If you’ve been following Consumerism Commentary, you may know that I recently completed my Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree at the University of Phoenix Online. I’ve been writing a series, which is basically a review of the University of Phoenix.
The choice to take this nontraditional route was not a difficult decision for me due to my previous experiences with online education, but many people I’ve talked to have considered it without making a decision due to lack of information.
The question asked of me most often is simply, “How does it work?” Here’s how.
Each course except for the first is worth 3 credits. In a traditional setting, that means (at least) three hours should be spent in class each week. However, rather than having a fifteen-week semester in which 12 to 18 credits are undertaken, the students have one 3-credit class for six weeks and optionally a week off before the next 3-credit course begins.
It is highly recommended to only take one course at a time. While the University’s guidelines require participation only two days out of the week for attendance, each class will require active participation four or five days out of seven in order to receive full credit. The amount of work will be unreasonable for five-day participation in more than one course at the same time. Remember, all students are actively employed.
The “week” for each class begins on Tuesday and ends the following Monday. This allows use of the weekend for wrapping up assignments, which are generally due at the end of each week. Assignments almost always take the form of individual writing assignments (“papers”) or group writing assignments. Yes, a significant paper is due each week.
There are three main tools available to each student for communication and research. All class communication takes place in the University’s newsgroups and Outlook Express is required for access. (Alternatively, the student can access the classes through Outlook Web Access, but the interface is unstable and doesn’t work properly with many browsers.)
Each class has several newsgroups, shared only between those enrolled in the particular section. The Main newsgroup is where most of the discussion takes place. There is a “chat room” newsgroup for miscellaneous conversation, a “course materials” newsgroup for the facilitator to post lectures, presentations, and other learning tools, an “assignment” newsgroup for posting final versions of assignments in a location where other students cannot read them, and “team” newsgroups for each team within the class. There will be more on teams later.
The second tool is the University’s eResource, for which an additional fee is paid each course. This is a website that contains more course materials, including the text book for the particular class. The text books are either in a downloadable Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format or a digital rights-managed (DRM) version of Acrobat. The DRM was very frustrating to deal with and I much preferred the standard PDFs. The text books are all current, with case examples relevant to today’s business environment. Most of the texts have these cases updated every few years; I never read a text that was revised prior to 2003.
The University also provides a library of articles, including selected news magazines and peer-reviewed journals. Librarians are familiar with the databases offered to every student which include EBSCOhost, ProQuest, and several others.
The University labels its teachers or professors “facilitators.” These are individuals, all with MBAs and some with PhDs, who are leaders in their businesses and have extensive knowledge of the topics they are instructing. While each individual facilitator has his or her own style insofar as involvement in class discussions, I was not disappointed in the knowledge of any.
Before each week, the facilitator posts the lecture as well as several questions designed to inspire discussion, based on the text and article readings for the week. Each student is required to respond to the discussion questions as well as to others’ responses to the questions. The facilitator helps to guide the discussions when necessary, but for the most part allows the students to learn from each other’s experiences.
In my experience, some classes had very active discussions while other courses inspired much slower conversations. In the first case, the only way to keep up with the discussions was to log into the newsgroups at least once a day. In several classes, in order to keep up with the discussions, a dedication of several hours a day, seven days a week, was necessary. Technically, one could put in the minimum requried (four or five days, two significant contributions to discussions each day), but that would not be making the most of the course.
The students in each class are divided into teams. This was an interesting way to foster better communication through a medium and method (sitting by yourself at the computer) that lends itself mostly to individual work, opposed to meeting people in person. It also is a good way to mirror real business situations. In the most organized courses, each of the six weeks alternated with a major individual assignment due and a major team assignment due. Again, I’ll have more to say about teams in a future post.
Some of my classmates were undertaking the MBA at the University of Phoenix Online as their second Master’s degree. The consensus was that working towards the online MBA was more intense, required much more teamwork, and was more like “the real world” — in structure as well as by having facilitators who are actively involved with what they teach, not life-long academics — than any traditional Master’s degree curriculum.
Speaking of curriculum, that will be the topic of the next post in this series.
This is Part 3 of a series about my experiences with the University of Phoenix Online. Here is what has been published so far.
- Part 1: The Decision
- Part 2: Admissions
- Part 3: Course Logistics
- Part 4: Curriculum
- Part 5: The Team Experience
Updated May 22, 2011 and originally published September 27, 2006.