I started at Columbia's extension campus on Fort Leonard Wood in 2002, and earned an associate's degree while on active duty. Growing up, I had always dreamed of going to a "real college" and so I didn't necessarily think highly of the education I got in those old classrooms at the (decidedly unglamorous) Ft. Wood Education Center! Still, Ms. Alexander's English Composition classes taught me everything I would really need to know about effective writing for the next ten years. I should have appreciated it more.
A few years later, I got my chance to go to "real" college, where the other students weren't in camouflage and buzz cuts. I was imagining something resembling a disciplined, idyllic academic utopia, but found mostly apathetic, spoiled teenagers. Class discussion was mostly sparse to nonexistent; I'd try to engage but almost never got any takers for class discussions. I was surprised to find the quality of the actual learning was, overall, no better at Real College than it had been in the old musty Ed Center!
After several semesters of that, I took a long hiatus from education to focus on raising my family, finally deciding near the end of my GI Bill eligibility to finish that bachelor's degree. Going back to Columbia was a natural choice. They accepted my transfer credits with no fuss, and the administrative and business sides of the house could not have been more pleasant and straightforward to deal with. Their online options are spot on for non traditional students.
As it turned out, I had only fifteen hours left to go. Every professor I had during my second stint with CC was wonderful. (My favorites were Anthony Lechner and Phyllis Whealon, teaching philosophy and statistics, respectively.)
The online environment was engaging and I love the 8 week format. It's just as much work as the traditional 16 week semester, but concentrated, so you get to immerse yourself in one or two courses at a time, instead of juggling four or five. Getting exams proctored offsite was a bit stressful at first, but once you figure out your routine, even that is very convenient; you schedule it whenever is good for you during exam week. If you are close to one of their offices, you can just go there and that is even easier. So now I have a degree from Columbia, though I have never set foot on its main campus. I really enjoyed all my experiences with them, and if they'd offered a graduate program that interested me, I'd have gone back for grad school, too!