How did you online degree?
September 6, 2016 11:57 AM   Subscribe

I want to complete a bachelor's degree online and am starting to research my options. I am overwhelmed. Hearing your experiences would be helpful.

Did you transfer credits and/or work experience to a legitimate school and complete an online degree part time, while working 40-60 hours a week? If so, here are some things I'd like to know:

1. Which school, and would you recommend it?
2. What was the process you went through? (Transfer credits or experience? Credit-by-exam?)
3. Did you have any low grades or unaccredited coursework in your background, and how were they addressed?
4. How many classes did you take at a time, and how many hours of work did that translate into per week?
5. How long did it take you to complete your degree?
6. What did you do to take care of yourself while working long hours and going to school?
7. What would you do differently if you had to do it over again?

Disclaimers: I've read previous threads on this topic, but I'd like to hear from people who have gone through the process. Anecdata from all fields of study welcome.

Many thanks!
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide to Education (11 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: 1. Arizona State, Web and Internet Development. I started in 2009 when it was (sort of) up and coming and not the behemoth it is now.
2. I transferred in credits mostly from my Associate's Degree and some that didn't count toward my AAS. There was no testing out of classes. I transferred in 66-70, but still had to take xx amount of credits to earn my degree at ASU.
3. I had a couple of low grades in my early years; didn't matter for transferring.
4. I took 1 (accelerated) class at a time, so 2 per semester, until my last year when I took 2 at a time and hated my life. I'd say it was about 10-12 hours per class per week. It seems like they give you more work if you're an online student.
5. 5 years, but (as I mentioned above) I went part time and took a couple semesters off. Did not go summers until I was almost done.
6. I happen to have a marvelous husband who took care of running the house and cooking dinners and such. Otherwise, I don't even know how I would have done it. Frozen dinners? I did sleep a lot between semesters.
7. I would have not skipped those few semesters because all it did was make the degree more expensive. The cost went up a LOT over those 5 years. Also, I would have stayed more on top of advisors - I thought I was closer to finished than I was because of #2 above (having to finish x amount of credits at the university). One more thing - Group Work is a total joke. Just be prepared to do it all yourself.

A friend/co-worker is going to Colorado State and was/is able to test out of classes, and it's also cheaper. AFAIK, CSU wasn't an option when I started.
posted by getawaysticks at 12:59 PM on September 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Sorry. I would generally recommend Arizona State but it is pricey. The curriculum wasn't terribly dated for the most part, and I had some really great professors. The school seemed to be receptive if there was a problem with a professor or a course.
posted by getawaysticks at 1:01 PM on September 6, 2016

I taught one online art studio class for an art college and I think getting an online art degree is a incredibly dumb. There's better ways to get an art job via self study and cheaper (and probably better) online classes.
posted by SometimesChartreuse at 1:07 PM on September 6, 2016

Best answer: I have a couple of answers to this question; part of it depends on what you want to study.

Overall, most schools that have online degree completion programs (which is what I'm guessing you're looking for since you asked about transfer credit) are fairly liberal with their transfer credit policies and re: low past grades, because they know they're the degree of second chances. :) This is not always the case, but it is often the case. Sometimes, there's flexibility with requirements too; for example, the online program I teach for allows students to take classes about culture for the last two of the 4 semester foreign language requirement if there's been a gap of 5 or more years since their last class (research shows the gap is going to interfere with doing well in the last two classes, but you can't retake classes you have credit for on federal financial aid...) It just depends on the school/program/etc.

As to how much time classes take... again, it all depends on what you're taking. My online research methods class probably takes 10 hours a week (it's research methods, there's no way around it); my online race and ethnicity class probably takes 3 to 4 depending on how fast you read.

Most brick and mortar schools have online programs these days, and often charge out of state students in-state rates if you're all online.

Recommendations are really going to depend on what you want to study. You can complete a philosophy degree online through UNCG. (UNCG has a lot of online options, but philosophy is one you don't see online all the time...) ECU has a ton of options. Etc. So I would figure out what you want to study, Google online degree completion program [major], stick to brick and mortars for the most part (it's an easy filter), and go from there.

(One non-brick and mortar that I would recommend is WGU; a friend had a great experience there and did her degree in 2.5 years.)
posted by joycehealy at 1:59 PM on September 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: 1. I graduated from Northern Arizona University, with a dual degree in Supply Chain and Logistics Management & Administration. I probably used the same Associate's Degree transfer program that getawaysticks used. I would definitely recommend it. NAU has a huge online degree catalogue and they've put a lot of effort into the programs. I was able to see it get better over time.

2. The Maricopa Community Colleges in Arizona have a very good program that lets you transfer your completed Associates degree to any of the 3 big AZ universities. I followed my coursework path diligently (after the first year when I figured out what I wanted to do!), so all my credits transferred and I was considered a Junior upon admission to NAU.

3. I did not have any low grades or unaccredited coursework. Sorry I can't be more help on this one.

4. I took 2 or 3 classes each semester. Online courses are pretty flexible, so there was almost never any "set" online classroom time, mostly just meetings with teammates to work on projects. I would say I spent around 1-2 hours each night after work on my classes on average, and between 2-8 hours each weekend day, depending on what was coming due, and how much I had slacked off during the week.

5. I finished in about 2.5 years. It would have been longer but I took 2 classes over one summer session, and the last semester NAU's online business degrees decided to switch many classes over to 8-week blocks. I was able to cram my last four classes into one semester.

6. I prided myself on my ability to do all the normal housewife stuff in addition to working full-time and having enough time left over to goof off a bit. Once I got over the "easy" classes, that all ended. I basically barely cooked or cleaned for 2 years. I slept a lot. I went back on antidepressants. Basically it sucked balls. And now 3 months out from graduation I'm barely getting back into the swing of things. I've always sucked at self care, thankfully my husband totally supports my long-term goals and didn't make a big deal about it. If kids had been involved or I had an un-supportive spouse, it would have been impossible.

7. First, I wouldn't wait until the final semesters to take all my highest level/Capstone classes. I slept, went to work, did schoolwork and had to forgo a social life and other fun stuff for months. Try to get your classes lined up so you can get a least one hard/one easy (for you) class each semester.

Second, I would have purchased ALL my textbooks off Amazon or from the beginning. Get the text ISBN's as early as possible, because prices shoot up right before the semester starts and shipping can take weeks sometimes. Don't be afraid to ask if you can use a previous edition if the current one is brand-spanking new and there are no used copies on offer.

Other thoughts:

Keep on top of your advisors. You will never see them in person, and probably never call them. Emails, lots and lots of emails are your friends.

Group work was a total crap-shoot. I would say about half my teams were great and the other half were a complete waste of my time. There was a near 100% correlation between this fact and whether or not the professor let us pick our own team or assigned them at random.

If your day job has you sitting at a desk in front of a computer all day, and you don't already have a hobby that takes you outside or gets you up and moving, get one NOW. You will spend all day in front of a PC, come home and do more of the same. If your hobbies, like mine, are reading, video games, etc, you might not see sunlight again until you graduate (*slight exaggeration*)
posted by sharp pointy objects at 2:24 PM on September 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

Nearly every university has an online component now. You'll want to first check with the university where you have credits already to see if there is an online option. If that isn't an option, look to in-state options.
posted by k8t at 4:24 PM on September 6, 2016

I completed my AA by transferring classes to Barstow CC, testing out of three classes and taking two online. I then enrolled in an online bachelor's degree program with CSU-Bakersfield. I was maybe six classes short when divorce and health crisis derailed me.

I was a military wife and homeschooling mom, so likely working more than 60 hours a week, though it wasn't a paid job. I did a lot of my studying late at night, after the kids went to bed.

I no longer remember how many hours per week I studied. I do recall doing the math to calcukate how many hours per week I was saving by not having to commute 30 minutes each way for classes at Solano CC when I was living in Fairfield. I figured that saved me six to eight hours a week, thereby freeing up time to study.

I think they were both good programs. I had a high GPA, so poor academic track record is not relevant here. When I enrolled, CSUB's online degree program did not charge out of state rates. The fees were the same, no matter where you lived.

I am a fan of online education. I would happily do it again, to complete my unfinished bachelor's or pursue something else.
posted by Michele in California at 5:22 PM on September 6, 2016

Best answer: I am a professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. I know that we have several degrees that can be completed entirely online (including business administration, justice, emergency management, and psychology (although that one is not listed on the link I put in).) If you already have an AA degree, then you are considered to have completed the general education requirements, so all you need to do is the major requirements, and we have great transfer evaluators who will look at your previous transcripts and figure out which of the courses you took in the past will transfer in as what at UAF. We have good advisors, including a dedicated eLearning advisor.

Any low-grade courses you have simply won't transfer in. There is the possibility for credit for prior learning (scroll down) and credit by exam (for some courses, not mine). Actually, that web page has a bunch of information that might be relevant to you.

There's an advisor who works specifically with students who are trying to do degree completion (although I think usually she works with students who started their degree a long time ago at UAF). The website says
If you have 100 or more undergraduate credits and are interested in completing a bachelor's degree from UAF, consider making an appointment with our Degree Completion Advisor. The Interdisciplinary General Studies degree may be the best option for you!

The advisor will go over all of your options and help you to find the best way to reach your academic goals. If you are interested, give us a call and let's get you Back on Track. To set up an appointment contact the Academic Advising Center at (907) 474-6396 or email:
(I don't know if the interdisciplinary general studies degree plays nice with the online degrees, but it very well might.) Since UAF has so many students that are not local (e.g., living in rural alaska), they are used to talking to people who can't necessarily make it in to the advising center.

We have a lot of students who do online degrees or partially online degrees who are associated with the military, if that's relevant for you.

I'm sure that there are lots of universities with similar programs, but this is the one I know details about. If I can be of any other help, let me know! (MeMail or something.)
posted by leahwrenn at 6:11 PM on September 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I finished my degree at WGU, Business Marketing Mangement. I had 100 or so credits (mostly high grades) from state colleges but many didn't transfer because WGU's competency model tracks academic differently than raw credit hours, and I had a lot of performing arts credits that simply didn't apply.

I worked my ass off and finished my degree in 1 year. It was tough, but I learned a ton and am very happy that I did it. The cost was very nice, and they are both nationally and (more important) regionally accreditated. It's a really great school if you can hack the online/self-study route.
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:16 PM on September 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

I wanted to share some things that were true for *me* when I completed my degree online at LU:

1. If your professor teaches "live" classes and online classes, their live classes get preferential treatment. I had three online classes where the professors were M.I.A the first few days of classes. One professor didn't give any instruction for almost a week and we were left to figure things out on our own in the classroom forum. It was chaos. These professors may also leave abruptly and have teacher assistants take over the course. I had this happen in a computer class and it affected my grade because the professor did video lectures and the teacher assistant did not. What really hurts is when you put your heart and soul into a paper or project and you receive a grade, but no or generic feedback.

2. If the school assigns someone to checkup on you throughout the semester - be aware that this person probably only knows your name, phone number, and (maybe) your major. He or she might even be calling you from another state and never went to your school. They'll ask you how your classes are going and when you plan to graduate. It's like talking to your parents when you were a kid. They have no real power. If you have a problem, this person will tell you to contact your professor or school.

3. Some classes require you to take exams in front of a webcam with a proctor. These exams have to be scheduled so you can't schedule them in the middle of the night or wait until the last minute. You will have to show them your desk and the room you are taking the exam in. This wasn't going on when I attended college online, but I received an email about it before I graduated.

4. Classes move FAST especially in math. They expect you to be able to skip whole sections of your textbook. If your not very good at a subject or don't know anything about it, take a free online class that has the basics or read a book about it. YouTube tutorials are good too. It's better to know something than go into a class clueless. I really wouldn't take any class I didn't know something about. That sounds crazy, but your G.P.A. will thank you. There just isn't enough time to go into something cold (unless you're smarter than me).

5. Graduation is super awkward. You won't know your classmates by their faces or voices, so forget about any class reunions. You may recognize a few names, but chances are you'll be too busy getting your work done to pay attention to specific names. When I graduated, one lady said she remembered something I posted in a discussion forum, but I had no idea who she was.
posted by 1smartcookie at 4:11 PM on September 7, 2016

Best answer: I just completed an online certificate in eCommerce through a community college while working full time. It's not quite the same as what you're asking, but I'll share what I've got.

The hardest part for me when trying to juggle classwork, my full time job, and my social life was not knowing ahead of time the level of involvement that was going to be expected in the classes I was taking. Sometimes I'd take two classes a semester and it was a perfectly manageable workload. Sometimes I'd sign up for one class thinking it'd be nice to take it easy for a semester, and that one class would turn out to require much more homework and studying and time than some two-class semesters.

I might recommend starting off with just one class a semester at first to see how you do with scheduling study and work times for your online classes and ramping up later when you have a good handle on your workflow process, if you're worried about it.

As far as self-care goes, definitely making sure you have built in the time to do fun things or just take a night off to relax guilt free goes a long way. There's a lot to be said for being able to just sit without letting any looming deadlines interfere with your good times.

To help demarcate my time properly, I like to go through the syllabus for each class at the very beginning of the semester and put all of the due dates for all of the assignments and tests into Google Calendar or something so that due dates don't sneak up on me. Nothing more stressful than a surprise deadline!

Good luck!
posted by helloimjennsco at 7:51 AM on September 8, 2016

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