Trying to Avoid UoPish Things.
December 30, 2007 7:26 PM   Subscribe

Questions regarding online universities.

DamnJezebel's Question of the Week: Does anyone have any thoughts or knowledge about Open University (site, wiki)? If I "attend" this university, will it be looked down upon on my resume? Or can you recommend another online university that focuses on actually learning stuff, as opposed to scamming you?
posted by damnjezebel to Education (27 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Most "real" universities offer accredited courses online. Why not go through one of them and remove all doubt.
posted by furtive at 7:33 PM on December 30, 2007

I didn't see anything about accreditation on the link. Stay far, far away from 99.9% of online programs. Those are proprietary (for-profit) schools, not too many have accreditation and even if they give you a degree you will soon find it is worthless. Univeristy of Phoenix does not have a good reputation with employers. Call some employers you'd like to work for someday and ask them what they think of the program you are considering.

Many brick and mortar colleges and universities are offering some virtual learning and you would be much better off taking those classes with a school you know is accredited and the tuition is reasonable, like a community college or a state university. Adults returning to school is a big demographic for schools and they are designing programs to cater to working adults. Accreditation is very important. Without it the degree will not allow you to transfer the units, and in one case I am aware of, the person had a BA from an accredited school but the program she attended within the school was not accredited ("credit for life experience" type program)and she was denied for a teaching credential because the Department of Education said she did not have a degree. Don't be so eager for another set of initials after your name that you fall for a fly by night online program.
posted by 45moore45 at 7:36 PM on December 30, 2007

I've heard good things about Capella.
posted by humanfont at 7:36 PM on December 30, 2007

Because, Furtive, then I wouldn't have wasted my question for this week. And then where would I be? I'd have to create a whole new question to ask!

Please, don't make me think for the rest of 2007. I'd appreciate it. =)
posted by damnjezebel at 7:37 PM on December 30, 2007

I don't know anything about online learning. But in Britain, the Open University (OU) is the only distance-learning university anybody has ever heard of, and it's as respectable as any distance-learning university could ever hope to be.

It was established by the government in 1969 at the behest of the then Prime Minister, Harold Wilson. By the size of the student body, it is by far the largest university in the UK. The government runs an annual student satisfaction survey, and last year the OU came top — it was the only distance-learning institution, and it beat every 'real' university. Unlike other online institutions, it does research as well: designing satellites that land on Mars, for instance.

I don't know how it's perceived in America, or if anyone's ever heard of it there. But the OU is certainly different from all other online colleges, and in Britain, although an OU degree has absolutely zero 'snob value', it's certainly not dismissed. Basically, if you decide you want to do an online degree, you can't go wrong with the OU.
posted by Burger-Eating Invasion Monkey at 7:52 PM on December 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'd regard the Open University more highly than any other university of that sort. That's not really saying much, though.

Why do you want to do this and for what subject and degree? That'll really focus the answers.
posted by grouse at 7:54 PM on December 30, 2007

Unfortunately, the multitude of choices and, beyond that, the varying degrees of "accreditation" require you to think a little, damnjezebel :)

At minimum, you want your institution to be accredited by one of the six regional accrediting bodies. Beyond that, if you are interested in a specialized program, you should seek out an institution with inter/national accreditation in that area (e.g. AACSB for business schools).

But unfortunately, just as there are diploma mills, there are accreditation mills, where any old school can be accredited as long as the check clears. See this Wikipedia page for the unrecognized types of accreditation.

It's worth doing your homework so you don't waste your time and $$.

For what it's worth, a good friend of mine is finishing her undergraduate degree (20+ years after high school) from Ellis College, a division of New York Institute of Technology and she seems both challenged and pleased by her courses. I don't know what kind of feedback she has gotten (or will get) from prospective employers because she is a SAHM at the moment.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 7:57 PM on December 30, 2007

A UK university is not going to be accredited by a U.S. regional accrediting body.
posted by grouse at 8:04 PM on December 30, 2007

The Open University isn't a scam - it's perhaps the most recognised institution for distance learning in the UK, with close ties to the BBC. A lot of OU videos were shown in class when I was in secondary school.

It might have a slight stench of the 70's to it, and it's not going to be anywhere as impressive as a degree from Oxbridge, but it is recognised by a number of professional bodies. There's a selection of pdf pamphlets going into more detail on the site you linked to here

If you've got a specific career in mind, call up and ask what they want and who they want it from. If you just want a degree for the experience of it, it might be worth shuffling your life around to allow you attend a bricks and mortar uni full-time - the fulfilling part of university for me wasn't being handed a piece of paper but being mixed in with a hotchpotch of people all full of ideas and eager to learn. You won't get that from a part-time internet course.
posted by Kappi at 8:06 PM on December 30, 2007

What do you want to study, and at what level?
posted by LarryC at 8:21 PM on December 30, 2007

Right, grouse, but she's in the US and I'm assuming that she may want to look at US schools in addition to the UK one.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 8:28 PM on December 30, 2007

Being in the U.S. this is the first I've heard of it. Since you're in the U.S. and asking, I'm guessing you're not too sure about it either. Why take the chance? If you're going to pour money into college classes why not just got with a school that people have heard of?

I took a ton of classes at NJIT, which is most definitely accredited - we just got a mention in the New York Times! Yay! And when I took some distance learning courses there were people from India getting their degrees online. I'm not sure if they still offer a full degree online, but I bet there are plenty of "real" schools that do.
posted by exhilaration at 8:55 PM on December 30, 2007

I work for Apollo Group (UoP, Axia of UoP, WIU, Insight High School, etc...) and if you haven't already figured it out, don't waste your time. I may work for UoP, but I attend school at ASU. Look into online programs from reputable ground campus schools. I am taking a good 33% of my classes online through ASU, while the rest I attend at the campus.
posted by B(oYo)BIES at 9:50 PM on December 30, 2007

The Open University has a stellar reputation in the UK and boasts some fantastic instructors (some of whom are famous in their fields). It is a real model for US distance learning, one that has yet to be emulated stateside.

That said, if you're in the US, people may not understand this. If you'll ultimately be looking for a job in the US, I'd try to find a credential that is more immediately familiar to employers in the US.

In the UK, it's not a problem.
posted by yellowcandy at 9:50 PM on December 30, 2007

Ok ya'll, update: quite honestly, I'm not really sure what I want to be studying. I do know that having SOMETHING on my resume will look a lot better than not having it. I'll probably stick with the field that I currently work in (website and graphic design). I haven't been in any sort of school in roughly 8 years and even then it was a challenge.

My new work schedule is a fixed 8 to 5, which is a first for me. So that was my primary motivation for looking into this: "wow, I can actually plan stuff! like school! and get smarter! and get promoted! or leave and get a better job!"

The reason I'm considering online schooling is because I'm not very good in school-like settings. I get very anxious and then just stop going. With the online schooling, it's just me on my own, no reason for me to get freaked out.

Any other words of wisdom, I'd appreciate as well. I've been reading up on the other college-after-20's threads for advice as well.
posted by damnjezebel at 9:51 PM on December 30, 2007

If you're looking for online studies, a lot of Australian universities provide online courses at the same time as students on campus are studying. Edith Cowan University and Central Queensland University both provide this service and both are used to dealing with international students. When you finish your degree, it is awarded as a Bachelor of Arts (or whatever) from Central Queensland University (or whatever), and the online bit isn't mentioned because the course work and assessment is exactly the same for internal and external students. Open Universities Australia appear to combine course work from a number of highly regarded institutions.

With Australian degrees, you have ten years to complete them in and two or three semesters per year. So you could concievably take half normal student load (2 courses instead of 4) and do three semesters a year (6 courses) and finish in 4 years, compared to the internal student (2 semesters) 3 years full time.

Mature age students tend to do a lot better than the younger ones and having all your material available at the start of semester (instead of having to wait for lectures etc) mean you can plan your time well. MailMe if you want more blather.
posted by b33j at 10:01 PM on December 30, 2007

I'm an OU grad. The OU is possibly the most global of the distance universities and is quite well known within Commonswealth and former countries. It's surprisingly popular in south east Asia.

It's fully and nationally accredited on a national UK level and the graduate and professional schools are variously accredited by their respective bodies. Teaching within the OU exhibits different standards with some of it being distance only much of it requiring classroom time at learning centers and some courses and degrees requiring defended theses and residential workshops to matriculate. As a whole, the OU tends to score in the upper quartile in overall league performance ratings for UK universities, with some departments in the top decile and a rare few among the best in terms of reach and retention.

As regards the US, I found it quite insular wrt EU academic credit transfer (ECTS), which the OU pioneered. Only a few US schools are setup to recognise ECTS credits or equivalents and transfer them directly into US semester hours or equivalent. Some will recognise national systems, such as a UK "Pass" or "Honours" BA or BSc, and will credit OU degrees equivalently to any other UK university tier. For these, and for those that are less cluelful, you'd probably have to get an OU degree or any "foreign" degree "validated" by something like WES. A WES'd OU degree worked fine for me for Northwestern, Albert Einstein, SUNY, CUNY, Mount Sinai, Duke, and the U of Pennsylvania.

Only Columbia, U of Chicago and Cornell recognised an OU/UK degree directly. Basically everybody else wanted international accreditation by a school-approved agency. I am currently in the UC graduate system, where obviously an OU degree satisfied its BA/BS requirement.

Past basic accreditation and credit transfer issues, for individual admission decisions, university branding and name recognition obviously play a huge role when dealing with individuals.
posted by meehawl at 10:22 PM on December 30, 2007

I've done tranfer credit evaluation at a Canadian university, and the principal Canadian online/distance university is not looked down on for transfer purposes. A specialist online university may give better education than a bricks-and-mortar dabbler. However, there is so much to be gained from the bricks and mortar version that I reccomend some attendance, if possible at all. What a number of students in remote Canada are doing are taking distance ed. then transferring for third year - they save money, keep their balance, and then get some good face to face.

One way to determine the reputation of an online institution might be to approach an admissions counselor at a creditable university and ask about transfer credits or equialencies (even if you have no serious interest of transferring) - if they won't transfer any of it, it might be a signal.
posted by Rumple at 11:35 PM on December 30, 2007

The OU has the same formal status as any other UK university. I have always been impressed with its programmes of study, and I have known a number of people who have studied with or tutored for the university and they all report a positive experience. Course materials are well produced, and they make good use of their long experience in distance learning.

If you are concerned about formal accreditation, then you should look at the most recent version of the Education (Recognised Bodies) Order, which lists all organizations that are currently authorised to award degree-level qualifications. Any respectable university-level institution will either on that list, or else award degrees in partnership with one of those institutions.
posted by Jabberwocky at 1:47 AM on December 31, 2007

Just echoing the fact that the OU is the same as any brick and mortar University in the UK - in fact it is the largest academic institution in the United Kingdom. It has a global reputation (although not in the USA by the looks of it) and is regarded as the foremost distance learning institution in the UK. I have studied through the OU and I know several others who have and there really is no problem - it is 100% not a scam or in any way similar to these "online university" rip offs.
posted by fire&wings at 2:40 AM on December 31, 2007

Also, previously - 1, 2.
posted by fire&wings at 2:43 AM on December 31, 2007

We've spent a lot of time discussing the OU, but it may not meet your needs. From your profile, study the following Open University courses in the US.

If you want a recognized degree from a respected organization, you may be interested in the University of London External System. Apart from one or two degrees (I believe they're in Economics), all the courses are designed to be 100% remote. The courses are developed by member colleges of the University of London.

BTW, I'm not trying to denigrate the OU by any means; one of the best teachers I had at school in the UK got a PhD through them. I don't believe they see you, based on residency, as their target market though.
posted by lowlife at 6:29 AM on December 31, 2007

Your profile says you are in Texas; many (if not most) of the public universities in Texas (just like in most other US states) offer "distance learning" options for many courses. For example, here is UT-Arlington's distance learning page. Even if they don't offer the exact degree program you want, you might be able to take care of a lot of the preliminary courses via distance learning, and pick up the rest as evening courses and the like. Because the program is coming through the UT system, which is fully accredited and quite respected, that solves your concerns about whether it is real and would count on your resume.

The Open University is great, as everyone has said, but almost no one in the US has heard of it, and it will be looked at by employers as a possible diploma mill. If you are looking at later applying to grad school, though, the Open University is not the worst option, because academics will probably have heard of it even if no one else has. Still, I think a degree from a credible US university that has good distance learning options will work better for you in most situations here.
posted by Forktine at 6:33 AM on December 31, 2007

For graphic design, maybe you could investigate The Art Institute Online?
posted by foxinthesnow at 7:21 AM on December 31, 2007

Ok ya'll, update: quite honestly, I'm not really sure what I want to be studying.

Then you are on the wrong step in your consideration of education. The question you need to be chewing on is, what do I want to achieve? Trying to choose a school, online or not, makes no sense until you figure out what you want, then determine if additional education is the path to achieving that goal, and then determine what educational program that is accessible to you best meets that need. Online education pretty uniformly has one thing in common with brick and mortar, it is fucking expensive, so drawing from the hat just for the sake of "having SOMETHING" on your resume is going to be a costly mistake.

I worked in online education (just as a drone but I worked for a Dean and was in the thick of it with students) for several years and I think your perceptions of how it is going to be could turn out to be erroneous. It is not all solo learning - you will still have to interact with other students and faculty, online and/or via telephone, and in some cases in in-person, symposium type experiences. Another thing to beware of is that it can be very easy to "drop out" of online learning, just as much if not more so as compared to traditional.

My other observation is that pursuing education on top of a full time job is very difficult. Your choices are basically eradicate free time or go really, really slow. Keep a firm eye on how dedicated/committed you are before you start writing any checks.

Every person I know who went to school exclusively because they believed school was the logical path to personal development has been disappointed by their education. They either dropped out in frustration or now have more debt on degrees they didn't really like getting which are doing them little or no good career-wise. Put the horse in front of the cart. Work on establishing your goal, research the best path to where you want to go, then examine your educational options. Start with the credential, then research specific programs. Don't reject traditional schools out of hand. As many have noted, online learning is a serious and growing competitor to traditional schools and more and more distance and similar options are arising in the brick and mortar world to counter that.
posted by nanojath at 10:48 AM on December 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

Open University is the granddaddy of distance learning institutions and is -- as many others have mentioned -- stellar. I believe its reputation precedes it the world over, not just to those of us in the learning industry, as it has existed in some form for decades now.

There are a lot of sketchy for-profit online distance learning institutions these days, particularly in the US, and I wouldn't hesitate to work with Open University, compared to many of the other institutions out there. The University of Maryland, University College is an excellent choice stateside as well.
posted by wildeepdotorg at 7:04 PM on December 31, 2007

Adding to the general approval for the OU, it goes through the same accreditation process as all other UK universities with regard to teaching and research, it tends to do very well, with good ratings in both areas, varying across departments of course. Whether this is any use to you in the US is another matter of course.
posted by biffa at 12:55 PM on January 1, 2008

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