By Corey Fritzke
Program Mentor, College of Information Technology
At WGU, each student is assigned a personal faculty member to work with them as a mentor throughout their time at WGU. Additionally, each course has its own course instructors, subject-matter experts who are available to help students get through course material. Advice from your mentors and instructors is invaluable as you make your way through your online degree program. But we also want you to benefit from the wisdom of faculty not necessarily assigned to you, so occasionally, The Night Owl features advice from WGU faculty in colleges throughout the university.
Making the move from a brick-and-mortar classroom to a virtual one can be a big challenge to any student's learning style and overall success; however, it is not impossible to succeed as long as students understand some of the common misconceptions attached to online education.
The first common misconception that I have found is that online education means it's easier than learning in a traditional classroom environment. This is not the case. Where the perception starts to change and become harsh reality for some new students is when they learn that in order to pass a course, they are required to earn the equivalent of a "B" or better to pass each course. (This can be a major obstacle for some traditionally "average" or "C" students.)
Another common misconception I have tried to break relates to time available to complete a course. Since terms at WGU are six months long, some students do not see the need to rush to complete their course work. Six months may seem like a lot of time, but once we take into consideration that objective assessments must be scheduled by no later than the 15th day of the sixth month of a term and must be passed by the 25th day of the sixth month, that six-month term is really more like five-and-a-half months. To help my students reduce some of the stress they feel toward the end of their term, I took the advice of my Program Manager and other Program Mentors at WGU: I challenge my students to complete all of their course work by the end of the fifth month of their term. By finishing all course work early, my students have a choice: take a small break until their next term starts or start reading the textbook for a future course.
A final misconception has to do with completing a record number of Competency Units (CUs) in a short amount of time. Sure, it is possible to complete 58 CUs in one term (I've seen it done); however, sometimes "life happens" and temporarily prolongs finishing a degree in record time. Since I started working with WGU I have had students' progress affected by such things as job changes, family changes, military deployments, and health concerns—many of these situations were not planned or anticipated. However, the great thing about being a student at WGU is it doesn't matter where you are, what time it is, or whether you are a morning person or late-night owl; as long as you have Internet access, you can adjust your study schedule easily so you can complete your course work on time (and graduate).
Finishing a degree is not impossible and it can be done. We have over thousands of graduates who have proved that it is possible to work full time, raise a family, and be a college student. It is not always easy and it is not always fun, but it can be achieved.
Western Governors University offers online bachelor's degree programs in accounting, marketing, IT, business administration, and HR. Online master's degree programs include the MBA, MBA in IT Management, MBA in Healthcare Management, and M.S. in Management and Leadership.
Corey Fritzke is a Program Mentor in the College of IT at Western Governors University, where he has been a faculty member since May 2012. He has worked in higher education for more than a decade, including eight years as an Instructor of Communication Studies for a correctional education program. Prior to the classroom, Corey spent two-and-a-half years as a consultant in the healthcare industry, where he gained experience working on a variety of IT projects. When he is not serving his WGU students, Corey enjoys traveling and exploring alternative/energetic healing modalities.