A "good enough" mom muses about alpha moms, adoption, computers, the State Of The World, Internet quirkiness, and the Kosmik All
We don't need no education - reprise

(I know I've done something with this title before...)

At one point during her peripatetic wanderings, OmegaMom had a job teaching at a "business college" for a year.  They hired me after a one-hour interview, right on the spot.  Told me I'd start teaching that night.  !!  There was no curriculum.  No teaching materials except for a text.  No nuttin'--just "Have at it!"

I taught word processing, databases, spreadsheets, typing, and business English.

The students were motivated and sincere.  They had been told they could get financial aid, that they'd get a job and a computer immediately after "graduating".  They wanted to better themselves, get good office jobs, work their way up through the world.

A nearby sewing factory had closed up shop, and the "college" got a sweet deal with the county economic security department--re-educate all the sewing factory workers so they could get new jobs. 

I liked working there.  I liked the students.  I tried to teach them something...but some of them simply weren't "office worker" material.  I became convinced that the "college" was a sham, just a method of milking government programs for profit, and to the devil with the students.

That said, there are students who will do well with a little bit of help and structure, no matter what the motivation of those who provide the education.  Which leads me to this, an article about the University of Phoenix, the largest for-profit online education university in the U.S.

UOP has been growing by leaps and bounds.  They cater to a particular audience:  employed people who want to get a degree, but either can't get to a university nearby or who want it fast or find the online coursework more convenient.  There's a boatload of people out there who recognize the value of a degree but who find the traditional college/university environment unwelcoming.

Most colleges and universities don't really consider the working person.  Courses are offered during business hours, with a few being offered at night.  But usually, core courses aren't amongst those night time courses, or you have to wait many semesters for one to be available.  So online courses fit the bill for many working folks.  UOP recognized this early on, jumped on the boat (and online) and started growing.

A number of "regular" colleges/universities have recognized this trend by now and are offering coursework and even full degree programs online.  Online courses can be quite rigorous and difficult--I worked with a woman who was teaching educational courses online, and hers definitely sounded hard, and it was obvious she was putting a lot of work into them.  They can also be throwaways.  If I were an online student, I would be "milking" my fellow students for all the information about different instructors that I could (realizing, all the time, that what I would consider a "good" instructor might be anethema to someone else), and trying to get the instructors who made a course "meaty".

I myself attended (let me count...) four different colleges/universities, with a variety of different intended majors.  I started off at Fancy Episcopalian Private University, straight out of high school.  The plan was to study history and language, and become a freakin' well-paid historical romance writer.  But I went from being an intellectual Big Fish in a Small Pond to being just one of many at FEPU (at New Student Orientation Day, I sat next to a PSAT scholarship winner; I had only been a semi-finalist and didn't know that you actually had to do something further to be considered for the full scholarships).  What came as easy as breathing to me in high school suddenly required this odd thing called studying, which was foreign to me.  So, after a year floundering around, I dropped out.  A few years later, I started taking night classes at Fancy Catholic Private University, with a plan to do pre-law and go to law school (a stint at jury duty with a horrendously cute prosecutor prompted this; thus the shallowness of an early-20s OmegaMom).  Then, with a push from family issues, I moved out to the Southwest to be around mom and dad...and, ever the student (it's like heroin to me), I signed up for some music courses at the local community college.  Amazingly enough, it was the most rigorous and difficult coursework I had encountered yet--Music Theory kicks butt.  And then, chased out of the region by lack of jobs, I moved out to bee-yoo-tiful San Francisco, and finished up a degree in computer science at CalState.

Each of these institutes of higher learning had their pluses and minuses.  But what I took from them had a lot to do with what I put into them.  The conclusion, after all this bloviation:  It doesn't really matter what institute of higher learning you attend (so long as you avoid "business colleges").  Any college student can get a worthwhile degree from almost any college out there, so long as the student puts in the work needed to locate the good courses and the good instructors, and puts his/her heart into the schoolwork.

If OmegaDotter would rather attend a local public university, rather than some fancy-schmancy Ivy League School, bully for her.  Because if she puts her all into it, no matter where she gets a degree, it will be worth it.  And, conversely, if she doesn't want to go to college at all, but wants some type of vocational training (horses play into this thought...), that's all well and good, too--so long as she believes in it and works hard.

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posted by Kate @ 2/12/2007 08:36:00 AM  
  • At 2/12/2007 02:54:00 PM, Anonymous SBird said…

    Well, the interesting thing about many of these institutions of higher learning is that they're ALL becoming 'business colleges' of a sort...the last place I taught full time issued a decree to us faculty that students were no longer "students," but rather "customers" and should be referred to and thought of as such. In fact, it was worse than that: students were now "external customers" as opposed to "internal customers" (the other faculty and staff we were interacting with on a daily basis). (I wonder if it's the same place you took music theory? Hmmmmm...if so, I know your former instructor. He's a good friend of mine.)

    Anyway...we were counseled to "make the customers happy" and "the customer is always right" and we need to make everything "customer-friendly." It gave a whole new meaning to the prospect of grading. I mean, how the hell do you give out a "C" or a "D" if the customer is always right?

  • At 2/12/2007 08:36:00 PM, Blogger Kate said…

    SBird--Oh, yeah, I can see how dealing with "customers" rather than "students" is a paradigm shift. However, most profs I know are natural-born subversives and treat "customers" just like "students"! ;-)

  • At 2/12/2007 09:03:00 PM, Anonymous Theresa said…

    LOL-I was just telling dd tonight not to be a psych. major! She has been asking me lately at night for stories about my childhood pets. Since there were not many-a fish and 2 birds I decided to tell her about the lab rat I had in college. When she heard about the rats biting all the students 3 weeks into the course after we put them on a food deprivation schedule she has agreed that being a psych major hurts too much! Lately she has said she wants to be a hair stylist because she likes playing with my hair.

  • At 2/13/2007 12:52:00 PM, Blogger Space Mom said…

    It is interesting. I have a "certificate in Software Engineering" from a certain Cambridge USA based university. They were good to create on-line classes and make things manageable for people who were switching careers. However, they did treat everybody as students still. I ended up being a TA for one of the profs. It was hard work, but it was also interesting. We never treated the people as "customers". I even had one student who sent me a very nasty email after I graded her homework. I had to cc the prof the reply which was editted MANY times before I emailed it back. (She had a circular pointer in a linked list and then said I was picking on her...sigh)

  • At 2/15/2007 12:18:00 PM, Anonymous bh said…

    Here's how one school is trying to push back. But it's a place with some market power of its own.

    Business Week link

  • At 2/18/2007 03:21:00 PM, Blogger Kate said…

    Theresa--Har! Right now, the dotter is thinking of being a waitress. She's doing quite nicely at the dinner table!

    Spacemom--A circular pointer on a linked list? But then the program just doesn't work. How can she get a good grade on the program if it doesn't work? How can she expect a good grade if the program doesn't work?! Good lord.

    BH--Interesting article! Sounds like he really likes his job, and values his school's identity. That means a lot.

  • At 2/23/2007 06:36:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hey, great looking blog I just found surfing.
    I have a online education masters low cost
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About Me
Name: OmegaMom
Home: Southwest
About Me: Middle-aged mom of a 4-year-old adopted from China. Love science, debate, good SF and fantasy, hiking, music of almost every style. Lousy housekeeper. "Good enough" mom.
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