The University of Phoenix Online has been in existence for over a decade and a half. Established in 1989, it was the first accredited online university and today with over 57,000 enrolments to its credit, it has become the largest private, accredited, ‘for-profit’, online university in the United States. Because of its tenure and name recognition, the University of Phoenix is often the first name that comes to peoples mind when they consider an online University. This reputation is not without merit, as the University offers students a great deal that the other online universities simply cannot compete with. That said, not everything about this school is ideal.
Because of the length of time the University has been in operation, it has perfected the art of serious online teaching. The curriculum has been tailored to meet the requirement of working adults who seek to supplement their working knowledge with theory and practical skills while earning a degree for themselves to a degree that other online schools do not.
Virtual classrooms with trained online instructors and flexible but strict classroom participation and assignment submissions make learning comfortable. So much so, that the students are able to complete almost 27 credits in a year as against 15 credits completed by regular on site campus learning students. With only 11 students in a class, the student to instructor ratio is low, facilitating greater one on one interaction. The instructors themselves are CIOs, CEOs and CFOs of reputed companies when they are not mentoring students in the classrooms.
But then like every thing in this universe, negatives do exist and this University is no exception. Sometimes students complain about below average quality of instructors who do not participate in the discussion or evaluation to the extent that has been promised. Lack of communication skills in some cases and at others complete or partial silence towards questions posted has been observed. This is a serious allegation considering that the good communication and prompt interactions with the students of the class are very vital for any online course. Add to this, students often complain that when a grievance or concern is addressed to the deputed ‘advisor’ an endless string of communication follows with little or no action actually taken.
There are some ex-instructors who have come up and indicated that their pay is quite pitiful relative to other universities and as a consequence the motivation levels and drive to excel is low. This often results in a high turnover of instructors. It seems that the primary complaint, substandard teaching quality is directly tied to the level of pay provided these professors.
Another negative pertains to the technology itself. The university boasts that the online software platform has been developed in collaboration with Microsoft. One would expect that the mail receiving and disseminating platform also be much evolved and sophisticated. Instead there is confirmed evidence that they actually use the notoriously lacking Outlook Express for the purpose. Another problem is that the servers are quite slow sometimes. These two problems are worth a mention since online teaching requires quick and reliable interface with minimum downtime. Therefore a slack in this area can have serious implications for the university as a whole.
A final concern pertains to ‘high’ fees being charged. It might be comparable with the several outer online universities of its genre. But when viewed in the light of students who are already disgruntled with the quality of education being imparted, can snowball into bigger packets of unhappiness.
All this might sound as the doomsday for online education and especially for the University of Phoenix. But remember when you handle thousands of students, there are bound to be a handful that are going to be dissatisfied. And life depends on changes and improvements. That said, by and large the students of the University of Phoenix have and continue to express satisfaction with the school. While it is certainly clear that it has some limitations, the opportunity to attain a degree swiftly and cheaply from a well known and accredited University makes the offer very attractive for a great many.