I am on the last of 4 assignments that make up one of the business management classes at WGU. And rather than finishing that up, I decided to post to my blog about WGU and my experiences thus far. WGU stands for “Western Governors University” for those that don’t know. If I remember correctly, they are accredited by four different organizations, one of which is that same one that gives the University of Utah and BYU their accreditation.
In the Beginning:
You start of course by registering for school, like any other school. You pay (your old school board, not WGU) to have old school transcripts sent for verification of educational status. Someone at WGU assigns credits from your degree plan to those credits from your previous education. For reference, I had AP credit in physics from high school, and a few classes from the 3 terms I attended at the University of Utah. My reasons for not finishing the UofU are wide and varied and not worth going into, although I may touch on a couple throughout this post. The process of transferring credits took a bit longer than planned so I started at WGU a month later than I had hoped. Luckily, the way WGU is set up, they have new students start every month rather than needing to wait for a new term or semester to begin. Once this is over, you take a few placement tests. I forget how long you have to take them but it is a ridiculous amount of time. I think I finished all tests in less time than they give your for just one. The result of these tests, along with your previous educational credits helps them determine which basics classes you need for things like math and English. Once credits are transferred and financial aid is acquired, you are assigned a mentor. This is like a guidance counselor. They recommend classes for you in a certain order and they are your cheerleader that routes for you to succeed during your attendance of the school. They set up a schedule to call you on a weekly or bi-weekly or whenever they feel like it schedule. Once they set you up in the system and assign your first semester’s classes, you must log on, and accept those classes. My test results and previous education gave me credit for 14 credit units (WGU calls them units, not hours) and got me out of 5 classes. This was 3 math classes, a science class, and an art class.
Once school starts:
The first few classes you have to take are simple classes that essentially get you used to online learning and how things are going to be for the next few years. They are very simple, and mainly require some reading and acceptance of your circumstance. It seems online education is difficult for many people as they are used to learning in groups. Personally, I always hated groups, not just because I am a bit of an introvert, but mainly due to the fact that I always felt like I did all the work and other people got to take some of the credit without actually learning anything. This actually hurt me a bit at the U, because as a general rule, I hate people. I don’t like to be around them, listen to them, smell them, or help them. Unless they first prove to me they deserve my attention. For classes, they have to assign you at least 12 credit units worth to maintain full-time student status. You can ask for extra, or you can wait until you finish those 12 and they can stack more on if you have over a month left in your semester. There are two types of classes. The first type is called “performance assessment.” In these classes you have a list of tasks you must accomplish to pass. Essentially these are just big assignments. They are submitted, plagiarism checked, and graded by an outside website called taskstream. The other type of class is an “objective assessment” class. With these classes, you take a pre-test that is usually just over 50 questions long. And the results tell you what areas you suck the most at and you can choose to just read those sections or read everything then take the real test. The real test is proctored, so you must run a program that blocks other programs from running on your computer and you are constantly monitored over a webcam while taking the test. Or you can go to a testing center at a local school. I have only done the webcam proctored test. If you pass the test, you pass the class. You are given 2 or 3 chances to pass. I have no experience with that as I pass the first time, every time.
My current status:
Once I finish this last assignment for my current class I will have finished 92 credit units. This leaves me with 40 credit units to go. I am currently in semester 5, and I have 4 months left in this semester. So I will probably be able to add another 6 or so credit units (maybe more) over the 18 I already have. I am most likely looking at 2 more semesters before graduating, but if I tried really hard I could probably do it in 1. But as I like to have a real life as well, I will probably take 2. Especially since my work helps pay for it. It looks like the majority of what I have left is accounting and statistics classes. I am so not looking forward to that. I like math. But I hate accountant math. And yes, there is a difference. They say you should be prepared to spend 2 hours a day doing school. I would say, you only need to plan on that if you are either try to complete school on an accelerated schedule or you are just plain dense. If I spend 2 hours a day on a class, I can usually have that class completed in anywhere from a week to 3 weeks. But that’s me. I work differently than most people. I’m not saying I am smarter, I just operate differently. But that’s another thing that makes this type of school work so well for me. To a certain extent, it is what I make it.
Who should go to WGU:
WGU seems to be great for parents that work as it is infinitely flexible when it comes to schedule. I can do class work at 1:00 a.m. on Christmas day, I can take a test at 9:00 a.m. Sunday morning, etc. I could see WGU being great for people with a lot of previous education that want to expand their degree portfolio as they will likely get a ton of credit for what they have already done. Basically WGU, and I assume every online school, is geared for people who just haven’t got the time to go to a physical school, but still want to learn. Many find it very difficult as there is little group mentality. But for me, everything being up to me is a benefit. It is my job to motivate me and my job to make sure I accomplish all tasks. Sure, I take a month off and waste that time here and there. But that just makes me push that much harder when it is crunch time. And with everything, except racing for some reason, I do better under extra pressure. So far, I have completed all classes I have signed up for. I have passed all tests the first time (not pre-tests, just the ones that count). I have learned something interesting in every class. Although, much of it is as aggravating as it is interesting.
Who should not go to WGU:
Anyone looking for a social life at school would be severely disappointed by life at an online university. Also, anyone looking for group support might be underwhelmed by life at WGU.
Things I wish I knew at the beginning:
- Look at your pre-test results, and only study the sections you got under 60% on.
- If you spend more than a month on a class, by the time test time comes around you will have forgotten a lot of it, so be quick.
- Discuss your classes with friends or spouses. This will help you retain the information more than doing the exercises in the books.
- For assignment based classes, read the assignment first then do the reading, that way you know what to look for. The course of study wants you to read everything then do the assignment. Reading everything is good, but knowing what to look for ahead of time makes it painless.
- The assignments are almost always more simple than I make them out to be.
- When an assignment says 3-7 pages, 2 pages can get the same grade as 7 or even 20. Do quality work, ignore the suggested length.
- Use the suggested page formatting. It isn’t there to make your assignment longer and more impressive, it’s just there to make it easier to read for those doing the grading.
Things I like about going to WGU compared to UofU:
- Prerequisites are based on knowledge rather than a desire to screw you out of more money unnecessarily so.
- No need to help other people by contributing to a group, unless you choose to do so.
- If I have a knowledge base, I take a test and get the credit rather than paying extra for those credit hours and even more for the test itself.
- Your semester tuition has no upward limit on how many credit hours it covers. 12 cu or 30 cu, the price is the same.
- No teacher’s aids. You have a question, you email or live chat with the course mentor. This can be 1 person or 3. But either way, it isn’t just some dweeb junior trying to get brownie points so the teacher can avoid showing up to class to write a book they will force future students to buy.
- A small fee for the “library” gets me access to all books for the semester and costs about the same as 2 used books at the regular university.
- Parking in my garage is much easier than paying $120 per year for a pass that allows me to park 3/4 mile from class.
- My computer is open 24/7.
- Many other time management related reasons not worth listing individually.