Twofish's Blog

June 16, 2006

Comments on the University of Phoenix

I taught at the University of Phoenix for about a year, and here are some comments.

The educational model as far as students go is very good.  The most important thing that it does is foster a sense of community among students.  What I found at both MIT and UoP is that most of the actual teaching isn't done by the teacher, it's done by students interacting with each other, and the only thing that the teacher can do is to provide a good environment for interaction. 

I also learned about what I call the "Sadaam Hussein effect" which is that students do not tell you if you are being a lousy teacher, and UoP has a mechanism to deal with that.  The first algebra course that I taught, I was being too abstract and irrelevant but none of the students could communicate that fact to me.  What UoP does for your first course is to have an outside mentor who does a mid-course survey of the students, and the reviews I got were scathingly bad.  I changed my teaching practice and by the end of the course, I got decent reviews. 
So why am I not teaching there now….

The problem is that while UoP is wonderful at fostering a sense of community among students, it's not that good at fostering a sense of community among teachers.  I never really got connected with the other teachers or the administration, and so I didn't know who to lobby in order to do things like get a business calculus course started.  The pay for UoP adjunct faculty isn't that good and the work is grueling.  For the first few courses, the cost-benefit was good because I was learning new things, but after about the fifth or sixth course I figured that I learned as much about online teaching that I was going to and there was no clear path to get to the next level.

This also gets to why I'm talking about MIT OCW rather than UoP or for that matter University of Texas at Austin.  Don't misunderstand what sounds like "negativity."  MIT's courses, curriculum, and culture are deeply flawed and dysfunctional because all human systems are deeply flawed and dysfunctional.  The thing that makes MIT different is that I have some idea who I need to talk to, and who I have to convince in order to get something done, and I know based on the conversations that I've already had that MIT is receptive to change, whereas I haven't gotten "permission to be passionate" from either University of Phoenix or the University of Texas at Austin.

What is interesting is that as the technological limits to communications are removed, the limits and barriers become human and cultural.  I need to sleep sometime.  I can only think about one thing at a time.  It takes time and energy to establish human relations and mobilize political resources for change. 

At one level, it greatly concerns me that MIT is going to get steamrollered in the next several years, but at another level, I need to remind myself that MIT has already cleared a lot of the major political and cultural hurdles.  It is scary for someone in a university administration to say what they actually think, because they are (justifiably) afraid of the "media storm" that will result if the wrong thing gets said.  Getting courseware online sounds easier than it is, and I don't doubt the huge number of political and logistical hurdles that OCW had to cross to get to this point, including how to handle "media storms" like the one over the Japanese woodcuts.

So I just need to take a deep breathe, let things happen, and get back to figuring out why Chinese derivatives act the way that they do. 


  1. Hey Dear,

    U’r site is pretty…
    You can became nice u site if you hard work

    Comment by MRA — June 17, 2006 @ 3:21 am

  2. I always wondered what employers thought of degrees from University of Phoenix. Do you think that employers put as much weight on Master’s Degrees from there as they do other universities. Of course I’m not comparing UofPhoenix to a Wharton or Harvard–but just the regular schools. What do you think?

    Comment by LaRhonda — June 26, 2006 @ 10:39 pm

  3. It’s very hard to make an apples-to-apples comparison because traditional MBA’s enter the workforce without any real work experience, whereas the typical UoP student already has a substantial amount of work/military experience.

    In many jobs, an Masters degree is a basic job requirement, and UoP and other schools such as Capella are a means of getting that basic job requirement so that one’s resume isn’t immediately tossed. Getting past the initial screen in which 200 resumes get narrowed down to about 15 is hugely important.

    One other thing to consider is that part of the purpose of getting a degree is to tap into alumni and career networks. For this reason I suspect that if one were sure that one would be looking for a job in Austin, Texas that a part time MBA degree from University of Texas would work better than a UoP degree. On the other hand, a UT degree probably wouldn’t be as much use if one were looking for a job in Casper, Wyoming.

    Comment by Joseph Wang — June 27, 2006 @ 12:01 am

  4. Let me ask a big question…..

    Why *shouldn’t* we try to compare a UoP degree with the one’s from Harvard or Wharton?

    We might find that the UoP degree is “worse” at getting a job…..

    But then that opens other questions…..

    Is that a good thing? Why is the UoP degree worse at getting a job? Employers don’t like it. Should we try to change the opinions of the employers? Should we change the content of the degree? Why do employers feel that way? Are employers right? Who are these employers and what right do they have to tell me what to do?

    Well they have money….. Why should they have money? Can I get money?  How much money that I want?
    People who get here are asking some pretty narrow questions….

    I want people to question the question.

    Why am I asking this question?

    Let me leave you with an idea I found liberating…….

    Sometimes, they can force you to put up with the process.
    Sometimes, you really don’t have any other good options than to beg.
    Sometimes, you just have to swallow your dignity and do what needs to be done.

    They can sometimes force you do something you don’t want to do.

    They can *NEVER* force you to like it. That’s up to you.

    Comment by twofish — July 21, 2006 @ 5:19 pm

  5. Well I may be joining ranks. I am a white American in love with
    an Asian woman. I love the concept of an academic family. I am a scientist myself.
    Don’t work in academia because don’t have a PhD yet. But working a good job,
    not particularly scientific in nature that
    pays bills. Not enough by far and its on the low end. With my degree i could make more.
    I come from a family that is pretty varied as far as academia
    and life are concerned. I have uncles that are dentists and
    engineers, and I have uncles that are laborers. what you say
    about that? My parents achieved in material sence morre then
    many PHDs have even though they are little more then High School
    educated but with skilled trades that tip the pay scale of PHDs.
    Well my plan for academic family is about to get wiped because my
    partner who is not my wife yet makes good money with her Nursing job but doesn’t plan to utilize the part of her head called “brain” to further herself. She wants to be “rich”. I know she is nowhere near there, and the way she makes decisions will not be. I am cooling to the idea of marrying her. She said she wants to try for a child. i am kind a coolong to that too. It is a rotten world. Ain’t it.

    Comment by It is a rotten world — January 23, 2007 @ 8:57 am

  6. I think UoP is a rip off and learning is not feasible.

    Comment by UoP Student — July 6, 2007 @ 4:46 pm

  7. I got my BS in Management from the UOP and used that degree to get into the MSIS program at Oklahoma State University.
    That was my plan. When I sit in class at OSU and the professor lectures for 2 hrs with no interraction from the students it makes me think of this UOP vs. tradional schools. At UOP it was group interaction, presentations, collaboation…etc. More of what you really do in the real world at work. At OSU it’s here is the lecture take the midterm and final.
    Who can really tell…I think a degree gets you past the HR dept. The employer looks for experience and accomplishments.

    Comment by Brian — December 20, 2007 @ 6:06 pm

  8. how many teachers have phds

    Comment by chubaka — April 18, 2008 @ 1:45 pm

  9. i apoligize i am in 8th grade and i am working on a project if you could tell me the # of tutorial programs too that would be helpgul plz help my project is due on wednesday

    Comment by chubaka — April 18, 2008 @ 1:46 pm

    I took two classes with UOP recently and after my experience, I left University of Phoenix and went to a Community College.

    I DO NOT RECOMEND UNIVERSITY OF PHOENIX as first very expensive (3 times the cost of Community College) and an extremely BAD experience with the Academic Student Services department. They were found to be the most unprofessional team starting from the Academic Counsler Kristine Gounelas, her manager Tom to thier Director, Jennifer Burrell (Knispel), MM, Director of Student Services.
    The Academic Counsler had advised me of a school policy. It later came up that she was incorrect and when I escalated to her manager, he didn’t bother to call me until 2 to 3 weeks later. When I finally spoke to him, he covered up his employees action and said these things happen.
    I then escalated to the Director of Student Services who did not bother to return my calls. The Manager of Student Services Tom called me back after escalating to the Director and actually harassed me and said that I should have read the fine print on the student services web page and that there is no further escalation at the school than him other than writing a letter to the school.

    I have never been involved with such an unprofessional type of school or company. Total disregard for a full time student. I consider myself lucky to find out how BAD of a school UOP is and to cut my losses now rather than being half way through my degree and find out that the schools that I contacted, WILL NOT TRANSFER the UOP credits. Never mind that the Community College is 1/3 the price. Do yourself a favor and find a school that is for the students! from my personal experience, University of Phoenix is not for the students!!

    The UOP Enrollment team was very Professional acting throughout this extremely bad experience.

    Comment by Cook - former UOP student — November 11, 2009 @ 4:29 pm

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