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Distance Learning Recommendations? 174

Coventry asks: "I left college two years ago. At the time, I was actually on staff and going to class for free - working on the in-house network. I left for better money, but now I want to finish my degree. Now, I can`t go back to school full time, I need to work, so my questions is several fold: (more -->)

"What accredited colleges or universities offer a full Bachelors in Computer Science through Distance Learning? How much do they cost? What are the policies on transfered credits, and 'Challenge for Credit' (testing out of a course for full credit) ? Has anyone else looked into this? I know that I want to teach on the college level at some point, and I cant seem to get my foot in the door, reguardless of my other credentials, at certain big and blue company. Any ideas? I do NOT want a buy-a-degree type thing. I'm more then willing to put in the effort and go through the course load, but I need to do it remotely, and preferably at my pace (fairly fast!)"

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Distance Learning Recommendations?

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Try the Rochester Institute of Technology. They do lots of distance learning stuff. Pretty decent courses, too. []
  • Where I work, ongoing education is always a priority. However, we tend to favor the three to five day "High Intensity" courses over the Distance Learning courses. One employee tried a web-based Perl course, and completed it with a less-than-adequate understanding of the language. Now it's my turn to learn Perl, and I'm not even considering an online course.

    Just thought I'd get two cents in early... :)


  • Honest question to everyone: Is a degree necessairy in the business today?

    I myself study and hope to have my master's degree "real soon", but different companies suggested to me to quit studying and start working already.

    Of course, I don't want to quit when I am almost done, all those semesters I have done so far would instantly be wasted if I stop studying when it only takes a little bit of additional time to have the degree.

    Then again, I meet former university students who started studying with me. They quit, some of them years ago, now run their own company (or work in high profile jobs) and it doesn't really seem to be a problem for them that they don't have a degree.

    So what's the opinion?

  • I was a chemistry major at a good technical university literally recruited right "out"---sold out---of school. Although I'd only a handful of credits left to finish, I have no regrets but share your wish to follow through for it's own sake.

    The best program I've looked at is the University of Phoenix Online [] distance degree program. I intend to matriculate soon unless I see a better opportunity (thanks for asking this question for me).
  • by cradle ( 1442 )
    I don't have any personal experience, but the University of Maryland University College has a well developed distance education program. They offer a Bachelor's degree in "Computer and Information Sciences" and also one in "Computer Studies".

    See their main page [], and also the Distance Education [] page.

  • Im in a similar situation, I use Athabasca University [] from Alberta (Canada eh!) They let you start courses anytime in the year, and they you can rip through them at your own speed.
    their website is very extensive, and they respond to email in less than a day. course prices range a bit, but mine have averaged around $400CDn but that includes all materials, like text books and studyguides... at the current exchange rate, that isnt to shabby. =)

    They have been reviewed as being one of the more credible distance education universities (i dont have the name of the last set of reviews that i read, sorry)

    Many Universities and colleges offer their own distance education courses. Still more computer Science faculties are offering courses that are directed via the web.

    Most Universities/colleges have a pre-approved transfer credit lists... ask the records services people or a course advisor. That might give you a good place to start from, especially if you want to attend a specific institute full-time at some point. (All the courses I take have been pre-approved for transfer credit with my od university, it really simplifies things)

  • That would be "...more than willing..."; don't skip the English courses :-)

    Seriously, I dropped out too and have sometimes wondered what a good solution for the sheepskin might be. Not that I've had it matter since...
  • You may want to check out James Madison University's Information Security [] program, if you're interested in that sort of thing. And especially if you're interested in working for the Federal Government. CIA, NSA, and all kinds of gov't security-minded folks are 'sending' trainees to this program. In fact, the NSA named JMU's infosec program as a 'Center Of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education.'

    Unfortunately, this is a Masters program, but since you're in industry, they may be willing to allow you in. It can't hurt to ask [mailto].

    I've also recently received a pamphlet in the mail from the University of Phoenix about their online BS degrees, of which CS was one. Sorry, I'm feeling too lazy to go downstairs and find the URL.

    Good luck!

  • I hate to tell you this, but in general, distance learning has been a mockery and a failure. Students don't get the attention they need, and teachers don't get enough feedback (numbers aren't enough). That and the systems aren't very secure and hacking is more than just easy, it's entertaining and worthwhile.

    But, the percentage of the population who is self-lead does tend to do pretty well in this area. For that topic, may I suggest reading the textbook and trying to test out of as many classes as possible. Transfer credits are iffy, and you should check on their acceptability towards your degree OFTEN. Many of my friends have been bitten by taking classes that WERE good for transfer credits, but by the time they finished the transfer hours, were no longer accepted by their school.

    Watch your ass, talk only to the people in the department who not only know but have authority, and make sure they remember you! If they told you that the credits would be valid and they remember that when you ask again and find out you can't transfer them, you have leeway.

    Transfer credits sound easy, but be _very_ careful and persistant.

    Good luck to you man.

    Insanity Takes Its Toll. Please Have Exact Change

  • I'll probably loose karma for this, but why was the above post moderated down to 0?
    Deepak Saxena
  • I think its cool that you want to go back to school. And it does seem as though distance learning programs in general (though I don't know of any great ones in specific) are advancing by leaps and bounds from well known universities down to small community colleges. However, you expressed an interest in teaching at the university level and stated that you were having trouble getting your foot in the door. If this is your end goal, I'm not sure if simply obtaining a degree or doing it via distance learning is the right path to take. It seems that most of the universities I have had experience with tend to be somewhat incestuous, and it seems logical that getting your degree in the manner you suggest might throw you out of the loop even more, while opportunities might go to less qualified, but better know students. I know that many doors have been opened for my at the university level because I've built a repoire with professors and admninsitrators. While I guess this is possible to do over the phone/via e-mail, in my mind nothing beats a good person to person chat as far as getting what you want out of people. Just wanted to give you something to consider... Best of luck with whatever route you take.
  • In cs, I think that a bachelors degree is always a good idea. It doesn't take *that* long to get, and you save hassle in the long run. Also, what happens if you lose you job in the future? You still have a degree behind you.

    A masters degree is another story though! From what I understand, they are essentially useless (sorry). Most companies don't want to fork out the extra dough...they just want code slaves. If you have gone through the pain of getting your masters, you might as well go all the way to your PhD. Then, at least, you have a chance of working for a research lab, or teaching at a university.

  • It is. If you are ever dissatisfied with your employer, then you have lost alot of points with other potential employers without that degree. I tried going down that path earlier. You have alot of problems with people taking you seriously.

    Especially with a masters. Technology graduate degrees are worth alot where there's so much pressure to not even bother finishing undergraduate classes. Grad Degree = $$. The semesters are worth several times their effort in future $.

    Insanity Takes Its Toll. Please Have Exact Change

  • It was not moderated down. It started at zero because it was posted by an Anonymous Coward.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The Globewide Network Academy [] maintains a catalog of over 17,000 distance learning courses and programs. These are from both informal and accredited institutions. So, you can either learn about something that interests you or find a place to go to college remotely.

  • I'm in the same position as well, and I don't know about the general age of the other people in this prediciament, but I'm only 20 years old (which seems old to me, but not to the rest of the world :) I've dropped out of college (twice :) to go work, and now I'm certainly in way to deep to leave to go to school again, and personally I don't think I'd want to anyway, distance learning would REALLY be a godsend for me, but the degree itself really doesn't concern me as much as actually learning what there is to be learned... and I don't know if $5,000+ one-week training/certification courses in highly specialized fields are the way to go, useful in some situations, perhaps, but I'd prefer the more general education associated with a BS.

    Anyway, my point is, the U of Phoenix online page says you need to be 23 to apply! Ahh! I guess it wouldn't kill me to wait 3 more years, but still... And I don't think I could get into RIT, skilled I may be, but school and I have typically not gotten along too well (although I did to considerably better in college than HS, and I had good SATs). Anybody have any personal experieince with any of these? I'm very interested in this, and would love to see some real-life testimony from someone.

  • Wait... he said he didn't want to buy a degree, he said he wanted to actually learn something. I don't think you should recommend Phoenix. They are a private institution out to make a buck off working adults, not provide a good education. If all you want is a piece of paper, Phoenix is the place to be... but don't expect the degree to be worth more than Phoenix's reputation (poor).

    I think univerisity of Maryland is a better bet.

    But whatever you do, make sure you preview their online materials first. A lot of the for-credit online courses rely on email, poorly designed messaging systems (bulliten boards), and a pitance of multimedia apps to convey the subject matter. You often don't get as much from the instructor out of online classrooms as you do in a brick and mortar setting.

    That's my personal opinion.
  • When I was in Sydney last year, I ran into some folks at an XML conference that were pushing the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology []'s then-new all-online certificate and degree programs. The program seems pretty solid, and the University is a hotbed of XML work. They have since been marketing to me pretty hard, and both my conversations with them and the materials portray it as a no-bullshit all-web-based program for BS, MS, and PhD in technical fields. Check it out the online program here. []

    While it seems all well and good, can anyone who has actually attended a program there comment on it? RMIT seems more serious than the current wave of schools using the shovelware method of developing online course offerings. Is it as good as it appears?
  • I don't know your exact situation, but I went to school at night for 2-1/2 years, while working (enlisted scum in the U.S. Navy, actually.) This was late 1990 - early 1993. I got a BSCS. It's called National University []. At the time, it was touted as being the third largest private educational institution in the country. They were in California and Arizona at the time, although I have no idea what they have done in the meanwhile.

    Any major urban center should have something like this. It's not as good as MIT, (very light in the math department, for instance) but the classes are all taught by people working in the field, actually using the things they teach while at their day jobs.

    If you're still reading: The schedule was two nights a week (M/W or T/Th) from 5:30 - 10:00pm, and every other Saturday for 8 hours. One class a month. Started off with Pascal, quickly switched to C, then classes on compiler design, databases, assembler, hardware design, and a 3-month long senior project at the end.

    They gave me credit for just about every college level class I had ever taken, as long as I could provide a transcript, and I ended up needing 24 classes to graduate - with each class being somewhere between a 3 - 5 credit hour class at a regular university, I imagine. I seem to remember it was 7 elective and 17 'core' classes. The classes were $495 each at the time.

    It may not have as much cachet as MIT, CalTech, U of Waterloo, etc. but I can talk the talk well enough that I don't think it's ever mattered.

    Hope this helped.
  • You said that you were interested in teaching. If this is the case, I think the degree is very necessary. Those who say it isn't really important are not teaching but working in the field.

    In the workplace, it's true that performance is more important than degrees, but in academia it is exactly the opposite.

    If you want to teach, I would recommend taking courses at a well-known University. If you have an idea of where you would like to teach, take courses there so you can get your foot further in the door by developing personal relationships with the local people in power.

    To get a teaching job, anything you can do to improve your image as someone who appreciates traditionl learning is well worth it. Taking distance learning courses will only help you get a job teaching in a distance learning center.

    Good Luck,


  • I'm taking two classes at UMUC right now -- they are working out well. One thing to keep in mind is this: In the end, the benefit you receive is proportional to the effort you put into it. You can easily squeeze through some of these classes putting very little real effort in, but if you truly want to learn, the environment is a good one.

    Also, there are a wide variety of students in the program. When I started I assumed most people would be "local" (In the D.C. Area) however about 50% of people are far outside the area, including people from Russia, Sweden, Kansas and even Oklahoma .

  • by Signal 11 ( 7608 )
    Perhaps the more important question is: How important is your education to you? If you're just doing it to get a certification / something to put on your resume, that's a vastly different area than if you *really are* serious about your education. If time isn't a big concern, I'd recommend bribing your local perl guru with a 12-pack of his beverage of choice to get him to go with you to the bookstore and pick something out he feels covers the material well and you like it's style (some people like the * for dummies series, others like the thick tech reference books). Honestly, the most efficient and effective way to learn computers, IMO is to bug somebody who already knows what you want to know... and ask them to help you. Don't be afraid to ask for help - believe me, it will save YEARS off your education!!! I am always milking anyone I know for info about their college, where they went, what they liked / disliked... I trade books with people... I am constantly swapping information. As a result, I can pick things up alot quicker than the people who just read the book and then think they know it. I'm talking to the people who do know it.. they can tell me what's important, and what's not. They can tell me where to look for information, and how to conceptualize complex things (try learning object oriented programming from a book if you wanna know what the definition of "hell" is).

    Really.. I picked up C++ in about 4 months (the basics now, people) and went on to write a 1500 line program (mp3db - get it @ freshmeat). How'd I do that? Simple .. I bugged the crap out of all my programmer friends for algorithm books, I literally inhaled C++ Primer Plus, etc.

  • Is a Canadian(?) organization specializing in distance learning. I had to take one or two courses online to get the required credits for my degree (~2 years ago). This was done in Canada at a local university college and IIRC there were people from all over the province in the courses.

    I don't suspect that OLA is available in your area, but they might have associations elsewhere. The University I went to is called UCFV (check and is able to transfer a lot of courses to major universities - ie. do your basic courses for cheap at a local college, then go do your remaining higher level ones somewhere "important".

    As far as Online courses go however, I found it difficult to stay on top of the course with those things. There weren't any formal meeting times organized, just get online and d/l your grades and new homework, and don't forget to check the message board type idea. I found it difficult to motivate myself to recognize it as a "real" course while I also had 4 other courses per semester. I also found there wasn't a lot of info in the course material as such - lots of air, 'course that could have been due to the instructor preping the thing too...

    Anywho, you might try to find a local university and go for transferable credits or alternatively a 'brand name' one which has a distance learning program in place. If you go the Distance learning route, be sure to thoroughly check out their program, and try to talk to some people who've been through it. It seems there are a lot of fly-by-night techy colleges springing up these days - be careful of them, some don't have the financial backing to deliver even a full year of their program (as a few of my friends found out).

    Anywho, best of luck

  • Based in Athabasca, Alberta, Canada, Athabasca University is an accredited, correspondence based University and offers (among other things) a Bachelor of Science in Computing and Information Systems degree.

    Courses have a six month (maximum) length and no minimum. If required, you can purchase extensions to the courses as well.

    Transfer credits are examined on a course by course basis. You'll need to send in a transcript of your previous college experience. I believe most of the courses can be challenged.

    There are a few rumors floating around that Athabasca U may be starting a Master's Degree program in Comp Sci as well, but nothing official has come out to confirm that yet.

    Main site is located at [], and here's a direct link [] to the Bachelor of Comp Sci page.

    You may also want to browse this page at a 0 threshold, as an AC pointed out another possibility. (I'd moderate him up, but then I wouldn't be able to post this.)

  • Very good question, I am in a similar situation. I am working full time, and the only education I have been doing is working on my Certifications by my self, I have been interested for some time now about going back and finishing my 3 years of CS. I just don't feel right spending the time and money I did for something I still want to do, but not doing it.
  • If you really want to teach you will have to actually go to the university just so the people there can see you. And you would probably have to start as a teaching assistant which means you will do all the leg work for some other professor. It doesn't sound like you have the time to do this if you wan to keep your full time job. IMO the BS is worth it only if you cann't take the upper level classes without it. I learned a lot in my upper level classes but I probably could have taken them day 1 and done just as well. As for the industry it depends on the company you will see people who post that you don't need the degree and people who post that you need the degree, at the end the issue is what you want. Getting a Masters just for $$$ is not worth it and again IMO if you want to learn more you can always buy books so the Masters in only usefull if you don't think you can learn on your own or if you want someone to explain concepts to you.

  • You have asked, in your "Ask Slashdot" piece,

    "What accredited colleges or universities offer
    a full Bachelors in Computer Science through
    Distance Learning?"

    "How much do they cost?"

    "What are the policies on transfered credits?"

    While I agree that what you have asked are important, I feel that you haven't asked the MOST important question of all -

    "Which university offers the BEST COMPUTER SCIENCE COURSE which teaches not the MUNDANE, but the UP-TO-THE-MINUTE stuffs that can be truly useful in REAL WORLD, with the teachers who can REALLY TEACH?"

    You see, you can go to the cheapest university and get a piece of paper, but you may not get ANYTHING useful for the TIME (remember, TIME _IS_ MONEY !!) you have invested there.

    You can go to the MOST EXPENSIVE college and still GET NOTHING.

    You can go to a university where you can transfer ALL YOUR PREVIOUS CREDITS, but then, you may end up LEARNING NOTHING out of this experience.

    I am in a position of hiring, and most often, the newly minted college grads often have NO IDEA what the REAL WORLD OF COMPUTING is all about.

    I rather hire HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS who do know their way in and out of the systems that I want them to work on, rather than the college grads who have to RELEARN EVERYTHING.

  • Stanford [] has a distance learning program called SITN. You can watch regular Stanford CS lectures on TV and even phone in questions. You submit your assignments either by mail or electronically. If you live in the Bay Area you can come to the university for exams.

    I'm sure it's pretty expensive, but it certainly isn't some hokey Buy-A-Degree!

    Here's a link to the Spring Quarter course offerings: Continuing Education []

  • This thread will sooner or later arrive at the big question ..... Is a degree necessary for IT professionals? Don't we learn it on the job, and not in the classroom?

    Most of the people who say skip school, and get the experience have a valid point. Most employers would rather have the skills than the degree. In fact, they even tend to try and talk you out of finishing school to come work for them.

    Why?? Because they don't have to pay you as much as they would have to if you had a degree. Think about it... Salaries rise exponentially with the type of degree (bachelors, masters, phd's). Employers know that people with degrees and skills cost more than those lacking the degree (I know this for a fact, my company is going through this right now).

    My advice ... tough it out, finish the degree. You'll still learn the skills in or out of school, and be that much more marketable.

  • by teebo ( 43281 ) on Wednesday November 17, 1999 @01:57PM (#1524116)
    I have been thinking a lot about the education system and it's structure lately after I had an interesting experience. I was majoring in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering here at the University of Minnesota, and now that the semester is more than half over I decided to peruse the web pages of the Computer Science courses that I would be taking later. I looked through their homework, their midterms, the notes, etc. and over all was not very impressed.

    Day after day I skip about 80% of my classes as the exact same thing that is taught in lecture is almost word for word in the book.

    What's to stop us, the Open Source community, from creating these very same textbooks (which could be written much better as often times these $100+ textbooks are written to supplement lecture material, therefore being clumsy in many areas)? Once they're online not only would students save thousands of dollars, but it would be a great step in the direction of making education available to everyone regardless of economic class.

    At South Dakota State their lectures are broadcast on the dorm's cable network. Why not tape these lectures? It's not like in today's generic university there is any "interaction" in a 300+ student lecture hall. Now that bandwidth is getting cheaper and cheaper, these could be online as well for those that "need" to see someone doing and saying the material.

    It seems extremely inefficient for professors to teach the same thing semester after semester if not several times a day. The same material, over and over. A bit inefficient by today's technological advances, no?

    I want to create a whole new model of schooling, free schools, so bad! So, why not?
  • From my expirience, it's a good option if and when ...

    1) You have already gone through a BS degree in person (!remotely). So I would say it's good for Masters (what I'm doing now) or maybe some extra classes here and there but no degree (continuing education).

    2) You work well by yourself. It seems obvious, but if you're the type that needs to study/do homeworks in groups, asks a lot of questions in class, talks to the professor a lot in his office, distance learning might be a problem.

    3) The Distance Learning program is "good". Where I work (and in Florida) there's a program called FEEDS (Florida Enginnering E(something) Distance Learning). It's a program that lets you do masters for most engineering type degrees. The classes are provided live via satellite (the optimal case) or delayed by tape (my case). This is a good program , and I would recommend it to anyone in Florida. (I'm sure there's something like this elsewhere).

    4) You have a real job (and they pay for it). If you're flipping burgers at McDonalds, get off your lazy butt and go to school in person ! 'Nuff said.
  • I ended up signing up with AICS. Of course I did it when I was 18, and I took the BS/MS combined program. I'm still working on it, and it's a few years later. The books are ancient now, but the coursework is still relevant (C/C++/Java). I don't know, I think looking back on it, it was a mistake. I could have gone onto a real school, and I did. I just had this nagging thing in the back of my mind. At the time it seemed like a good idea, but I understand now, that the sacrifice you make to get to college, and going to a real school, is worth it. Professionally, spiritually, and educationally.

    I always wondered, and never got around to asking. How real is the degree? If you say it's a distance learning thing, does it automatically invalidate whatever you learned? Does it mean much at all? I hate to confess, but I'd rather graduate from a real school, so as I have time, I work on this degree, while going to classes at a real college. (read, a building with real computers, obnoxious teachers, and the occasional babe).

    My only negative encounter so far? I wouldn't try to get a Doctorate out of this, because that Master's isn't going to be worth very much, trying to apply to a Post-Graduate program.

    Someone else (several someone else's) have mentioned the issue of requiring a degree. It's true, don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Once the Internet boom dries up, and those webmasters who can command a 6 figure salary, have a hard time getting contracts. Things are going to have to change. Industry trends look good, but it's almost stupid to not get a degree, as that puts you in the position to work in management (with the suits), where the money really is. (Of course, you could do it the dot com way, and found your own company and make 20 Million, and screw the degree, but that's somewhat rare).
  • If you're trying to get your foot in the door at a top notch company only on the basis of your education, you need a top notch education. Distance learning just doesn't cut it. Its a sham and smart bosses know it. Programs like U of Phonenix that give credit for "life experience" are a sham and smart bosses know it.

    What you need to get into a good company is a full, real education and real experience. Technical traning won't cut it because real programming and real projects aren't just about techncial expertise. Being able to communicate well verbally and in writing is one of the single most important parts of software development, and good managers know that. Other important things are working within an institutional culture, dealing with different kinds of people at different skill levels, juggling different responsibilities and projects, etc.. Distance learning doesn't teach you or expose you to any of these things.

    Most CS classes, in and of themselves don't either, but going through a full degree program (and all those damn core classes do have a purpose!) at a major university will expose you to all these things, as will working in the real world on difficult projects.

    Truthfully, if I were a boss looking for a programmer to join my team, a philosophy or music major from a top school looks better than somebody with technical credentials from a third rate school, and experience looks even better still.

  • I study in Germany, where things are quite different.

    1.) students study a lot(!) longer, yet do a lot more of jobbing while at university (hence study longer)

    and 2.) the bachelor's degree is something that is completely new here. Until very recently, everyone either made a master's degree or dropped out before making it. Only few universitys offer a bachelor's degree and many faculties are sceptical about such a "half a master's degree".

    Here at Hamburg University, they introduced a bc just to find out if it is being accepted by students and the industry, also as a way to honor those who did most of their studying yet decide to leave university.

    I myself already qualify for a bachelor's degree and may even go and get myself the paperwork just for the fun of it (despite continuing on my master's degree).

  • by Animus ( 27924 ) on Wednesday November 17, 1999 @02:05PM (#1524122)
    Actually the direct url to RIT's Distance Learning program is [].
  • Check out this website []. It's headed up by a friend of mine. It gives some pretty good info about distance education.
  • I also have taken an Athabasca course. Standard tuition is $375 Cdn ~ $260 US including textbook, etc. The 'study guide' was basically a hand-holding walk through the text book: read pages 5-8, write down all the bold terms, do excercises 4 and 7 on page 10.... Courses felt more like community college courses than classic computer science. This is both a pro and con - community colleges are more flexible than big universities, often are able to tailor their programs to the job market of the day. So Athabasca has a comp sci course in object-oriented systems analysis and design, while the local big school does not. However, the emphasis on flavor-of-the-day skills means that higher level skills (think algorithm design) are not emphasized as much as in the school where I have taken face to face comp sci courses.

    Given all that, I will take more Athabasca courses, but I'm not sure I'd want to take a degree there.

    best of luck.

  • Also, what happens if you lose you job in the future? You still have a degree behind you

    Not sure where you're from, but in North America nobody gives a shit about your degree after your first job. It's always "Where did you work last?" and "What is your experience?" It's kind of ironic... you need the degree to get the first job, but after that it's useless. I'm glad I managed to get around that... All it takes is an employer with a little vision instead of someone looking for a cookie-cutter degree.

    Don't take me wrong; degrees aren't completely useless... but CS? I'm terribly sorry, but if you're not a programmer by heart you're not gonna survive... you will have "learned" how to program, you will have "learned" the logic... but your heart won't be in it and you'll still churn out shit because it's not you. If you're a programmer by heart you'll do far better than anyone with their bachelors, masters or doctorate in CS who's in it for the money. If you're a programmer at heart and take CS... well then you've got all those holes in your knowledge filled and you'll kick ass. I guess it's the same in almost all fields though. :-)

    Oh yes... I didn't mean to be derogatory with the "not sure where you're from" because I've heard that in Germany they care a whole lot more about your education and even after 20 years in the workforce you'll still be asked what your education is.
  • I'll support what the others have posted: UofPhoenix has a poor reputation within the educational community. If you're looking to get a degree while you're working (so you can be promoted to management within your current company) it might be a godsend. For someone looking to get into education, or for another field where degrees are scrutinized, you'd probably be better off without it.

    UofPhoenix also has brick&mortar sites (25 or so) - they are opening a campus in my area (Seattle). One interesting thing about their program is that you take a single class at a time, which lasts for about 5-8 weeks, 1 or 2 long sessions (3 hours) a week. Excellent approach IMHO, especially for working students. One could take classes during the slow times and take off when you're busy. I wish my school worked like this.
  • It seems to me that the most indispensable undergrad degree is an engineering degree, as it is one requirement in many places to legally call yourself an engineer (which has special legal advantages).

    Does anyone know how to get an engineering/AppSci degree by distance ed?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    All the Australian distance learning degrees are pretty good. The system is a lot more tight here than it is in the US. We simply don't have the bogus colleges with degrees that are literally paid-for pieces of paper. Further, the distance degrees are identical work to on campus degrees.
  • One thing you have to remember is the difference between credits and classes.

    I took a couple semesters off of my current school(University of Pittsburgh) and decided to take a couple community college classes in the mean time.

    The community college advertised until they were blue in the face that their credits tranfer over to Pitt. They do. But their classes didn't.

    I took a calculus course at the community college. So when I went back to Pitt, they said that they would take the credits BUT, you still have to take our calculus class because the class doesn't transfer over and you need it for the other math classes.

    So, basicly, the class was useless. So even though I took a calculus class at the CC, and Pitt took the credits, I still had to take a calculus class because they didn't take the CLASS as the prereq. to get into Calc. 2

    So, your best bet would be to go to where you want to finnish, and see what distance learning courses they take, and choose the best from them. You may even find out they may not take ANYTHING that wasn't learned in a classroom enviroment. Transfering credits and classes differs GREATLY from school to school.

    I know that if I would have went to Pitt and got the full information BEFORE I went to the CC, I would have saved a couple hundred bucks and more then a few hours of work.
  • In my experience, a degres isn't so neccessary to get in the door as it is to advance to high-level management and augment pay. In the 3 companies I've had long term relationships with, I've seen complete idiots get promoted to senior positions over other candidates based primarily on educational background. I've also seen dramatic differences in salary between managament peers with/without degrees.
    IMHO - if you're serious about moving UP the ladder and don't have access to a startup, it's well worth the investment in the long run to get that piece of paper.
  • I have managed to luck out without a degree. In the last three jobs I have it would have help out my placement with a masters or a Ph.D. I worked thought the ranks for the last 20+ years to get were I am now (12 of them were in the military). I am continuing to fight in the year end reviews against my peers that have these degrees. I have to prove that I am as good or better than they are.

    I have been attending night schools at the expense of private life to get that degree. Get it at all costs. Never down play that silly piece of paper. You may not personally seem to use it but once during the hiring process, but it is used by management type to judge people. Call it bullshit but it is there and it will work for you or against you.

    Been there and am still there. Some day I will be able to say "been there, done it"
  • Not sure where you're from, but in North America nobody gives a shit about your degree after your first job.

    Maybe this is true in America, but not so much in Canada. You want a job? You have to jump through the hoops, and that means bringing up the issue of education. Although there is currently a shortage of qualified people, it sure doesn't make companies any less picky.

    Just because you can get a job without a degree after having worked in the real world doesn't mean that employers don't give a shit. It's certainly not going to hurt. If all else fails, you have the basis for a career change. The current job counselling view is that most people will make several career changes within their lifetime.

  • "I didn't mean to be derogatory with the not sure where you're from because I've heard that in Germany they care a whole lot more about your education and even after 20 years in the workforce you'll still be asked what your education is."

    This is true, to a certain degree.

  • Well, this whole thread has started my mind churning again on the subject of getting an education.

    I am an IT professional. I'm still amazed by that fact, to be honest, because the only 'education' I have is an 8 week night course in HTML. (No, I don't do any web work anymore, I haven't for a couple of years.)

    I put my head in a few books, hacked around on my own computers at home, checked out the cabling and played with "net" commands on my non-tech employer's network in my non-tech job... put together a resume with "skills" listed first and "education" not listed at all, sent it to an datacom R&D department, and got an interview. I didn't get the job.

    But I closed the interview by asking what I needed to learn, and they were kind enough to tell me - four months later, I came back and *did* get the job.

    A friend of mine was just hired here. He has his degree in CS, and was hired at 6k/annum more than I was. That, to me, is really not all that much money to give up, when getting that degree would cost me considerably more than that in tuition, materials and work lost while I'm in school.

    That's my story and I'm stickin' to it. Good luck!

  • Deakin University [] is really big on off-campus. I am off-campus myself, doing the Bachelor of Computing (Computer Science/Software Development). The school of Computing and Mathematics is here: [].

    They offer off-campus all over the world, and I know of one person last semester that was in California. Check them out...

  • The Open University in the UK: Do all sorts of distance learning degree's including Computer Science. Jamie.
  • for your advice.

    I have heard opinions both ways. It's interesting how passionate they are in either direction. One grain of salt keeps coming up that I do not see mentioned here. I'm told that distance education is a hot coffee-klatch topic with traditional academe. Many professors are paranoid and administrators livid with the revenue and census these programs generate. They will abet a "whorehouse" reputation at any opportunity. (I don't know personally, yet.)

    I'm certainly reconsidering U o' Phoenix and will be sure to sample course materials.
  • I took a class through SITN and while you can earn a degree that way, it does have some serious limmitations.

    I took an OS class, which is very project oriented - group project oriented. There was no one in my town taking the class remotely at the time, so it was difficult to find a project group. Eventually I found one other person a few timezones away. He didn't have to pass the class, which can be a real motivation sink with such time consuming projects (to say the least).

    Of course, taking an intense class like OS while working full time can get pretty miserable, especially if you work on most of the projects by yourself.

    The TA's were very inaccessable, to the point where I had to complain to the program administrator (i.e. not responding to email within a week). If you're on campus, you can corner the TA's after class or stake out their offices, when you're a few hundred miles away, you're SOL.

    I took my class through my job, which had a full time distance learning administrator to proctor exams, I'm not sure how that would work out if you were doing the classes independently.

    It is more expensive than taking the class in person, you pay additional fees for the webcasts, administration, video tapes and priority shipping of tapes, exams etc (why they couldn't just e-mail me a damn ps file, i'll never know).

    The webcasts were kinda lame, the "whiteboard" would be a copy of the class notes - which I had already downloaded a printed out anyway. And the video section was usually a 2" headshot of the proffessor, the videotapes were much better IMHO.

    If you're gonna do the distance learning thing, NTU is another option. They offer distance learning classes from numerous universities, so you might get better class variety. You can also avoid classes with any universities that make distance learning a pain in the ass. They are also more expirienced with distance learning and (I think) a bit cheaper that Stanford.

    Stanford is a great school, but one of the big advantages that you get going to a big name school is the research oppertunities. Since you won't be on campus, and won't be a full time student, you probably won't get to work in a proffessors research lab.

    If you want to teach at the University level, you will eventually have to get a Phd. While you can get a BS or an MS online, you'll really have to show up in person for the Phd. One possiblity would be to do the MS at a school that you'd like to attend for the Phd, that may make things easier.

    You could also consider doing a part time degree at a local school, even if it's not a great school. You'll be graded easier, have more slack for your work schedule and actually get individual attention form you profs and TA's. Having killer grades, reseach and recommendations from a podunk college might help you get into the grad school of your choice more than having o.k. grades, no research and no recommendations from a top shcool.

    Good Luck!
  • I have a PhD in another engineering field (chemical) from a well-known university, and am getting tired of the lack of opportunities and shrinking R&D organizations in the industry I work in, even though I've been pretty successful overall. I've done a lot of hacking, running small networks and so on, sold some software as shareware etc. but don't have any formal CS coursework to point even though many of my ChE course required some programming. I would like to change fields even though I know for the first few years I would probably take a pay cut. My own field is just rehashing 20-30 year old technologies, and you can see the field drying up. What would /. folks recommend that I do? I've looked at CS curricula, and from what I see it looks like I've got more of the maths, numerical analysis, etc. in my background than any MS CS graduate would have (My PhD minor was in math, which gives me an equivalent to a MS in Math) - what I don't have are the formal software engineering methods. Would certifications help? Or are there crossover training programs that would be useful?

  • .... and it is a really good program if it is executed right.

    I've been told by some people that out West, UoP's requtation is better since they have been around for 25 years there...

    The main problem is not the program or the course content, or even the faculty, who is required to work full-time in the fields they teach, but with the is impossible to get a hold of people sometimes and there are far too few counselors available as compared to the number of students. Faculty and students quit on a fairly regular basis because the administration is so bad...I'm likely to get my BS from UoP and then move to Central Michigan, which offers a Masters program for information technology in a similar format....

    The sessions are 5-8 weeks long, 4 hours a week (one session per week). You also are required to be in a study group, which meets for a couple hours a week to complete group assignments (this is how you get the minimum # of hours and still be accredited)

    It qualifies for loan purposes as "full time" enrollment status, too.
  • You, as a hiring manager, would like to hire the people who will deliver the maximum "bang" for the buck: people who know the specific systems/languages your organization uses, so you waste no time training them.

    However, a person is much better off having a general CS education than specific skills. They can apply the theory they have learned to new problems/systems/etc. and are much more "expandable".

    Systems and languages change all the time. A person is much better off knowing what an operating system is, than just knowing all about NT x.0.

    Once some one has mastered the basics of CS (BS or even MS) they should get specific certification if it helps them earn more money, but they should never choose the certification over a general education.
  • Okay, I have to ask (since I'm thinking of changing jobs soon, and you seem likely to know, if you'll take a minute to answer) -
    What's the general attitude towards Bachelors/Masters/PhD levels in Canada? In the U.S., I think, a bachelors gets you plenty of job opportunity; a Masters gets you a few more job opportunities and a higher pay-scale. A PhD is a sort of an odd thing that means you either get really high-up jobs or are overqualified (aka, 'we don't want to pay PhD-level salary for a simple coder')

    And, if you know, how hard is it for an USA resident-native to get a Canadian residency-permit & work-visa?

  • That's not true. My employer has been very supportive of my seeking my degree. They would MUCH rather see me with a degree than without one.
  • Learning is a fine thing.Learn something new
    daily.Learn till the day you die.
    You want to teach at a college level.The
    answer is obvious.Give up.
    You are appearantly very busy,too busy to
    attend regular classes.Your language skills are
    sadly lacking and as such you have no business
    teaching anyone.
    As the consumer of a higher education I
    already have to contend with absentee professors,
    tenured morons and liberals pushing agendas as
    fact.I don't need anyone lecturing me who is unable to appropriatly express themselves.I the
    consumer deserve better.
  • Columbia has a good program. It's a real university, which means its a lot of real work. It's definately going to require some time and effort on your part. It's also pretty hard to get in.
  • I actually work for a university as the webmaster responsible for our [] online distance learning department. We don't offer any kind of CS degree, so my opinion is only biased by my own prejudices. These are also just my personal opinions. Now, to the questions I may be able to help you answer...

    > What are the policies on transfered credits, and 'Challenge for Credit' (testing out of a course for full credit) ?

    Every program is accredited by one or more accrediting bodies. There is no such thing as "fully accredited". There are only agreements between colleges and accrediting agencies on what a course or program is *worth*. Therefore, if you plan on transferring credits between institutions you will need to contact the destination institution to find out if that course (and be specific that it is a DL course) will transfer and how the credits will be treated (i.e. if and how they can be applied toward the degree).

    >I do NOT want a buy-a-degree type thing. I'm more then willing to put in the effort and go through the course load...

    I would not recommend Phoenix. They are the most together, have the most courses, the most degrees, the best marketing, and are pretty high on customer service. However, they are also the most expensive, most commercial (as in for-profit-mercenary), and least interested in providing a good education. They can get you your degree - though not an education - and they will make sure you pay for it.

    In the *realm* of distance learning Maryland and Colorado are good schools. (I'd like to think we are too, but I'm biased and we don't offer CS anyhow.)

    Also, watch out for programs that make you use *special* software to access their classrooms or that outsource their online materials. A lot of this software is terrible. If the university doesn't have or is not willing to commit the resources to develop their own online classrooms then they probably aren't ready to deliver at a distance. Think about it: do would you outsource your core business functions?

    <rant>This software/outsourcing course creation thing chaps my beans... it's whole purpose is to allow the instructors to create courses on their own, so the university doesn't have to make a large investment in actually supporting the development, the faculty, or the students. Don't get me wrong, the instructors are always experts in their fields, but is it really reasonable to expect them to be experts in multimedia development and online delivery as well? They don't even write books without a team of editors and graphic designers to support them! How can you expect them to be experts at web and media design and the tools they require? Is it reasonable to think we can *dumb* the process down that far and still produce a quality product? I don't think so either... no wonder DL is getting a bad name. A good course can only be created by a team that includes experts in design, programming, and GUI as well as experts on the subject matter.</rant>
  • I don't know where you live, but CMU offers an MS in software engineering offered in their Pittsburg campus and also at a NYC site.

    Having an engineering PhD would show that you could easily handle the intellectual material, and your programming knowledge is probably enough to qualify.

    CMU is a top 4 CS school in America.
  • It seems to me that the most indispensable undergrad degree is an engineering degree, as it is one requirement in many places to legally call yourself an engineer (which has special legal advantages).

    I shouldn't preach, but engineering is a PROFESSION. You don't just receive your degree and tack on a little "I'm an engineer!" badge; you have to apply yourself to a standard of work and behaviour and abide by a tight code of ethics, much in the same way as doctors. (I won't mention any other professions - like lawyers - since the cynical would say they have a very flexible set of ethics)

    Learning to be an engineer is completely different to learning to cut code. Confusion in recent years has arisen due to the popularity of new courses such as "Computer Engineering" or "Computer Systems Engineering". Whilst these courses (and even basic Electrical and Electronic Eng.) teach programming and computer hardware and computer networks etc, the area of work that they focus on are different.

    Whilst your comp sci. degree may take you into business situations designing in-house software systems for companies, an eng. degree is aimed at taking you into failure-critical systems such as aircraft autopilot systems, or coal-furnace controllers. Working in these types of situations requires team members to apply themselves very thoroughly to standards of work, and to always, always put the safety of the public first.

  • Others have thrown universities out there, so here's another, Illinois Tech. Here's what I know:

    1. Top ranking as an engineering school. When I checked out schools for CS, it was #17 in the nation (forget who ranked).

    2. Has distance learning centers in various countries. I believe Africa and Brazil are two, but I don't remember. Increasing. Only university expanding in this way.

    3. Has IIT TV, which lets others watch the classes and call in questions to the teacher. This is during class - realtime. These students must take the same exams, quizzes, and labs. They can also come to classes if they wish.

    I don't know much... but its better than ZD University or what ever garbage is out there.

  • Maybe this is true in America, but not so much in Canada. You want a job? You have to jump through the hoops, and that means bringing up the issue of education. Although there is currently a shortage of qualified people, it sure doesn't make companies any less picky.

    Really? It wasn't that hard for me to get a job without a degree, and after the first job it was piss simple to get the next one. I started at 32K (cdn) which was a bit low for Vancouver, and when applying at a new company the next year, I got them to concede to 40K (the squeaky wheel works wonders here).
    My education did come up because I only had 1 year of work experience, and they were looking for a MINIMUM of 2, but a BCIT computer systems diploma and a quick chat with one of their network coders about data communication theory settled it.

    Of course, just prior to the end of our negotiations I told them to stuff it and took off for Japan, but that's another story.

    Get the skills to get the job done, and have confidence that you can do it. Employers will pick up on real confidence when you talk to them.
    Recruiting agencies are generally shit. Go straight to the company, even if they aren't advertizing an opening. If you impress them enough, a job opening will "magically" appear.
    Know about the company (what they do, what their vision is, how they are doing). There's nothing people like more than hearing about themselves.
    If they think you're desperate, you're screwed (You'll either get low pay or no job).

    Come to my seminar! Only 3 easy installments of $2999.95 for a 3 hour workshop!
  • First, I ranted on another post []. You may want to check that.

    As for the differing views:

    Administration- They see online courses as a huge revenue generator. They *think* they'll be able to have one instructor teach hundreds (thousands?) of students simultaneously, without having to spend a lot of money on buildings, equipment, etc. This is (of course) totally false. It has been my impression that the amount of work it takes to teach a course (properly) online is directly proportional to the number of students. Unlike a traditional classroom, where most interaction is in plain view, online courses require a lot of one on one communication between the faculty and the student. If you have 100 students, you have 100x as much email than if you have 1 student.

    Faculty (camp #1)- They fear online classrooms for the same reason administration likes it; they think it will take their jobs. These are the luddites. They know what they are doing, they've always done it this way, and the new way is worse! (yeah, right... and the Internet is a fad - soon we'll go back to mimeographs because that was so much better.)

    Faculty (camp #2)- These are the people that *think* they know how to do all this. They'll use some POS software and create a message board, maybe a chatroom and a Real video clip, then post their syllabus online and think they've just re-invented education. These are the zealots. They don't realize what they don't know about the technology, or the frankenstien they've just created.

    Students- Hey, anything to get out of class. Seriously though, DL is really best for *adult* students who *can't* make it to a traditional classroom because of careers, families, location, etc. Adults are best because it takes a LOT of intiative to take an online course... there is no (IMHO shouldn't be) *set* class time. Without that constant, regular, and scheduled face time that a traditional class brings it can be easy to fall behind. You really have to take reasponsibility for your own learning.

    Of course the truth to all this is somewhere in the middle. What is the web all about? Information... Communication. It is inevitable that *class* will be taught online - but the final form will not be any of these views.

    Right now there is a lot of snake oil. Everyone wants to be first, but not many are trying to be the best, but give it time. As someone who reads slashdot, and probably is familiar with opensource, you know that the cream will rise to the top. The best ideas, the best programs, and the best implementations will prevail. That's what you are looking for now, isn't it? ;-)
  • Try Berkeley Extension [], they have a good Comp/Sci program and offer quite a few distance learning courses over the web.
  • FYI, I just checked the web site, and it seems for US citizens it will be $604CDN ($483US at current exchange rate of $.80CDN=$1US... the exchange rate was more like $.65CDN=$1US earlier this year). Still might be worth it to do the learning through a distance-oriented establishment.

    I found this information at 2.htm#foreign []

  • And your solution is...?

    To a large part I agree with you, however, what is the "BEST, UP-TO-THE-MINUTE" college out there?

    I went to OIT, where almost all of the Faculty also worked in the industry 1/2 the year and taught the other 1/2. For example, my faculty advisor was on the team the invented/developed the PCMCIA standard and taught all the VLSI (chip design) courses...

    however... you can't get that online.

    So what do you offer as an alternative?
  • Tuition is going to be higher for "foreign nationals residing outside of Canada". My 1997/98 calendar shows about $200 CDN per course difference, so of course that's equivalent to about a couple of dollars for all you Americans...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    There is a web site dedicated to this problem, They allow accredited colleges and universities to post imformation about courses and degree programs. They have a nice search engine for the database too. Check it out.
  • I am 25 with 7 years of experience under my belt in the IT field. Network admin and that sort of stuff. I have begun learning perl on my own, and its coming along fairly well. I have NO college whatsover, would you folks think its worth it for me to begin going to school now?
  • Of course it's a profession, but that's no reason you can't get the required degrees by distance learning.

    Here in Canada, you also have to spend two years as an apprentice and pass certain tests to become an engineer. This is a much more effective system for weeding out incompetents than a university.

    Anyway, I think the whole "profession" thing is overblown. I've met incompetent, lazy engineers and ones that cut corners. Damn few of them seem to respect their ethical obligations to the end-users, accepting whatever management says is okay (they act more from fear of litigation than from any code of ethics). Same with doctors and lawyers.

    In fact 90% of the engineers I met (I worked for 2 years in a co-op engineering program before giving up in disgust) didn't deserve the title as it is represented by the professional organizations. I wouldn't trust them to build me a flashlight, let alone a jet engine. The truth is that the reason important things aren't usually clumsily built is not that professional engineers were involved, but simply that they are important, so the human beings involved in the design and construction take care to do the job right.

    Everyone should do their work ethically. Everyone should be competent at their job. A short-order cook is every bit as ethically obligated not to poison his customers or spit in the food as a professional chef.

    The difference between a "professional" and a skilled laborer is approval by an old bureaucracy; often one which has gained a government-enforced monopoly. Like any group which is profitable to belong to, they set up complex initiations and other barriers to entry, which they use to ensure that the current members continue to profit and that the new members are thoroughly indoctrinated to become useful tools of the group in return for a share in the profit. These are the true purposes for the degree requirement and the fixed-term apprenticeship.
  • Maybe this is true in America, but not so much in Canada. You want a job? You have to jump through the hoops, and that means bringing up the issue of education.


    I live and work in Canada. You don't need no steeking degree to get a job past your first, at least in my experience. My resume proudly says "Education: High School (OSSD)". Why proud? Because I'm damned proud of the fact that I am making $60k with that high school diploma. No, it's not an IT-related job, unless you consider designing embedded industrial power electronics IT. I'm damned proud of the fact that I beat the system. And I'm damned proud that I can show others that if you've truly got the smarts and the drive, you don't have to blow $50k or more and four years of your life right out of high school to prove to the world that you're for real.

    Just because you can get a job without a degree after having worked in the real world doesn't mean that employers don't give a shit. It's certainly not going to hurt. If all else fails, you have the basis for a career change. The current job counselling view is that most people will make several career changes within their lifetime.

    Very true. I'm working on my second. Working for myself in electronics design consulting.

    I am NOT saying that a degree is worthless! I am saying that for 75% (to pick a number out of my ass) of the population, YOU DO NOT NEED A DEGREE TO SUCCEED. That's a blatant lie by the guidance councellors to push kids into more education than is necessary. Why? My little conspiracy theory is that their salaries are based on how many kids from their school go on to post-secondary education. Don't know what you want to do in life? Go to University and find out! What utter fucking bullshit! In Canada it's taboo to go to College. If you don't go to University you're considered stupid. Every day of my life I prove those fuckers wrong.

    If you know what you want to do and you know you need a degree, get your ass in and pay your dues. But if you wanna be a code monkey or an electrician or a writer or a gradeschool teacher, get the fuck out of univeristy. Take a 10 month course in college where the knowledge is hands-on and for God's sake, don't waste your pime years because some twitt behind a desk told you you need it to survive.
  • Come to my seminar! Only 3 easy installments of $2999.95 for a 3 hour workshop!

    Sounds like Learning Tree International... Special High Intensity Training indeed! :-)

  • What accredited colleges or universities offer a full Bachelors in Computer Science through Distance Learning? After reading this, you've piqued my interest.
    Does anyone have similar info on Distance Learning for a MSCS? I was planning on doing some night school after work, but then had to change jobs which increased my commute time. This made night classes impossible. I do NOT want a buy-a-degree type thing. Ditto.
  • I don't think you'd ever get free schools, because to be good, a course has to be current, and for that you need new material which means paying someone good to write it.

    And there are problems trying to teach a full university curriculum without physical space. Many science courses require labs, etc.

    But, a good comp-sci technical school could be done. And if not free, it could be done quite cheap.

    You'd need to have content written and presented by the professors. And you'd need to have them available a certain ammount of time online to answer student questions and explain the lesson.

    You'd also need to charge a bit just to run the day to day business end of the school. Secretaries, librarians (even if the resources are electronic, they need to be properly cataloged.)

    If you were going to give certificates you wanted to mean anything, you'd have to have fairly cheat-proof testing. Ditto if you want people to be able to challenge a course. This probably means hiring a bunch of local firms to test the students in their area.

    So, free is unlikely, especially if you want to have your degree mean anything, not just teach people. But cheap. Cheap is doable.

    I'd go to a school like this. I don't have time for 'school' but I could always learn something new, and having a piece of paper saying I know the things I've learned on the job would be handy. Especially if I could challenge the course if I knew it that well.
  • My answer is more in question form. You say you were working and going to College for free but yet you left it to get a higher paying job. Now is the job actually higher paying looking back on the fact that you now want to get your degree? I also left school for a good paying job (consulting job for that matter now I work for myself but I make a min of 70k a year or I was) but I don't have a need for a degree. I could easily stop everything right now and go back to school fulltime to finish up the rest of my schooling with the money I have saved but my question is if its that much better pay why can't you just stop everything and go back and get your degree like it seams you want to? It looks like its really not that much better in the pay area considering then eh?

  • Just had to chime in here. Distance Learning is just a format - like classrooms are just a format - for a learning experience. You don't get a distance learning degree - you get it through and using distance learning. They say by 2003, 85% of U.S. colleges will be offering distance learning courses and that 15% of all college students will be taking distance learning courses. That's quite a trend for traditional colleges and universities. And it means lots of flexibility for busy, working students (usually adults). RIT ( for one, has been offering some of its on-campus degree programs through various forms of distance learning since 1991 -- including an M.S. in IT and one in Software Development. It's the same faculty, the same 11-week courses, the same course numbers, and the same degree programs as the on-campus format. can take the courses when you can fit the work (and there's alot of it) around your life. For example, right now, my work day is done, my kids are in bed, and I'm in my "virtual classroom" in the PhD program in Education from the University of Nebraska.
  • You should check about local degree completion programs. These offer
    flexible schedules and liberal acceptance of transfer credits.

    For example, in Illinois (were I currently live) there is a Board of
    Governor's Degree Program that I am currently enrolled in. Although I've
    taken course at about half a dozen schools, I only have to take a total of 15
    more hours to get my degree.

    Check out the "Bears Guide to Earning Degrees Non-Traditionally", which
    offers many options for getting a degree. It is available at most libraries.

    I considered getting a degree by distance learning but decided that the
    classroom was a better option. Of the distance degrees I checked out, the
    University of Maryland looked the best. They were reputable, had a lot of
    distance classes and were reasonably priced.

    For an online reference, this page is just about the best.

    Good luck in getting your degree. I have 12 hours to go.
  • The only college I've seen that offers a Masters in CS is Nova Southeastern
    University. I can't vouch for the quality, but they are regionally accredited
    and have a brick and mortar campus.
  • You are damn right. I'm only 20 and I went to University for two years, where I learned, among other things, that "Institutional Learning" is a bunch of bs. I was recruited to work at a better University, full time without a degree. Now I'm high on the list of one of their Dept's.

    If you want to learn, pick up a damn book. Download the source, demo, whatever. Buy the pieces and put the thing together. Once you know something ask someone who knows more than you for help.

    Although I'm only 20 I have close to 5yrs. worth of exp. and they are paying through the nose for it. I get solicited for jobs every day.

    It is true that a degree may matter if you want to do other things in life, but if you know what you want now, why wait?

    Good Luck with whatever you all decide.

  • This quarter at a local community college, I have been taking an online class in report writing as one of three classes (the other two are conventional classroom fare) and I've found that the online class has been pretty well useless. For one thing, the system (known as WebCT) used in the class is, despite appearances, essentially non-interactive in nature. The class consists of a few documents in PDF and HTML providing the information for the class, a message board and an internal e-mail system. There is also a chatroom component, but in the times I have visited it, it has been completely empty.

    If you have the time to sort through all the information (made especially difficult by the poor interface on Acrobat as well as the inherent difficulties of reading large amounts of text on a computer screen) you might be able to get the information required. (Some classes also use RealAudio lectures, but those are another can of worms entirely.) It would also be an effective solution if used as a self-paced class, but the way the class I'm in works, you still have deadlines... As it stands, I will most likely be retaking the class as a standard instructor-led class next quarter.

  • On a side note, one of the computers people at my school is taking a Masters in distance education from Athabasca. He says its really good, and quite well put together. One of the big things to look for is how good their online software is for interaction. I've contemplated using a Slashdot based site as an interactive forum even for students ...

    - Michael T. Babcock <homepage []>
  • by alexhmit01 ( 104757 ) on Wednesday November 17, 1999 @05:49PM (#1524183)
    Do keep in mind, you have military service, which is NOT insignificant. There is an extreme amount of respect for that.

    The other thing to consider with your military service is that it compensates for the other fear of hiring someone without a college degree.

    If nothing else, a college degree (even in something useless like Art History) demonstrates that you can complete a task once you start it. Twelve years of military service will convince anyone that you aren't a slacker.

    Also, those with degrees are immediately biased against those that aren't. Fair or not, there is an assumption that intelligence and education are correlated. While that is true in general, I know a lot of bright people without degrees and a lot of morons at top schools. However, you immediately rule out any decent job in a large company without the degree, they'll have policies.

    If you want to sysadmin/C code your whole life, you can get by without a degree, however, I think that you'll run into problems.

    For example, experienced coders (age 30+) are having SERIOUS employment problems because companies are stupid (you didn't work with Java?) or their managers (usually in their 20s) would be uncomfortable. Because of the age discrimination in this industry, later in life you're going to be hurting without the degree.

    When you are in your 30s or 40s, you may have difficulty obtaining work in these positions. Unless you aquired some management experience, you're limited.

    With a solid undergrad degree, you have many more options. 10-15 years down the road, if you are having trouble finding work or bored with your work, you always have the MBA option. Without a degree, good luck getting into an MBA program. With that MBA in hand and years of experience, you can land a nice, cushy, management job in the industry, probably paying twice what you're all excited about now.

    There is also a HUGE social status issue with degrees. People without them lose respect in the eyes of most people with degrees. Before ignoring that fact, consider meeting a prospective spouse's family, maybe swapping stories about life, and they ask where you went to school. Want to tell people you didn't go to college?

    For entry level programming/sysadmining jobs, you can easily get by without the degree. If you want to move up, you're going to have REAL difficulty without the degree. Your job mobility is going to be severely impacted. Even if you can land another job, think that you'll have as easy a time getting that senior level position? The one that HR insists needs a Masters degree? You can probably get it with a bachelors, but not a Masters.

    Besides the job opportunities, undergraduate years are a blast. Why you would pass up the prolonged American adolescence is beyond me. Pick a school, have a blast. You can work part-time/summers to aquire work experience, and later on in life, you'll be glad that you did.
  • Hold on a second, there! You are too quick to discredit the worth of a university degree like that. Does your income level warrant you to make that quick a decision outloud? Besides, 60K doesn't sound like all that much, you know. After all, you convert that to USD, it's like 40K only.

    $40k, but with health and other benefits... You're Canadian (I believe)... You know there's more to it than the 64% or so exchange rate (haven't been keeping up with the rate, it's probably a little off :-)

    I also live and work in a small town (less than 5000 people) so adjust your indices accordingly. I was offered a job at Xerox in their development labs in Toronto but declined because I felt the lifestyle/stress tradeoffs would be more negative.

    I have a bachelor's degree. I have worked for about 3 years now and make a good six-figure income in Canada. I get about 8 weeks of vacation time annually, too, so I am not talking about a kind of job that burns you down to the root while it may pay better.

    I too have similar benefits with a very relaxed work environment, which is why contemplating leaving who I work for now is a very complex decision. :-)

    I honestly believe that University has its merits, some of which you have pointed out. My beef is how high schools are literally cramming it down every student's throat like it is the best thing since sliced bread. They literally brush off college. Why is this? Certainly not because employers are asking for it. Why are most of the people I know not sure why they're in university, aside from being told by parents, educators and the media that they need to be there for something?

    THAT is my beef. Yes, university's a higher education. Yes you have fun and broaden your horizons there... but I can think of far cheaper and "better" ways to obtain that same end result. Why spend $50k+ to have a good time and broaden your horizons?
  • I think in a lot of ways, you get out what you put into something. I'm not sure programming is something you want to tackle online if you don't know much about it to begin with.
    Florida State [] University offers a full CS degree online. It is offered with a concentration in software engineering, I believe.
  • You could try the UK Open University. They have a sister branch in the US ( and many of their courses are highly rated by the UK govt. assessment agencies.
  • I don't think you'd ever get free schools, because to be good, a course has to be current, and for that you need new material which means paying someone good to write it.

    Good point. Heck, I don't think you'd eve
    get a free OS, because to be good, a OS
    has to be current...

    Oops, never mind.

    Seriously, WNight has some good points. For
    example I totally agree that human interaction
    is generally important in pedagogy (though
    I wouldn't underestimate smart courseware).

    And, as ESR and others have pointed out, the open
    source philosophy works better for some things
    (OSes) than others (apps).

    But just because something hasn't been done, or
    or wouldn't work the old way, doesn't mean it can't be done, or won't work in a new way.
  • I *completely* understand your frustration and agree with you that something along the lines of what you propose *must* be done.

    As an electrical engineer with minors in mathematics and physics, I had a whole heck of a lot of university courses to attend. In addition to this workload, I also completed all the premedical requirements. After graduating with an EE, I started medical school and completed the first two years. I then completed a two-year information technology MBA program and have since returned back to medical school as a third year medical student and am currently working in the hospital. I plan on combining my technical background with medicine and business to start a high-tech medical firm.

    Along the course of my education, I have had probably a hundred university courses spread out over nearly 11 years. I must say that the amount of information presented in all of those lectures could probably be condensed into about 15 classes spread over 3 years. What an incredibly inefficient use of resources, energy, and money!

    What I have found is that it is a rare professor who actually takes the time to *hone* their lectures and edit them until they are concise, clear, and *optimized* for learning. Usually, they simply reuse lectures from previous years without even attempting to update them and improve them because it is such a time consuming task. Should we require them to do so? Is it efficient to require them to do so? I don't believe it is.

    It seems that, while there may be a million different ways to present a lecture on "muscles of the eye" or "binary tree algorithms", it's probably not the most efficient use of time/money/resources to require a thousand different professors/lecturers across the country to produce a thousand different lectures on the same topics. To then require them to repeat this information year after year, day after day, or even several times a day seems like an incredible inefficiency in the educational system.

    An "open source" methodology might very well be applicable. Can the energy and resources of so many geographically separated professors, students, and colleages be pooled to produce organized, concise, and clear lectures freely available and accessible to all? Can such order be produced from such chaos?

    With the incredible rise to prominence of "open source", and in the larger scale "open collaboration", such a system is at least a possibility...
  • Don't forget to close that italic tag...

    Good point. Heck, I don't think you'd even get a free OS, because to be good, a OS has to be current...

    Well, a school is primarily a name thing. I went to [name], and [name] was my professor for my main course. Thus it helps to have known professionals for the big courses.

    And it also helps to have a consistent course, where all the material is written and presented by one person, so they really understand it and how to teach it.

    Some course work, the lower courses especially, and a lot of the TA work, helping students, could be done by less well-known people.

    In fact, it could be like the usenet oracle. As part of your tuition, you spend some number of hours tutoring people in lower classes.

    But, I don't think open-source is a good model for the upper class teaching. Consistency of presentation is important. It probably wouldn't cost much though, because most of what a prof charges for is the constant demand on their time. If they could record one set of course work, even with a bunch of suplemental work, they could do it in less time than teaching two courses.

    I for one, would rather learn at a school with Knuth and Sedgewick, etc, teaching comp-sci than a bunch of random 'professionals' who all donate a badly recorded two-hour MP3 of what they feel is important. I'm not into paying $10k a year, but $500 is pocket change for getting a well known prof.
  • After reading your comments I had done almost the same thing, your life reads similar execpt that I did not get free education at the University which I was employed. I was disenchanted with the education system when I had to teach Doctored professors how to use an Xterminal and move files between a unix server and a pc. Also when the Networking prof. started asking me questions about ISDN to teach in his class, well maybe I shouldn't really attend classes.

    Anyways, I have begun to try and continue with finishing my degree, though i find it tough to actually find time to do the course material, I'm attending Athabasca University [] which I seem to enjoy cause it's pretty much self teaching from an textbook (yes i interact better with a book). I haven't had to write a test but the only thing i had to do was get a transcript from my old university, everything else I have done online. You can even pay for course via credit card online (sweet, get airmiles on those courses along with a tax deduction!). This university is the only one to offer distance education which is credited at the same level as all other University Institutions in Canada. Course are around $400 each (about 300usd) with a $100 enrollement fee. The online site is pretty good.

    I have been satisfied with it so far. I have looked into the online student chat areas and have found that there are others in the area who might not really be quailified to take courses (i'm doing java right now). I was expecting the java course to be a breeze but it's more a lesson in OOP then 'java' as they are teaching the fundimentals of OOP with java. There are students taking this who expected it to be a bird course, sort of like 'chips for dips' or 'dos for dummies'. If the level of education for the rest of the course are comparable then it would actually give a person a good foundation in CS, which is after all what they are suppose to be doing right?

    good luck.

  • It's word play but bear with me...

    Imagine a construct, whether it's a web page, a book, or even an AI program. It contains large amounts of information indexed on a particular topic. (Ok.. not just a paper book but...)

    Say a Volkswagen Bug (I love them myself)

    A knexus on a Volkswagen Bug could contain the history of the Volkswagen Bug, Schematics, Driver testimonials, views of the bug with emphasis on aerodynamics, fuel flow, energy distribution, engine design, repair stories, tips, common breakdowns, engineer notes translated from German... etc... ;-)

    Now if to that, you can add an AI that asks questions, tests answers, and based on deficiencies or curiosities offers more content.

    A pedagogue in a box...

    And one of the tunable parameters is the more you work with it, the more you know..

    If you can go through say 60-70% of the content..
    You need to get out more... But if you make it through 20% of the content you have good knowledge, 40-50% you are absorbed enough information via interaction to be well rounded..

    I just know the things I remember and retain have real life examples attached or good breadth and scope. Just facts don't hold. But if the content is an exploration it holds better...

    Now if I could just find a knexus on Electrical Engineering cross ref'd with a knexus on Mathematics and Physics... *SIGH*

    With one of those I wouldn't want to go to college... Actually... ;-)

    But a degree and the knowledge it will grant me is currently my only path...
  • And perhaps I can learn to spell... or is that parse?

    Is it bare with me?

    Hmmm.. I see English 101 in my future...

  • Yes, the Open University is well worth a look.

    They _used_ to broadcast great chunks of
    stuff in all sorts of different subjects
    on BBC2 at weekends. I picked up all sorts
    of information about all kinds of things
    watching the OU. Of course,the TV broadcasts
    were only one part of the courses, so I
    got nothing like the full OU experience out
    of this :-)
  • I don't get my degree to make more money. I enjoy what I do at University.

    But the point is that I equally enjoy working in the business already and as I see by other fellow ex-students' examples, you can work in the biz without the degree.

    That makes one wonder - do I really have to stay at university for two more semesters or should I just go ahead right now. That's what my original question was about.

  • I can recommend the Open University [] too (moderate this up someone).

    Only problem I see is they have exam centres in Europe only. The USA and rest-of-world is handled by "affiliates". I'll try and find out who these are.

    Regards, Ralph.

  • least here in Canada.

    Engineers must follow a code of ethics and here they take an oath called the "Obligation of the Engineer" at the "Ritual of the Calling of the Engineer" in which the engineer receives his iron ring which is worn on the little finger of the working hand as a symbol of the oath.

    Anyway, use of an oath isn't the definition of a profession, a profession is "a self-selected, self-disciplined group of individuals who hold themselves out of the public as possessing a special skilll in the interests of others."
  • least here in Canada.

    Engineers must follow a code of ethics and here they take an oath called the "Obligation of the Engineer" at the "Ritual of the Calling of the Engineer" in which the engineer receives his iron ring which is worn on the little finger of the working hand as a symbol of the oath.

    Anyway, use of an oath isn't the definition of a profession, a profession is "a self-selected, self-disciplined group of individuals who hold themselves out of the public as possessing a special skilll in the interests of others." All provinces of Canada officially consider engineering a profession, and enforce a monopoly for one engineering association.

    BTW, I've just learned that the bastards have stretched the apprenticeship (as in experience under the direct supervision of a professional engineer) period out to four years. So you're looking at a minimum 8 year commitment of time to become a professional engineer.
  • It's mainly two other things: (a) fraud prevention and (B) accreditation, i.e. proving that student "X" did the work, and that the work is equivalent to course "Y" taught at an accredited university. The accreditation councils here in the U.S. are conservative to the max, and not inclined to release their stranglehold on the definition of what constitutes an "accreditable institution".

    There are some initiatives moving forward toward "course banks", such as the New York Regents college, etc., but as far as I know, there is not truly an "Open Source Academia" that we could all contribute to (as yet).

    Finally, there's the scope problem: assume I put a really great (and fully accredited) "Engineering 101" course (for example) on the web, and that instead of $100 per credit hour, it's either (preferably) free or a modest cost (say $10.00 per credit hour). And any student anywhere can transfer that course to their own institution/degree program of choice, saving $270 for the course. Heck-ov-a server load, wouldn't you agree?

    Anyway, that's not going to stop inexpensive online education from happening for much longer. The web and even non-exotic HTML are just too damn powerful to leave the lousy status quo alone.

  • Oh, I realize the economic disadvantages. I'm just not all that concerned about them. The cost of living is lower as well, I think, though I'll have to watch the regional-variance.
    But, basically - Canada's a nice country, it's right next door (I already live in New England), and I have net-friends in various parts of Canada that I might or might not be near if I moved there.
    But, basically, I'm more interested in having employment that I like than having employment that pays well, and I see no reason to cut myself off from opportunity in Canada, and I think I might well enjoy living there, at least for a while.

  • Hiya,

    YOU ARE ME !!!

    I'm 20 years old and am about to drop out of Uni for the second time because of a great deal from industry (lured back by my old management into a new startup, v.promising).

    I really don't want to give up my degree though so I'm thinking of doing it via distance learning.

    Have you though about a degree with a Uni outside of the states? I'm thinking of the Univsity of London's external program (
    (I'm in the UK).

    I'd love to have a chat with you about this, and if you've got anywhere with your research. Drop me an e any time!



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