a woman smilingAngela Hall has a unique family history with The University of Alabama. Angela’s great aunt, Dr. Ethel Hall, became the first Black woman to earn a Doctor of Social Work from UA, after initially being denied admittance because of her race during the segregation era. Having such a distinguished alumna as a mentor heavily influenced Angela’s decision to attend UA.

“Earning a degree at The University of Alabama was something once forbidden to my family. Now that we can, I knew I just had to do it,” Angela said.

After graduating with a bachelor’s in Business Administration from a for-profit college, Angela began working in sales. When her sales job didn’t pan out, she turned her makeup hobby into a side hustle. Her makeup business turned into the opportunity of a lifetime when her customers started complimenting the website she had set up for her business. Soon, Angela had commissions to build and design websites.

She taught herself to code and designed courses that her clients could use to teach themselves how to navigate their new websites. About that time, she started researching master’s degrees and found Bama By Distance. Angela didn’t want to move to Tuscaloosa to take a traditional degree path, so she applied to the Master of Arts in Instructional Technology online program.

three people in matching pajamas“I wanted a graduate degree, but I didn’t want to get my MBA,” Angela said. “I was doing all this website and course building work and I wanted to get something that was useful and that I would enjoy.”

When she began her degree, Angela was working as a leasing agent for a property management company. To balance a full-time job with her coursework, she used the flexibility of her work schedule to her advantage.

“Leasing work comes in fits and starts throughout the workday. There are often lulls without apartment tours or paperwork,” Angela said. “So, I would use that time to catch up on reading. I also use the early morning hours and lunch breaks for schoolwork.”

On top of working as a leasing agent and completing her degree, Angela wanted to travel. Distance learning created the perfect opportunity to do just that, and in 2019 she created her own study abroad program in South Korea. She’s always been interested in Korean culture, especially the music and language of the country. “I wanted to learn Korean, so I decided to do it,” Angela said.

man and woman sitting and smiling underneath a tent outsideInstead of taking general Korean language classes, Angela enrolled in Yonsei University, South Korea’s equivalent to an American Ivy League school. At the same time Angela was taking her instructional design classes, she was learning one of the hardest languages and going to school full time at Yonsei.

“There are different types of full time across the world. I was used to the relatively more relaxed approach to studying we have in the U.S. In Korea, the expectations of students are extremely high. Although I was in class for four hours a day, I was also expected to spend at least that much time outside of class studying. Meeting those expectations while also enrolled full time at UA was exhausting, but I wouldn’t change a thing. It is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done,” Angela said.

Being on the other side of the world proposed a challenge for completing her coursework, but Angela said her professors were always understanding of time differences. She found that her professors were “flexible and easy to communicate with,” especially Dr. Andre Denham. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic impacted Angela’s study abroad and she was unable to return to South Korea after coming back home for winter break. She hopes to return to finish her language studies program as soon as she is able.

“Sometimes plans are a waste of time,” Angela said. “I like to have what I call branching plans. If I hit a snag, I can pivot and take another path. Distance learning has allowed me to continue my studies regardless of lifestyle or location changes.”

woman smilingAngela’s study abroad experiences also changed her design philosophy. Experiencing the struggles of learning a new language made her more receptive to the needs of language learners and passionate about the creation of better, less intimidating language courses. Her involvement with distance learning in particular has given her the tools she needs to be a successful instructional designer.

“The most important thing I’ve learned in school is how to learn. Through graduate-level study, I’ve developed systems for processing and evaluating information quickly. I’ve learned to transfer academic knowledge onto real-word projects,” Angela said. She said UA’s program has made her a more well-rounded designer. Her adaptive design class even gave her insight into how technology can be adapted for those with disabilities, and she said the class changed the way she designs.

Now that she is back in the United States, Angela has more time to complete her degree and is set to graduate in December 2020. Post-graduation, Angela is hoping to continue doing freelance instructional design and is researching doctoral programs.

“There always has to be a ‘Dr. Hall’ in my family, so I know one day that’s something I want to pursue,” Angela said.

Published: November 30th, 2020