We’ve all seen the articles on the Internet and in the newspapers about online universities with scam degree programs and “purchased” degrees. Are these scams? Are the online degrees real? And is an online learning environment equivalent to what one would receive in a traditional learning environment?
In 2001 I enrolled at the University of Phoenix in the online Doctor of Management in Organizational Leadership program. Having completed an MBA and working in a management position with my company, I had heavily weighed what my next step would be in my career and if in fact I did want to incur further educational debt. After much thought, I decided to forge ahead and pursue the degree. This particular program is designed for a mid-career professional and to explore taking ones’ career to the next level by creating new knowledge to contribute to today’s society and community.
Having met the requirements and successfully haven written the necessary paper to be accepted into the program I prepared for my first two-week residency in Phoenix. This would include orientation, submission of the first actual paper and forming a doctoral team that I would be a part of throughout the program. We would arrive in Phoenix with all necessary books and supplies in tow for our first two weeks of class.
The first morning of the seminar Doctoral journals were given to our cohort to chart the years of study in the way most appropriate to the individual learner. We were introduced to our professors that were graduates of Harvard, Yale, Brown, Northwestern, and many other excellent schools with excellent experience and credentials, and then our journey began.
Once our teams were formed we immediately formed a strategy for how we would approach team projects and presentations both in Phoenix, and upon return to our respective homes which were inclusive of California, Florida, Georgia and Washington DC. Conference calls and Yahoo conferencing became our best friend. We had daily contact because of the way the online learning program is set up. An online learner logs onto the student web site, enter the classroom and participates by reading the days’ discussion and then by posting individual thoughts, while responding to others’ thoughts and opinions. In addition to reading requirements, required individual papers and team projects one is required to do, that doesn’t leave very many hours in the day, especially is one is employed full time.
Where online learning may not be for everyone, with good time management one can be successful. The program is very demanding, very structured, and one must definitely be a team player. I would have to say I put more hours and commitment into this program than I did my programs at a traditional university.
Is the degree necessary? Is it something you must have or is it one of your dream accomplishments? Do your research and decide if this is beneficial career wise as it is very expensive. Not only is the program expensive but what is necessary to participate is as well, such as computers, books and the two required annual residencies in Phoenix. The spring residency is two weeks and the winter is three days at the students’ expense.
Since The University of Phoenix began their program, many other online learning programs have surfaced. In fact, most big universities now have online programs, and those who don’t have fallen behind in technology. The fact is The University of Phoenix benchmarked the online learning program. They determined the level the bar was to be raised and the standard for non-traditional learning, and have lived up to that commitment.
When considering an online program, always go to the schools’ website to check their credentials and accreditation. When incurring this much debt care should be taken to ensure the investment in a program of this nature is solid.
To answer the two questions most people ask; are you buying a degree? No you’re not buying a degree. You are paying for a course of study the same way you would at a traditional university. Are the degrees real? I can personally speak for The University of Phoenix where I attended and the answer is yes. As I mentioned above, always check accreditation. Take the time to research the number of schools that now have online learning and you will be surprised. Then determine if you want to make that investment in your future. After all, earning a degree is a lifetime accomplishment and this is something you will always have. They can come and repossess your car, and they might even take your house, but no one can ever take your education away from you. Happy online learning.