Michelle Lamb, a 2012 graduate of Ball State’s online master’s in coaching education program, insists she was a nerd as an undergraduate. She claims to have never missed a lecture or a study session. Skipping class? Out of the question.

So returning to school without setting foot on campus was a major adjustment for Lamb, whose determination had led to two bachelor’s degrees from Purdue—one in athletic training and another in physical education, and both with honors.

“I’m a ‘need to hear it, need to see it, need to write it down’ kind of learner,” says Lamb, head athletic trainer at Northridge High School in Middlebury, Indiana. But here she was, embarking on a program that she feared would be a lonely experience.

She questioned whether there would be as much collegiality in the online classroom as she found in the on-site classroom of her bachelor’s degree days.

Then there were all those papers assigned by instructors she’d never met. “How much are they really reading?” she wondered. “Am I doing this just to be doing it? Do these professors even care?”

Answers came quickly for Lamb, who says she and her classmates were soon relying on each other’s expertise, calling, texting, and “Facebooking” to discuss projects, papers, and deadlines.

Meanwhile, professors were responding to her writing through discussion boards. Eventually she heard from Dr. Larry Judge, coordinator of the graduate athletic coaching education program and associate professor, who wanted to co-author a paper with her.

“I really felt like I was getting more one-on-one attention than I was back in those big lecture halls,” says Lamb.

Discovering Ball State’s online MA with a coaching specialization was providential for Lamb. She wanted a premier program and, because her position involves evenings and most weekends, she was thrilled to hear that this world-class program was offered 100 percent online.

For her northern Indiana high school, Lamb evaluates, treats, and rehabilitates the injuries for 600 student athletes, working with a dozen coaches and 16 student athletic trainers at 18 athletic events. She’s on duty for all home games and travels with some teams to away games.

While working on her master’s, Lamb could be found reading textbooks during down times at practices. Although most students take two classes each semester, one summer she took three classes—and worked two jobs—to make up for a semester when she enrolled in one.

“There were times when I had lots of balls in the air,” she says. “I didn’t always catch all of them but I tried.”

Lamb says the coaching education program has helped her relate to her coaches.

“It’s important for me to be on the same page as my coaches for strength and conditioning and injury prevention programs,” she says.

For Lamb, classmate interaction has continued since graduation. She still gets calls from fellow grads that are coaches and need a cell phone assessment of their players’ injuries.