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Date: Jan 20 2006
Major: School of Information (This Major's Salary over time)
I graduated from the University of Virginia in 1990, and I did not think I would ever go to school again. UVA was (and is) one of the very top public schools in the nation, and I got a great education there, but I was totally burnt out. I found
being a college student

As time went on, sometimes I thought maybe I would want to go on to grad school, but soon I was getting married, starting a family, and getting busier with my professional life. It just did not seem possible for me to jump through the hoops of testing, applying and then (most of all) spending the time away from home and family that would have been required for the "traditional" graduate school experience.

When I heard about UOP and their online program in Computer Information Systems, I looked into it some, and I started looking at some other programs, as well. I found UOP to be comparable to other programs in cost, although somewhat more expensive than the others I inspected.

As I considered making the huge committment of money, time and effort, the online program made the difference for me. Suddenly, what had seemed impossible all those years began to seem possible. The idea of going to class from my living room, being near my family, and being able to complete my degree within 2 years, helped me make the decision. I started in June, 2003.

As for my experience in school, I found it pretty good overall. The online program was a huge amount of work. We had 5-week courses (or was it 6-week?) with one week in between of "downtime." Students were expected to be heavily involved in online discussions at least 5 days per week. This meant not only responding to discussion topics in detail, but also reading all the other students' responses and follow-up postings. We had a lively group that stayed together (for the most part) for the whole time in school, and many of my classmates were happy to post 5, 7 or 10 messages per day. To keep up, I had to read all or most of these posts and then offer substantive commentary of my own. We were allowed to do a minimum of "2 substantive posts per day," and I made sure I did at least that much. Whenever I had time, I would get more involved. Class discussions were a huge part of the pleasure of the online program. We had a good group of people, and it really made a difference.

It also meant spending at least 2-3 hours on coursework pretty much each and every evening, and most of at least one day on the weekend, too. DO NOT THINK THAT THE CONVENIENCE OF THE ONLINE PROGRAM WILL MEAN LESS WORK. I worked much harder for my graduate degree at UOP than I ever did at UVA.

Instructors were a mixed bag, but overall, pretty good. All were professionals in their field, and most were good. Some were awesome. All tried to convey their wisdom from their experience, and most were pretty high-level, either as technical gurus or executives. A few of our instructors were disorganized, would often disappear, and were uneven in their assignments and grading. A few had problems with English - thank God I did not have to speak to them often, but it also showed in their written communication with us.

As I said, most of our group was awesome, and a core of about 10 of us managed to stick together through the entire program. However, the quality of the students was pretty uneven, and we had a few people in our classes who definitely did not belong in graduate school. We also had one classmate with us for part of the program whose English was unacceptable, and this was not supposed to happen. Working with this person in a learning team meant dividing 85% of their workload amongst the rest of the team.

Speaking of learning teams, our learning team experience was not the best. I agree that learning teams are a good way to simulate working on projects in the professional world, complete with the problem of some people not doing their share. However, when your grade depends on one or two slackers, it can be hard to take. Overall, I found the learning teams to be a negative.

My hard work paid off in great grades, and I know I earned them. However, others whose work was obviously of lower quality also got pretty good grades. "Grade inflation" is a problem that should be addressed better.

Aside from the discussion and learning team work, the individual assignments were also a lot of work. It was common for us to have anywhere from 2 to 4 5-7 page papers for a class, or possibly one 12-15 page paper along with other smaller assignments. Some classes had a little less writing, but not many. I remember one class where I wrote a 35 page paper as an individual assignment, but normally about 20 pages was the maximum. I am a good writer, and UOP helped make my writing better.

The class format of 5 or 6 weeks was great, because I would just be getting really sick of a class, a less-than-excellent instructor, or a learning team, and then the class would be over! The quick pace made the time seem to pass more quickly.

We had some classes with the NETg simulations to help teach certain aspects of the coursework. The NETg system sucks, and I cannot put it more plainly than that. Fortunately, they seem to be de-emphasizing it, at least in the CIS program. Our program focused on the management aspects of information technology/computer information systems: for more technical subjects, UOP needs a much better way of simulating and doing interactive, multimedia instruction. The other course materials were usually pretty good and current.

The instructors (or facilitators, as some of them called themselves) would put out a lecture each week. However, most of what we got from the good ones came in the form of their input to the class discussions. The text books were adequate. I found the online library to be pretty dreadful, although it seemed to be getting better towards the end of my program. For research, I usually just used Google.

Administration was mixed in terms of quality, but good when it counted. I had someone who was intensely interested in making sure I was comfortable when first starting in the online environment. My academic and financial advisors changed several times over the almost two years, but everything was fine when I needed something. Nobody lied to me, no classes were cancelled, and financial aid was as painless as humanly possible.

In my opinion, being motivated (

failure is not an option
) is the only way to succeed in this type of program. I had to resolve to do whatever was necessary in terms of time committment, rescheduling or even cancelling vacations, etc. UOP (on the ground or online) is not for everyone, and I recommend you carefully consider your options. However, for the right person in the right situation, I can sincerely recommend UOP.

Since my undergraduate degree was in History, having a fully accredited degree in my field is important for me. Since graduating, I have started teaching information technology courses part-time as an Adjunct Faculty member for a local college.

I am now in line for promotions at my full-time job I could not have gotten without my graduate education. I also have more confidence in my credentials, and a sense of pride in my accomplishment. Finally, I gained a large measure of redemption for my undergraduate experience by proving to myself that I could excel in, and really enjoy, going to school again.

I hope my detailed experience is helpful to you.

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