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My MBA at the University of Phoenix Online, Part 3: Course Logistics

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University of Phoenix LogoIf 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.

Updated May 22, 2011 and originally published September 27, 2006. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Dave S

Hey Flexo,

I am relatively new to your blog…and I now look forward to your missives. I am certainly enjoying your review of UofP, since I am looking at them for an MBA. What is your $0.02 on the deal with the Arizona Cardinals and naming rights on the new stadium? I think it was 115 million over 10 years…
Clearly, UofP is a private company…and the naming rights will help spread the word…
As a football fan…I could not envision going to the University of Phoenix Stadium…although, as a Pats fan…their home base is named after a razor…

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,485 (Platinum)

I just heard about the stadium deal yesterday… and I do have some thoughts. I think I’ll throw them somewhere in the series.

Glad to have you aboard, Dave! :-)

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avatar Marc

Just when I thought I had no one to ask about UoP online degree, I came across your blog. Thank you for some very interesting and informative reading. I look forward to the next three.

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avatar Jana

I just stumbled across your missive, and I am really enjoying. I am looking at it from the other side, as a faculty member, although I teach for UOP’s “junior” college, Axia. So this is all very interesting to me.

I was/am considering starting a blog myself, and part of what I would write about would be my experiences as an Axia of UOP facilitator. Hmm. . .I like this site quite a bit, and I am looking forward to the rest of your experiences.

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avatar Mike Berta

Flexo, you commented about the OWA and Outlook Express. UOP moved everything from OE and the old OWA into an ever-evolving online-only interface. It took about one class to get used to the new format, the online-only aspect, and the tools within the format but things are improving. I agree the old OWA was a bear to wrestle with when no other option was available. Still, I miss the days of Outlook Express, nothing like being unplugged from the Internet and still able to complete classwork.

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avatar Mike

So if you are only taking classes for 6 weeks, then I assume that you are spending about 8 hours in class/week/course to get to the equivalent of a 15 week course?

Also, whereas a traditional MBA takes about 16 months in class time, I assume that since you are only taking 1 class at a time at 6 weeks per class (plus a one week break between classes), that will would take you about 35 months to obtain the degree?

Plus, I assume that as with any MBA program, you spend at LEAST 2-3 times the amount of time working outside of class as you do sitting in a lecture. So then I can safely assume that you are spending around 20 hours/week working toward this degree. Additionally, since you are doing this all over computers, I imagine that there is a very signiificant degree of difficulty added to your work over being able to meet face-to-face with classmates. I’m sure that adds at least a couple of hours each week.

So if you are going to state all the benefits of your ‘MBA’, why not mention that if you are going to call it an ‘MBA’ you are probably spending about 22 hours a week over about 3 years…on top of a regular job?

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avatar N Kuhn

Mike,

I’ve never attended college level classes other than at UOP so I have no real means of comparison but it seems to me attending UOP is like having a bucket of water thrown on you when you’re trying to take a deep drink. You end up drinking a little but mostly you just get wet. The five week course structure is great for exposing you to all the concepts but not so good for drinking in all the details.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,485 (Platinum)

There are some trade-offs. Instead of listening to a two-hour lecture, as you might in a classroom based course, you read a lecture, supplemental materials, cases, and a general text. The two-hour lecture can be read in less than two hours. It’s the discussions with your classmates and teammates that take longer through the Internet than they would face-to-face.

I would say 20 hours per week is accurate for the courses that I needed such time. There were times I spent less than that, but I didn’t get as much out of those classes because of it.

I opted to eliminate the week in between classes for the last year or so of the degree to finish quicker… but I was constantly doing school work (when not at my day job) during that time.

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avatar Elio

Hi Flexo,

That’s great that you decided to share your experience with others.
I have just started my online MBA with UOP and was looking for reviews about this program.
What’s the realistical timeframe for it in order to complete?

Regards
Elio

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avatar Deen Sule

Great information, my mentor recommended UoP online MBA. Just ran into your blog which has awesome tips for a prospective entrant.

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