Monday, November 12, 2007

What should you know about on-line schooling?

1. Classes are short and intense. The University of Phoenix runs with one class at a time, lasting for six weeks. As such, the one class requires a tremendous amount of work to be completed in a short amount of time. The good news is that when your professor smells like a turd and your classmates display the aptitude of an ape, you are but five short weeks away from a start over.

2. Participation is paramount. Participation and attendance run hand-in-hand. While you are never required to be on-line at a specific time, you will be required to post a set number of significant message four different days of the week. This participation does not include team related exercises (more later), questions you may have for the professor, or general conversation. My last class required a minimum of two posts of 200 or more words four days a week, in addition to answers for professor-posted discussion questions, which came three times per week. At minimum, your participation for this class required 2,200 words per week in message board posts.

3. There is writing and more writing and more writing and more writing and you get the damn point. There are no tests or quizzes. The sole manner in which professors evaluate your comprehension of class information comes through essays and research papers. You will have a paper due every week, usually on Monday, which is the end of the University of Phoenix school week. The formula I have experienced thus far involves wimpy papers due on weeks 1 and 4, group papers due weeks 2 and 5, and lengthy research papers due 3 and 6. The wimpy papers average around four pages, the team papers amount to 15 pages long, and the individual papers range from 15-25. Nothing is particularly difficult, but your fingers will simply tire from pressing buttons.

4. The professors are in the same time crunched boat that the students are. The class, generally comprised of about 20 students, have a variety of reasons for enrolling at the University of Phoenix, but most share a common full-time work schedule. As such, the flexible hours of an on-line university appeal to them, all of which may sound like common sense. What I did not realize heading into this experience is that the professors share the same hectic crazy schedules, as they too are full-time employees in the real world. These are not professors sitting in a classroom teaching University of Phoenix classes full-time, but rather professionals doing this on the side. Pros and cons certainly abound here with the obvious negative that some professors, similar to students, do not spend the appropriate amount of time and effort on the class for the full six weeks.

5. The counselors rock. To date, I have been more impressed with the counselors than any other facet of the University of Phoenix . I have an enrollment counselor, an academic advisor, and a financial guru. Tara and Heather – we are totally on a first name basis – call just check in and make sure all is going well from time to time. When I was considering dropping a class (more on that later) they showed immediate concern and returned phone calls at the drop of a hat. They have been supportive and full of information throughout my experience.

6. Group work accounts for a disproportionate of time and stress. Yes, there is group work. To give an example of a recent group assignment, individuals were asked to research two real world companies and then compare and contrast their plight to the one in the fictitious scenario the professor presents. The team submits these individual writings and then draws conclusions and compiles a unified paper. The problem occurs when not all team members submit their portions on time (regularly), misinterpret the assignment (occasionally), or have an at home crisis preventing them from writing (far too often). Someone has to be in charge of bringing all the individual parts together (generally me), and everyone proofreads and edits (again usually just me). Trying to get anywhere from 2 to 7 other people on board with the same schedule and effort causes me to scream frequently at my laptop.

7, The writing abilities vary. Tremendously. A sample submission in a group paper that was submitted to the team as a final version:

Atlanta Falcons, home of many fans in the state of Georgia hoping to see their franchise team achieve to a world title. In May of 2007, a scandal rose from the grave from a player that would endanger the team and it’s publicity. Michael Vick, a well talented quarterback that many youth idols followed in his footsteps. After the agitations brought against him about dog fighting and pleaded guilty for his crimes, Atlanta Falcons suffered major amount of millions from it’s product and tickets. NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue encourage many fans to stay loyal to their home team, including Falcons team owner Arthur Blank insisted fans not to betray the team because of one player.

This horseshit caused me to immediately contact my professor and counselors to inquire as to how to drop a class. My mother says that her grade-school special needs students write better than this. To date, this group paper is the worst document I have ever turned in with my name attached. This says nothing of the individual who had never written a research paper and consequently did not know how to cite within a paper. Or the other individual in the group who cited himself as a source, complete with a place in the references page. Brilliant.

8. Message board experience helps. I suggest visiting the Valpo sports message board before joining the University of Phoenix . This experience will better prepare you for message threads, crazy tangents, and the inexplicable world of emoticons. I once received 17 smiley faces in a 30 page paper, which translated to a 96%. With the classroom reminiscent of the old Valpo Voy Board, I was well prepared for the mayhem that ensued.

9. APA guidelines. All my life, I have written using MLA rules. The University of Phoenix believes in APA guidelines, which does make for easier reference pages at the end of your research papers. However, it took me close to two months to get used to typing with only one space after the period. Now, I don’t know that I could ever go back.

10. Dust off AOL Instant Messenger, you are going to need it. While in college, AOL Instant Messenger was a must have. After graduating, I rarely use the device as I have neither the time to use it nor the drive to keep up with people (sorry everyone, e-mails are simply more timely). However, when writing lengthy papers, brief distractions are a must, and AOL IM provides them in wondrous form. People I haven’t talked to in years remain on the list, and I now can call Brad Spata’s cell phone should I have the urge. Also, writing guest pieces for blogs can help break up monotony, which is all fine and good unless the paper is due the next day, which just so happens to be a 10 hour work day. Crap, I have to go finish my gap analysis for the fictional Riordan Manufacturing company, which has a deficient HR department and donut hungry CFO.

No comments: