American Public University System
American Public University System - Comments and Student Experiences|
As with any university, it is what you make of it. Online classes are almost always more work intensive than standard classes at brick and mortar schools. That does not mean that they are necessarily harder, just that they require more writing to prove that you are learning the subject. That is pretty standard for all legitimate online schools. Classes at the lower levels at this school tend to be a bit more cookie cutter, with very large student / teacher ratios. There are always graded forums and the lower classes often have timed open book tests. There are VERY FEW proctored tests required at this school. As an English major, the majority of my work is in writing essays. The higher level classes tend to require a significant amount more reading, writing, and research to maintain good grades. I have had lower level classes that stat with 40 students and end with about 30 passing and I have had several 400 level courses with 5-6 students at the start and only 3 of them surviving to the en of the short 8 weeks. Some people are simply not prepared for the workload of an online class. That being said, I have found that a majority of the low level classes were quite easy for me.
The classrooms themselves are very easy to navigate. I went to another online school prior to this one, and they were not set up for an online only atmosphere like APUS. The other school was a physical classroom first and foremost and their online program was sort of an after thought. APUS is online only, so they have adapted to be very user friendly. They do encourage you (and occasionally require you to) use their online library, which does take a little practice to learn how to navigate effectively. However, with the three online article databases they subscribe to and a wealth of online books, it is pretty much essential for conducting scholarly research online. I would not think of oing to an online school that did not have access to ProQuest, JSTOR, or EBSCO. I occasionally use Lexipol too if I want to look up newspaper articles. he point is though, that they provide a wealth of resources, which are necessary when you have to write the occasional 10+ page research paper.
I have had some classes that were very easy for me (technical writing, Wold History classes, most into classes), and required very little work, and I have had classes that really engaged me (Literary Theory, History of the English Language) or were incredibly demanding (Linguistics, Shakespeare). Even though the classroom looks the same in each class, they are not all equal.
Many times it is the quality of the professors that make a class good or bad. I have found that the overwhelming majority of professors at APUS are extremely helpful and engaging. I have only had two professors who I have any real complaints about. The first obviously had an understudy doing a lot of her communication and she was difficult to reach, the other was an accomplished Dr. in the field of linguistics and was completely rude and arrogant. So two bad apples out of 30 or so professors I have interacted with is not so bad. Most of the time they have gone out of their way to help the students and to make it known how to reach them best, sometimes even providing personal information to offer help. Usually though, the messenger system in the classroom is sufficient. Once a classroom is over and closed, the instructors do not check back in (they have other classrooms starting up) so you have to email them, at which time they will know to log back into your classroom to speak with you... its not that complicated or difficult, really. Also, the vast majority of all professors at APUS are very accomplished. Many of the English professors have published successful books and almost all have a doctorate degree as well as a lengthy history of teaching at the collegiate level. Many of the professors teach at APUS in addition to teaching at brick and mortar schools (I had one professor who also taught at Brown University).
I have heard some complaints about the different ways in which material is given to students. I have had some classes that give the textbook in a PDF and I have had some that provide hard copies only (important to know so that you can get your books ordered before the start of class). Whether learning material will be online or hard copy is clearly stated in the course overview. Many times this is simply a professor preference. Some materials are simply not available for free online. Some classes use online books through vitalsource, which is quite convenient. A small number of classes, due to the nature of the class (such as public speaking) require you to create an account with an outside source that the school contracts with. Again, its really not that complicated or difficult to figure out.
By far the most annoying aspect of this school, or any online college, is having to interact in depth with other 'know it all' students. A few times professors have stepped in to stop an argument in the forums (I don't know, maybe its just me causing problems).
Usually about half of the students in any given class are in the military or have recently separated from the military. This is simply because the school markets itself toward military members. There is also some sort of a Walmart tuition assistance program at this school, so occasionally there is a student who found out about the school from Walmart and is working their way up Walmart management.
As far as the financial aid department, I have not had any issues. I am a Marine Corps veteran, so I dealt with a VA representative at the school, which was very easy. I never had any problems with any department of the school. I have had lengthy email conversations with academic advisers. If emails are not your thing, I have had several advisers provide phone numbers where they can be reached. My adviser has also kept me up to date with info on what I need to graduate, since it is quickly approaching (which does include a proctored test).
The school also focuses heavily on trying to create the whole "college social experience" online, which just doesn't really work. They try their hardest though to tell you about the quad and all the different online chat groups, but as much as they are trying, there is only so much an online school can do in this area.
All in all, I am very pleased with my experiences here. I know that some other degree paths may not be as conducive to an online teaching environment, but English certainly is an appropriate major for a school like this.I would definitely recommend this school to anyone who is willing to put in the time and effort needed to get a degree online.
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