to learn and succeed. I hope that I can provide that to all my students.
Interested in advancing your career?
Earn your online bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited university that has been an education leader for overs 15 years. Complete the form to learn how you can earn your bachelor’s in communication studies. Pick up an in-demand certificate in workplace communication or dispute resolution, giving yourself a competitive edge in the job market. Contact us to get started today.