University of Phoenix: How Flexible Is Your Schedule?


When I first considered the idea of online learning with University of Phoenix, I focused on its advantages–particularly the flexibility to learn on my timetable in all of the spare time built in around the needs of my family and the requirements of my two part-time jobs.

So, let’s examine that theoretical spare time. In the last three weeks we’ve had a couple of family birthdays and graduation parties, while at work I’ve helped plan and execute two end-of-year picnics. My younger son has gone on a second short-term antibiotic, been in for a lung x-ray and an immunological visit, and had his last four baby teeth extracted. Both boys came down with a hellacious stomach virus–which they were forced to bounce back from just in time for finals. During one of the ensuing six-hour study marathons leading up to my older son’s algebra regents, his best friend showed up at our door announcing that he’d like to say goodbye because he was quitting school and running away to New York City to become an artist.

Essentially: EVERY TIME the words “okay, I’m going to go study now” have crossed my lips since I began Marketing 421, another drama has immediately unfolded (or erupted) before my eyes…

Distance learning sounds so easy and do-able if you focus on phrases like “flexibility” and “built around your schedule”–but it’s important to remember that “flexibility” is not the same thing as “cake walk.” With a few notable exceptions (ie: calculus), classes at University of Phoenix tend to be five weeks long and the school cautions prospective students that they should “expect to spend between 15 and 20 hours a week on each class.” If you take nothing else away from what I write about UOPX, believe this:

That 15-20-hours-per-week guideline is legitimate.

Do not think (tinkly laughter), “Ah! Perhaps other people need to put in that kind of time, but non moi!”

The university expects online students to log onto their class website at least 4 days of every 7. During these log-in sessions, students are expected to participate in “class discussions” that take place in the bulletin-board styled, online learning environment. This participation involves reading commentary posted by the professor and then responding with two paragraph-or-more “substantive” replies of your own on each of these days. The students are also encouraged to respectfully question the responses of their peers as they apply their professional experiences and understanding of course materials to the discussion questions. Finally, in addition to the readings, there are weekly assignments, generally research papers, that need to be planned and completed, sometimes individually and sometimes as a member of a group learning team.

It took me a few weeks to get into the rhythm of the classwork but this is how I’ve broken down the assignments for my class:

  • Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday: read a 30-page textbook chapter each night, taking notes. After this, log onto the classroom site and contribute two substantive responses to the ongoing class discussion. Additionally, on Thursdays and Saturdays, answer a “discussion question” posted by the professor, citing the course materials (time expenditure: between two and three hours per night).
  • Friday: Read the journal or news articles the professor also recommends for the week (time expenditure: approximately one half hour).
  • Saturday/Sunday/Monday: Research and write weekly paper (ranging in length from 500-1,500+ words, depending upon the assignment). Time expenditure: black hole. Kiss Sundays goodbye as papers are generally due on the last day of the school week, Monday.
  • Throughout the week: check in with Learning Team on the message board to hash out responsibilities for upcoming assignments.

As I’ve said, this is no small commitment of time.

If you feel that you have what it takes to complete a class or program with University of Phoenix, I’d suggest that you visit their online Visiting Student Center. This web page is  filled with “academic readiness quizzes,” a “life factors” assessment, and a “tuition estimator” that are all designed to help prospective students figure out if UOPX is a good academic and financial fit for them.

Next week: The team learning experience–oh, Google+ Hangouts, where were you two weeks ago?

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