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Your Online Education Experience? 428

Posted by kdawson
from the no-more-teachers'-dirty-looks dept.
pspahn writes "I am currently enrolled at a very well-known online school. I was hesitant when I enrolled; now more than a year has gone by, and I am regretting my decision. The main problem is that I am not learning anything. I have several years' experience with Web design, yet I was not allowed to bypass Intro to Web Design 1. Similarly, there are other classes on my list that will teach me very little I don't already know, yet will cost me money all the same. Now, I do have a great desire to learn and to further myself academically, but I just don't see much value in continuing to take classes I could have aced in ninth grade. It is also difficult when fellow classmates clearly have very little intelligent input to offer and our online discussions are reminiscent of an AOL chat room. While it is possible simply to attend a local school in person, I would much prefer an online environment as it seems to be a more natural medium considering the content of my studies. I am interested specifically in Information Security programs. What online education programs have Slashdot readers been happy with and considered successful?"
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Your Online Education Experience?

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  • well... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Soilworker (795251) on Monday July 26, 2010 @11:31PM (#33040172)

    You will experience the same problems with other types of educations. You only study to get the paper, if you want to learn stuffs do it by yourself.

    • Re:well... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by msobkow (48369) on Monday July 26, 2010 @11:54PM (#33040370) Homepage Journal
      Amen to the self-taught. With pretty much anything, cracking open some books and software (where applicable) will teach you through experience. There's not much point to going through the motions just for a piece of paper if you're truly self-taught already. The only problem is that businesses want that piece of paper in greater and greater numbers. It's been a long time since I worked with anyone who didn't have a university degree of some sort, even the sysadmins are educated nowadays. It's become a profession, even if there is no global overseeing body of accreditation like the Engineers have. Personally I'd prefer someone self-taught if their interests happened to coincide with a university degree, but having that degree guarantees you have a certain minimum education. With a highly competitive workforce, I'd have no option but to give the job to someone who has proven their willingness to put 4 years and significant money into a degree. Believe me, my first 2-3 years of university were boring because I was self taught from the age of 14. It wasn't until the 400 series classes that things got interesting and new (and fun!)
      • Re:well... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Kell Bengal (711123) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @01:02AM (#33040780)
        The big problem with self-teaching is that sometimes you need someone to build bridges to understanding that you just can't manage on your own. When I moved to Yale to do a post-doc I learned much more about advanced maths from discussing with colleagues than I ever learned from reading books on my own. For me, it wasn't because I couldn't learn from books, it was just that the more advanced material is written in impenetrable hieroglyphs that seem designed to obscure actual understanding. Nobody ever learned Lyapunov control from starting with "Consider unit ball B on set R3..." or if they did learn it that way, I doubt they really -understood- it.

        However, someone sitting down with you for 15 minutes with a piece of paper can suss out what you already know, fill in the gaps and draw parallels to the things you understand. That's why we -have- teachers to guide us, and not just inanimate rows of books.
    • Re:well... (Score:4, Informative)

      by theskipper (461997) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @12:07AM (#33040466)

      To be fair, there is a difference between serious, accredited universities and paper mills. If he's enrolled in one of the schools profiled in the Frontline documentary below, then he may simply be getting ripped off.

      http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/collegeinc/?utm_campaign=homepage&utm_medium=proglist&utm_source=proglist [pbs.org]

      It's pretty sad since these folks really are trying to better themselves.

      • by grahamsz (150076)

        Still it happens in real schools too. I went to a school that's ranked in the Top 20 in the world for a CS&E degree and first year was a joke. Stuff like univariate differential algebra that i'd covered previously in high school. Even second year math had stuff like fourier and z-transforms which was also covered in advance high school classes.

        Can't remember any of that shit now, but it turns out a degree is more of a tool to open doors than learn stuff.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by TapeCutter (624760) *
          The first year of a degree is usually spent getting everyone on the same page.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by WH44 (1108629)
          What high school did you go to? I went to an excellent high school: the year I graduated (1979), 1/3 of the graduating class were PSAT/NMSQT finalists (note: semi-finalists are in the 99th percentile). I was one of three students that took Calculus BC (the most advanced math they had), and Fourier and Z-Transforms were definitely not covered. I did learn about Fourier in the Summer of '77, but it was entirely unrelated to school (a project for a university professor).
      • Re:well... (Score:5, Informative)

        by UNIX_Meister (461634) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @12:31AM (#33040602)

        I think you make an important distinction. I attended two traditional brick-and-mortar undergraduate state universities in engineering and math/computer science. I wouldn't characterize the learning as "outstanding" at either, since I did learn a lot more on the job. However, the quality between these and the UofPhx where I got my masters was astounding.

        I didn't learn anything. I learned a few things in an accounting class that helps me with budgeting for a non-profit I'm involved with. But most of the work was busy work - reading and posting messages to a Outlook-based message forum. We also had to do 4-5 page papers each week, but the grading was very lax. There was also a lot of group work. Now, I think that this is a good idea since it mimicks the real world where in IT there is a lot of team work required. However, it was very inconsistent with the people who were in my group, and there was no choice on our part of whom to be in groups with.

        The biggest frustration was not any hands-on learning. It was all writing papers about databases, networks, operating systems, etc. There wasn't any actual logging into a database, a network switch, a server, or even writing a single line of code. Fortunately, I took it upon myself for my capstone project to do some actual coding and complete a project, rather than the usual writing again.

        So now, I'm stuck with $56k of student loans I'm struggling to pay back.

        I definitely would NOT recommend UofPhoenix.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by twilightzero (244291)

        I did U of Phoenix for 4 classes (see full rant above) and everything in that report is 100% true. They lie like a rug to get you in the door then charge you exorbitant amounts for sub-standard ridiculously paced classes that are next to worthless.

      • When I saw the summary on the front page, I came here specifically to mention this Frontline documentary. Kudos sir for beating me here =)
    • Re:well... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by twilightzero (244291) <mrolfsNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @12:32AM (#33040608) Homepage Journal

      {
      #begin rant here

      I would both agree and disagree. I did the atrocious U of Phoenix for 4 classes and couldn't take it any more. It was exactly as the OP said and more. The discussions were extremely stupid and shallow and the classes either weren't particularly relevant or were below-level, but additionally the pace was absolutely bonkers. I was ASSURED by my advisor when I started that in no circumstance should I be spending more than 15 hours a week on my coursework, including all reading, discussions, and assignments and that it was easy to do with a job and a family, just like the ads say. Well what they should tell you is that you HAVE to have a family to do it because you have to have people who can do everything else in your life for you besides, eat, sleep, work, and study.

      We were assigned an average of 900+ pages of reading a week over the courses I took and they expected you to read it all. Then there were the papers: the last course I took with them had 9 major papers due in 5 weeks, comprised of 5 individual and 4 group papers. And if that wasn't bad enough, being the local English nazi I was chosen by my group to be the guy to put the papers together. Normally work I actually kind of enjoy, except 2 members (out of 4) of our group could write at maybe a 5th grade level. I would open their submissions and would be presented with an opening run-on sentence followed by a colon and a list of talking points. That's it. Being that the pace was so insane and I didn't want to get a bad grade, I would end up re-writing their entire sections. Of course I would complain to the "professor" and was assured that the problem was being looked into and that the person's other papers were fine. Of course they were fine, the school had a department that you could send your papers to and they would coach you through every step of correcting your mistakes, all but doing it for you. But that doesn't help on the group papers.

      Bear in mind that all of this was also after going to traditional classroom college for 2 1/2 years and getting fed up with the hoop-jumping and ball-playing and endless drama and politics. I eventually left all of it and got a job and have been very successful being self-taught. Of course it causes a problem getting through HR drones, but my take on it is that if you're so hide-bound about everyone having a piece of paper, then I don't want to work there. True, it's been tough at times but I've never gone hungry and I've had (in my oh so humble opinion) better jobs because of it.

      end
      }

      • Well what they should tell you is that you HAVE to have a family to do it because you have to have people who can do everything else in your life for you besides, eat, sleep, work, and study.

        And this is different from a "real" school how? If you go to school full time and also work, yes, you have no time for a life. Been there, done that.

        • I would hazard to guess that it's pretty much impossible to go to traditional brick & mortar school "full time" (12 credits/semester I believe) and hold down a full time 40 hr job, family or no family.

          Besides, "real" schools don't tell you that you can easily go there full time and hold a full time job. In fact, usually you're advised to seek out financial aid and student loans specifically because you need to concentrate on studying and work as little as possible. Granted that's in an ideal world, bu

          • I would hazard to guess that it's pretty much impossible to go to traditional brick & mortar school "full time" (12 credits/semester I believe) and hold down a full time 40 hr job, family or no family.

            I graduated from UW, carrying 12 credits a quarter, and worked full time. I was (and am) married. Yes, it was tough, but it's *not* impossible.

      • by Cassini2 (956052)

        At many Canadian Universities, 4 classes would be considered a full-time load. Part time load is 1 to 3 classes. Full time load is 4 or 5 classes, and "overload" is 6 classes. Generally, each class will have 3 to 4 of in class teaching, with lab work additional. As such, 15 hours per week of *classes* is reasonable for 4 courses. For each class hour, you are expected to work 4 to 5 additional hours independently. Thus an average student should be working up to 65 hours per week for 4 classes (15 in cl

        • Please understand the subject you're talking about before discussing it as almost all of your information is incorrect.

          At U of Phoenix, there is no difference between full and part time. You take only one class at a time and each class lasts for 5 only weeks total. That's right, that whole load was ONLY ONE CLASS AT A TIME. Additionally, I WAS unemployed at the time and was still barely able to keep up. I was mentioning the full time employment bit in response to their (omnipresent) advertising that repe

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        Bear in mind that all of this was also after going to traditional classroom college for 2 1/2 years and getting fed up with the hoop-jumping and ball-playing and endless drama and politics.

        Don't be so precious, it's nothing compared to working in the real world.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Weezul (52464)

        Don't worry, you chose wisely. You know all those classmates with 5th grade reading level? Yeah, they are why a University of Phoenix degree is worse than no degree. ;)

        You most likely were not doing anything interesting enough during your brick & mortar 2.5 years. I'd have been bored studying computer science for undergrad, so I studied math instead, much fun.

    • by mevets (322601)

      I think there is a more subtle distinction than 'study to get the paper' vs 'learn stuffs'; although I do appreciate the humour. Most of what I've ever learned has been by 'learn stuffs'. At the same time, having suffered a reasonably strict base education, including people harping about grammar and punctuation, is a great way to 'learn stuffs' quite effectively.

      I remember a colleague, who was quite adept at complex software tasks like writing scsi adapter drivers, telling me about how he 'invented' hash

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tehcyder (746570)

      You will experience the same problems with other types of educations. You only study to get the paper, if you want to learn stuffs do it by yourself.

      Who modded this nonsense informative? Proper teaching has huge benefits, not least in training you how to study properly rather than flitting around just picking on stuff you think is interesting.
      Do you really think that all the studying and practical work a doctor (say) has to do to get qualified could be done better at home, studying alone over the inter

  • There is (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dyinobal (1427207) on Monday July 26, 2010 @11:32PM (#33040180)
    There is education and then there is training figure out which one you want and get it. Most everything these days is geared towards training.
    • by BitterOak (537666)

      There is education and then there is training figure out which one you want and get it. Most everything these days is geared towards training.

      The fact that the one course mentioned is titled "Web Design 1" answers that question.

  • College (Score:2, Informative)

    by Joshuah (82679)

    College isn't about learning, it's about how long you can put up with all the crap you have to do and deal with the people around you.

    • Re:College (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 26, 2010 @11:37PM (#33040210)

      Yep, that's pretty much what your typical college dropout says. Dunno about you but I did learn quite a bit.

      • by Kamokazi (1080091)
        Then I must be an a-typical graduate. With a few exceptions, I learned shit. I just have an expensive piece of paper that gets me decent jobs.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by blai (1380673)
      Dunno about you but I'm forced into learning so much interesting stuff in a short period of time that I'm failing to absorb all of it.
    • by dcollins (135727)

      I call horseshit. My college programs (double B.A. in very different fields at a state university) were almost always interesting and mind-expanding. I took lots of electives, in anything I found intriguing (speech, folklore, creative writing, theater, computer science, etc.). If a class looked uninteresting or mean-spirited in the first session, then I dropped it.

      Maybe you just picked the wrong path and couldn't fix the problem.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by gregrah (1605707)
      I really couldn't disagree more. After having nearly all of the life sucked out of me in high school (quite literally), college is where I got my "spark" back.

      Math, Physics, Computer Science, Literature, Music... any one of these subjects has enough depth to keep you engaged for the rest of your life. In college they sit you down with a bunch of books (and friends, and professors) and just sort of let you go crazy... see what sticks. I discovered that I was interested in a number of different things.
    • by tehcyder (746570)

      College isn't about learning, it's about how long you can put up with all the crap you have to do and deal with the people around you.

      Life is about putting up with crap and dealing with people around you.
      Oh, I forgot, you're probably one of the innumerable self-taught geniuses on slashdot who don't think they should have to sully themselves with ordinary human contact or existence.

  • ehh.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by spartacus_prime (861925) on Monday July 26, 2010 @11:35PM (#33040194) Homepage
    I took two undergrad classes online, Intro to Political Science (my major) and Business Writing. All course materials were posted on Blackboard, and I do not recall any classroom time. My grades in those classes were atrocious, partially because the distraction of the Internet while trying to do the coursework was too much as a 20-something year old student. Obviously, YMMV, but I don't think you can beat having an actual live instructor teach you the material (even something as dull as a writing course).
  • by rxan (1424721) on Monday July 26, 2010 @11:39PM (#33040230)

    While it is possible simply to attend a local school in person, I would much prefer an online environment as it seems to be a more natural medium considering the content of my studies.

    When you deal with people in nearly any industry it will often be far more intimate than online discussions. I would suggest taking courses in person so at least you learn skills in an environment that will apply in your future career. Think about it: most customers would rather discuss their web designs (which you'll be making) in person rather than someone at the end of a phone line, chat room, or email thread. Taking offline courses helps you in so many ways. You'll discuss ideas with classmates, learn how to debate about best practices with others, and learn to learn through many different methods.

    • Think about it: most customers would rather discuss their web designs (which you'll be making) in person rather than someone at the end of a phone line, chat room, or email thread.

      Good point. Any design gig (not just web design) is equal parts people skills and technical skills. I'd venture that the former is almost more important, since the design ought to be tailored to the client if it's any good.

  • Welcome to College (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slifox (605302) * on Monday July 26, 2010 @11:40PM (#33040234)

    The main problem is that I am not learning anything. I have several years' experience with Web design, yet I was not allowed to bypass Intro to Web Design 1. Similarly, there are other classes on my list that will teach me very little I don't already know, yet will cost me money all the same. Now, I do have a great desire to learn and to further myself academically, but I just don't see much value in continuing to take classes I could have aced in ninth grade. It is also difficult when fellow classmates clearly have very little intelligent input to offer

    Hey, welcome to college! Going to an online school might have lowered the standards a bit, but it's all part of the same experience.

    The truth is that academically most of college in just highschool part 2. For anyone who is getting a degree in a field that is already their passion & hobby (e.g. someone who has invested 10000+ hours of personal time into programming and then goes for a computer science degree), it's only in the final 1 or 2 years that the coursework is even worthwhile. The rest of the time is spent underachieving because the content is so rudimentary that you can't even stay focused. You think the colleges want you to just buy the quality courses at the end? Hell no, they want you for 2-4 years of tuition!... errr I mean "broadening experience!"

    Furthermore there are always a few assholes in the class who think they know more than the professor, and take every opportunity to bicker with them about each point. You may know a lot about the current subject, but most of the professors are teaching way below their knowledge level anyways... So that's a check on "incompetent classmates" too (not even mentioning the ridiculous amounts of cheating that goes on to pass tests that have no practical value except testing your ability to remember things)

    So yeah... welcome to college. If you want a real higher-learning environment, go for a masters and then a Ph.D with a quality advisor. First though, you need to get to that point... and a lot of us call it quits after a bachelors anyways ("it's good enough, and I can't bear another semester")

    Academically and averaged out over the entire experience, college (bachelors level) is a waste of time. A lot of people don't even work in the field they got their degree in -- I learned hardly any practical knowledge in college courses that relates to my current job... Of course, it's not all bad -- you do learn how to learn (supposedly), and you learn rigor (lab reports, etc), and you do get a bit of exposure to other interesting fields. Furthermore, if you're not an hermit, you can have a great time with social life. Well maybe that last bit isn't quite applicable to you.

    Summary: tough it out and get a degree, then forget the experience and get a well-paying job. You can be bitter all you want afterwards, but at least you'll have a good salary :) OR conversely, tough it out and do well, then get into a decent master program, and use your performance there to get into a top-quality Ph.D program

    • by fishexe (168879)

      The truth is that academically most of college in just highschool part 2. For anyone who is getting a degree in a field that is already their passion & hobby (e.g. someone who has invested 10000+ hours of personal time into programming and then goes for a computer science degree), it's only in the final 1 or 2 years that the coursework is even worthwhile. The rest of the time is spent underachieving because the content is so rudimentary that you can't even stay focused.

      I think this shows the difference between different types of colleges. My first go at college I went to a private tech school and it was exactly as you describe, so I dropped out. My second time I went to university and it was a completely different experience. On the other hand, at uni I chose my courses aggressively and proactively to broaden my learning as much as possible, majoring in History and Chinese but taking advanced maths and mid-level computer science (which I talked my way into despite not

  • I have several years' experience with Web design, yet I was not allowed to bypass Intro to Web Design 1

    The same applies for real courses too. I did Physics, Biology, Chemistry and Maths at High School, and then when I went to Uni I did Physics, Biology, Chemistry and Maths - all over again. Pretty much the exact same thing as I did in High School. If I then went to do another science degree, I would get recognised prior learning. It basically comes down to the Institution has to cater for the fact that not everyone has done the subjects being taught. And in your case, you have experience - but that's

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 26, 2010 @11:42PM (#33040258)

    Online schools operate on a loophole that allows them to collect a ton of money that is disproportionately applied to the students. The current administration is finally starting to close the loophole but prior to that these online schools have proliferated. They exist to collect this money; educating you is the fake front to this shady business.

    DeVry, Unitek, Sequoia Institute, University of Phoenix, etc, are all scams. You learn nearly nothing, it costs a lot, there is NO JOB PLACEMENT no matter what they say and you have to bear the stigma/burden of going to an online school. We've had several online schools in California abruptly cancel all classes, fire everyone, and abandon the building(s) in question with no recourse for the students, even those about to 'graduate'.

    If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

    Here's my educational boilerplate info:

    - Go to community college. You can take all your GE, many of your lower division and some of your upper division courses there for cheap.
    - Transfer to a university. You'll only have to take the courses you couldn't take in community college, and you won't be there very long.
    - At both points try to take as many tests as you can to 'test-out' of lower classes you don't need.
    - Sign up for all the grants and scholarships you can find. Most of that money is never disbursed.

    Yeah, it's slow, but it's affordable even for the poorest of us.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by adversus (1451933)
      One can make the same argument about some brick and mortar colleges as well. I'm a graduate of a "for-profit" University, and found the coursework to be on par with friends that attended "traditional" universities. Having taken both traditional and for-profit/flex/adult classes, I feel that online universities require more effort as far as personal discipline. That said, there are a lot of diploma mills out there that DO fit your description. But don't lump all online Universities together. Last I chec
      • I have yet to see non-profit state/private schools called out *by the federal government* the same way for-profit schools have been for the fraud done U of Phoenix and the like. Those schools are an outright scam.
    • by eln (21727)
      I agree with this, the only caveat being to do your homework first to make sure your CC classes transfer. Here in Texas, most of the universities and community colleges have long lists of courses that will transfer, so you can pretty much take your first two years at any community college and transfer without issue to most universities in the state. I've also been in states where this wasn't the case, though, or it only applied to certain colleges and universities, so you need to be careful so you don't w
  • Not unusual (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr. Underbridge (666784) on Monday July 26, 2010 @11:43PM (#33040272)

    To an extent, this is just how college is. How long have you been at it? I had a similar situation in a brick-n-mortar college; I re-took classes I'd gotten 4s and 5s from AP tests. Yeah, I was bored. But that stopped by the second year. Might be a question of whether your program is the right one.

    if you already know enough to get certifications in the things you want to do, do that, and get a degree in something that would differentiate you from the hordes. I can't say more without knowing what you want to do, but as an analogy, I always recommend that CS grads get a second minor (math is usually the first) in a science, whether it be biology, chemistry, physics, or something similar. Why? Because you know another field that frequently intersects with CS, making someone much more marketable. I'm not saying that particular program is or isn't right for you, but the general principle still holds, I think.

    In any event, good luck however you choose to proceed.

  • by kstatefan40 (922281) <<kstatefan40> <at> <yahoo.com>> on Monday July 26, 2010 @11:44PM (#33040284) Homepage
    Take a look at the Department of Informatics at Fort Hays State University - you can take all of the courses (at both undergrad and graduate level) online to complete a degree. It is not one of those curriculum sets you can just ace - it is a challenging set of courses which encompass internetworking, web development, media studies, and information assurance. You can pick your specific concentration, but you will still get to see a little bit of everything. This is one of the best programs in the country for updated networking and web curriculum. It is both a Cisco Networking Academy and an NSA Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance. You can work toward you CCNA/CCNP/CISSP if that is the direction you'd like to take, or you can work toward an advanced degree in web development. I know these classes are quality because I have taken them - the internetworking series of classes were the most difficult classes I have ever taken. I loved the challenge and the connections you gain with classmates from around the world are invaluable. http://www.fhsu.edu/informatics/ [fhsu.edu] Thanks for posting and good luck!
  • Ras.Algethi.42 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by RasAlgethi42 (1864826) on Monday July 26, 2010 @11:46PM (#33040300)
    For profit educational institutions are never worth the money. EVER. You may get in cheap, you may even get out cheap. See if any employer will take your degree from Bob's University.
  • You have a choice to make.

    In one respect, the Emperor has no clothes. College is a just a bunch of hoops to jump through to get a piece of paper that supposedly (but doesn't) mean that you have skills. What it actually means is that you spent a lot of money (and made the loan servicer and your college a lot of money) and you jumped through a bunch of hoops. The skills you could gain can be gained through checking books out from the library, camping at the bookstore, and googling everything. RTFM and JFGI
    • I'm a bit mixed on the subject. On one hand you pick things up in academia that you simply don't get or have the time or inclination to go over in real life, simple methodology mostly. Also I'd have never gone through something as obvious as discrete math in day to day life. Not out of lack of interest, it is simply something I wouldn't have thought of (unless of course I had picked up a college catalog and said, "Hey, I want to cover as much ground as these guy, I'm gonna go read a book on that").

      On the ot

      • I'll also have to say that I'm not knocking math majors or putting them in the same boat as business majors. If there is any sin, the latter might be it.

  • Some are good (Score:3, Informative)

    by Ghoser777 (113623) <fahrenba@@@mac...com> on Monday July 26, 2010 @11:52PM (#33040350) Homepage

    I had an excellent experience with Walden University [waldenu.edu]. I was able to attend virtual lectures from distinguished professors from Duke to Carnegie-Mellon. The work was at an appropriate level, and I feel like I learned a great deal. Your mileage may vary in different areas (I got my MA in Comp Sci).

  • Why go to college? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fermion (181285) on Monday July 26, 2010 @11:52PM (#33040354) Homepage Journal
    Most schools have a canon that must be transversed to graduate. At a good school the canon is not random. It is meant to insure that the students speak the same vocabulary, have simliar assumptions, and similar methods to the professors. One might have a familiarity with a subject, but if there is little common ground in the way one talks about a subject, then the student is wasting his or her time. Two big reasons why people drop out of college is that they are bored with the introductory canon, or get frustrated because they tink they are in high school where teachers will work put big concepts in imprecise language that the students already knows, instead of requiring the student to learn the precise language used in the field.

    US high schools make a significant effort to insure that every student has the opportunity to learn the skills the college, but most colleges are not going to make an effort to hold a students hand once in college, especially if the student is paying, especially if the student is paying with student loans. After all, there is another freshmen class next year, and they have the money from last years freshman class whether they earned it or not.

    The second issue is much more interesting. The students at a college provide as much value as the professors. I did not go to any kind of high level college, but I met some good people who really enhanced my experience. People who could hold a conversation, work a problem, accept that ideas different from their own might still be valid. If one does not have such people in their college life, this beyond anything else is a sign that one might be in the wrong place, or perhaps that one is not effort in the most efficient directions.

    • by NonSequor (230139)

      Most schools have a canon that must be transversed to graduate. At a good school the canon is not random. It is meant to insure that the students speak the same vocabulary, have simliar assumptions, and similar methods to the professors. One might have a familiarity with a subject, but if there is little common ground in the way one talks about a subject, then the student is wasting his or her time. Two big reasons why people drop out of college is that they are bored with the introductory canon, or get frustrated because they tink they are in high school where teachers will work put big concepts in imprecise language that the students already knows, instead of requiring the student to learn the precise language used in the field.

      I went to clown college. At my school the canon was a cannon, and you had to transverse it to without getting your floppy shoes hung up in it. You don't get bored with that sort of canon. You're too busy focusing on your landing and preparing for the segue into your next gag.

    • by inKubus (199753)

      Once you get to the so called "upper division" they start treating you like a person again and all the people who aren't smart or hard working are gone. The first two years are somewhat of a scam. If it's Soooo easy, go to class, do the homework and pass the tests. It's only a little time, then you get to the real education.

  • by Raineer (1002750) on Monday July 26, 2010 @11:53PM (#33040364)
    They are a cash cow. Little to no resources are put into them, and students gain (at most) some busy work to do while reading the book on their own. I have taken online courses at three universities. Each one of them charged more per credit hour (~50% more) while I felt like I learned much less from the course. I'm sure there are good programs out there somewhere, but none in the institutions where I have had experience. In order to do well in online courses, you need to be a self-starter. MUCH moreso than in a typical classroom environment. My advice, if it applies to your courses, is to use the heck out of MIT's OCW program. Those lectures have gotten me through many online courses where the professors had (for the most part) not even read the current text we were assigned to use. I have donated several times to MIT because of OCW, it is fantastic.
    • You're absolutely correct. In most cases, you're better off buying a book and taking CLEP classes, as that's what an online class is (self-paced study/education), but at a much lower cost ($50-$75/CLEP test vs $95-$120/credit-hour in district).

      Props for mentioning OCW. They have some amazing classes you can take for free online. I'd *pay* to audit some of those classes remotely.

  • by JoeBuck (7947) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @12:03AM (#33040444) Homepage
    You know, the kind that advertise. It's a racket; they'll take your money, or financial aid money from the government, and give you a "degree". They don't want to let you skip "learning" what you already know because they want your cash. You need a legitimate institution, a community college or a state university.
  • by Beowulf_Boy (239340) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @12:06AM (#33040462)

    I just finished my Masters degree with Walden University in "Information Systems Management".

    So..my couple of cents:

    What I didn't know when I signed up was that I would be in the first class through the program. A lot of the classes were very badly layed out, as in what we would be doing one week would not match up at all with what we'd done the prior weeks or would be doing in the next weeks. It was very obvious the courses had been built by a bunch of outsourced educators in possibly another country, right down to the spelling errors or idiosyncracies in the language in the project descriptions. If we had problems with any of the assignments, or were unsure of the wording, we'd bring it up with the professor and it would be fixed quickly. I think they all understood that some bugs were still being worked out, and I received a nice discount ($600 a semester) for being a guinea pig.

    I do feel like I got a decent education for what I paid for and it being an online school. We never learned anything specific about any one product, ie IBM cognos, or MySQL or anything like that, but we learned in general what products like these were capable of, how to shop around for them, etc. Same sort of thing I learned in undergrad, we never got any certifications but I could easily pick up a CCNA, A+, etc because I've had all the ground work laid out for me and understand computers, networking and programing very well.

    I was kept fairly busy with the assignments, in an average week I would work on 2 papers, usually 4-8 pages in length, and a group project usually around 6-8 pages, as well as group discussions, reading discussions and some classes required we keep a blog of what we were doing. We had quite a bit of group work, which was some what challenging. Its kind of funny, I had no idea what my group members looked like until in the last class we all found each other on facebook. Nothing like what I expected. I was also the only male, and am fairly young (24) while everyone else was in atleast their mid-30's it seemed.

    I did have one really bad professor. I emailed him prior to the class starting and explained I would be on my honeymoon the first 2 weeks of class. I asked if he would rather send me the material early and I turn it in before I leave, or if it was ok if I did it when I got back. He said when I got back was fine. Well, I turned everything in the week I returned, only to get really bad grades for it being "late". I email him and am told "well I had to give you a bad grade for it being late, its only fair to everyone else.", and of course he stuck to his guns when I brought up the email where he said it was ok to turn everything in after I returned from vacation. He graded erratically throughout the class, never offering explanations for grades he gave. The class was badly laid out, and expected us to have a deep knowledge of Java in order to get an Apache Ant (I believe, its been a year and half) project built from the ground up, which I did not, and Java was not on the requirements for the entrance into the degree nor did I expect it, the degree was "how to be a programmers boss" not "how to be a programmer". The professor refused to help fix any of these problems, and I had to get in touch with the dean, who took care of everything for me and apologized for the problems we'd been having. After I got in touch with the dean, examples were added to the assignments involving Ant, so that instead of creating a project from a ground up, we had something to work with in order to get what we needed done.

    All and all, it was a pretty good experience.

    • 1) Are you satisfied that you got your money's worth?

      2) What is the ROI on your degree? (How many years will it take to pay back the student loans?)

      • Yes, I feel like I got my moneys worth. The degree took 10 classes to complete (33 semester hours), and each class cost about $2,220. So $22k total. My work picked up about $15k worth, so it really didn't cost me all that much. The loans are lumped in with about 60k in undergrad student loans, and they all go to into repayment here in a few months. It works out to about $350 a month.

        I chose walden because I liked the sound of the Information Systems Management degree, thats essentially the job I want to try

  • I find most Universities have zillions of strange and rather capricious policies that vary from department to department that somehow add up to the overall culture of the place.

    The Uni that I went to would allow you to get up to two credits in European languages after a talk with the appropriate profs but wouldn't in Asian languages. This plus attendance policies resulted in there being a effective 1 to 1 ratio of teachers to students making for great conversational courses for only the Asian languages. T
  • by DavidD_CA (750156) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @12:15AM (#33040500) Homepage

    At the insistence of my employer, I enrolled in online classes at University of Phoenix about 8 years ago. I was aiming for their MBA program. At the time, the classes were 5 weeks long, with a decent amount of weekly work and plenty of reading. Everything was online, including the mandatory newsgroup-style discussions.

    After about three classes, it became clear to me that I wasn't learning much at all. I was also able to get by barely doing any of the reading, and just turning in a few well-written essays and keeping my virtual attendance up. In other words, I wasn't forced to think to earn my grades. There were no tests in any of the classes I had. For all they know, I could have been paying someone to take the class for me.

    The instructors were nothing more than babysitting facilitators. They'd answer a question if you had one, and they'd grade your paper, but they were not instructing. They doled out assignments from plans that other people had written. Not once did they engage in a discussion or challenge you to think.

    It wasn't until my fourth class when I realized the mistake I had made. The instructor was on vacation. Yes, vacation. For the five week class, he was literally gone and unavailable for the middle three weeks with the exception of one day (in 21) when he checked his email (to tell us he was on vacation). Yet the class continued on.

    When the class ended, I complained about the level of "instruction" I was being given. They ignored me for weeks, and it wasn't until I encouraged about a dozen of the other students in the same class to stand up and say something. Finally, they wrote back and told me that I would be refunded for the class if I was willing to lose the grade that I had been given. Gee, thanks. And, only those students who asked were given that choice.

    That was my last class, and I'm glad. A few weeks later I spoke candidly to the HR director and he told me he was glad I stopped taking them. He told me that when people come in with degrees from University of Phoenix he just tosses them to the bottom of the pile. He recognizes them as a diploma mill, and a BA from there is less valuable than a GED.

    I've spoken with others who have attended University of Phoenix online and they all have similar stories.

    University of Phoenix has employees whose job is to recruit students, and they earn commission for enrolling you. Their focus appears to be to get students through financial aid so that they have no problem getting their money. Once you're enrolled, and paid for, you're just a student ID.

    Sadly I paid that "school" about $6000 of my own cash before realizing any of this, but hopefully others can learn from my mistake.

    Have they improved since my experience? I sure hope so.

    • by TooMuchToDo (882796) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @01:02AM (#33040782)
      http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/collegeinc/ [pbs.org]

      A great deal of this excellent documentary mirrors what you've said, and is pretty scathing to University of Phoenix. The worst part is, folks take out huge student loans to pay for these worthless degrees from for-profit schools, can never afford to pay them back, and can never get out from under the loans because you can't discharge them in bankruptcy (because said loans are backed by the federal government).

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by DavidD_CA (750156)

        Wow, there's a lot of information there. Click on the "Response from Colleges" link for all sorts of stuff.

        This reading is going to make me very upset, I can tell already.

        I would love to see a class-action suit brought against these schools for their practices. I'm just not sure there was anything illegal about what they did.

        Oh, and something I forgot to mention in my original post: very few of their classes are transferrable if you ever decide to move your credits to another university.

  • It has been quite a few years since I was in college but for my generation there was no such thing as being allowed to skip a course simply because one already knew the material. I am aware that things have changed quite a bit and perhaps some very liberal colleges allow skipping of courses for qualified students but when that is allowed accreditation becomes shaky.
    I can recall asking to be allowed to take a final exam on the first day of a co

  • by Ostracus (1354233) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @12:22AM (#33040554) Journal

    What online education programs have Slashdot readers been happy with and considered successful?

    I got my law degree through "IANAL but..." offered through Slashdot. Next week I'm going for my economics degree.

  • by crf00 (1048098) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @12:26AM (#33040574) Homepage
    Everything you need to learn is already available for free on the web. You just have to search harder to find them. I'd assume you want to enroll in university computer science as you are asking this in slashdot.

    For pre-U education to brush up your knowledge, there's Khan Academy [khanacademy.org] to teach you everything from primary school to even college.

    For formal university level education, you can get many of them free directly from university. MIT Open Courseware [mit.edu] is one of the well known examples. You can find a list of them at Open Culture [openculture.com]. Google Code University [google.com] is a less known but great site that helps you start and search on your online education journey.

    There are also video lecture collection sites that contain lecture recordings from various universities, such as Academic Earth [academicearth.org] and Video Lectures [videolectures.net].

    You may also interested in less formal technology videos such as BestTechVideos [bestechvideos.com] and Google Tech Talks [youtube.com].

    You can download a lot of ebooks from the web. Here is an example list [delicious.com] you can found on Delicious.

    In case if you are only interested in web design, IMHO the best way to learn design and multimedia is go to a real college. But anyway, there are tons of resources for web design too. Delicious [delicious.com] is a must have search tool for you to get started.

    I'd love to provide more links that I have but I'm short of time. But as always, Google [google.com] is your best friend!

  • You can face the same issues even when attending school in person.

    The educational benefit you reap will always rely on how much you want to extract from it. Motivated individuals can get competitive educations from crappy schools from their efforts on their own time. They can do this by just buying the books on their own without a college program. Others need college programs to guide their studies and their education.

    The college offers a degree, its reputation, and its network. If these aren't useful to yo

  • I studied 2 years at my local community college, and the experience was rather interesting. I attended some classes where the discussion was heavy and student input was valued by the professor. I feel i received the most out of such classes. The curriculum for my major(Networking Technologies) was fairly basic stuff that I had seen previously. If a teacher had simply spewed a lecture or read from a presentation I wouldnt have attended class, Most of my IT courses used a CMS, so i could log in from home to g
  • by bigbigbison (104532) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @12:52AM (#33040718) Homepage
    Business Week has done a few scathing articles about for-profit colleges in the last year. One showed how they go into homeless shelters and try to get homeless people to sign up for student loan money. One college even went so far as to actually pay the homeless students for attending classes. http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/10_19/b4177064219731.htm?chan=magazine+channel_features [businessweek.com]

    Another story was about how they have gotten into the practice of buying up super small trade colleges so that they can get the accreditation. One of these for-profit schools bought an aviation school and "expanded" it into mainstream courses http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/10_11/b4170050344129.htm [businessweek.com]

    A third story was about how these for-profit schools also target the military. http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/10_02/b4162036095366.htm [businessweek.com]
  • I've taught a few online classes for a state-wide community college. To say I've "taught" them is kind. I was basically a grader. The first day of the semester they blasted the material onto the online Blackboard system and it had all the due dates and assignments. I couldn't change anything on the syllabus because the syllabus was standardized for every section across the state and so were the grading tools. This meant that when they turned in speeches (yes I "taught" public speaking online for one of the
  • You're paying for a piece of paper that says you can complete assigned projects on time and of average (or better) competency. In most cases it doesn't really matter what you know, since you either already know it, or will learn it on the job. Your future employer is simply paying you more since you're already prequalified to be able to handle whatever project(s) they throw at you, and be able to expect you to finish them in a timely manner. If you're still convinced that being smarter than the average bear

  • by Skylinux (942824) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @02:34AM (#33041148) Homepage

    I had to take several classes where the teacher told me that I could teach this class.
    That is the problem when you have been working in the field and are now trying to join a system designed to start from zero AND to make money first.

    Awesome world we live in, is it not?

  • Unless you are going to get a ton of money do not bother with online courses.

    Part of this movement is a big scam to get people like yourself in debt [projectonstudentdebt.org] that you can't bankrupt yourself out of and can't scale back. CNN reported alot of these phony online courses simply put you debt that you have to pay up to $600 - $2,000 a month and do not get you the dream job to pay for the degree.

    I may sound cynical but my wife and I are about to go broke and go hungry because of our $2,300 a month in student loans that we

  • The Open University [open.ac.uk] has over 200,000 distance learners world wide. It frequently gets high ratings in student satisfaction surveys [wikipedia.org] - for three years running it was the highest rated UK university by this measure (beating off Oxford, Cambridge, London, etc). In the UK at least courses from the Open University are recognised as equivalent to those from other good universities, it's not a mickey mouse correspondence place like some "distance universities" but rigourously examined and with its own postgrad and

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