Monday, April 1, 2013

Western Governors University

Today I start my second term at Western Governors University or WGU for short. The school is completely online. I'm enrolled in the Bachelors of Science in Information Technology degree, they offer other degrees with an emphasis in areas like networking and security, but I decided to stay with the basic BSIT degree so I could graduate faster.

The thing that makes WGU different from any other school I've ever seen before is the self paced nature of the curriculum. Most of the classes focus on preparing you for a certification exam. You pass the class when you take the exam and get certified. You're free to take the exam whenever you feel like you're ready, which means that if you're knowledgeable about the subject you can accelerate your advancement towards graduation.

A big incentive to graduating early is that it saves a lot of money. WGU charges a set tuition for the term and that covers as many classes as you can handle in a term. Theoretically you could complete your entire degree in one term, although you'd probably be doing nothing else during the six month term.

All of this sounds great so far, but the thing that had me sitting on the fence was the question of whether or not the degree itself would be worth anything. Would a 100% online school with a non-traditional program be accepted anywhere? Will employers look down their noses at this type of degree when they see it on a resume? I can't predict how an employer will feel about my degree. I suspect some traditionalists will consider it a garbage degree, those with a similar education background will support it, and the majority will be indifferent. For many places a degree is turning into a check box for HR, they want to see that you have one but after that they could care less. This is especially true with information technology where your experience and knowledge far outweigh the name of your school. That's a big reason for why certifications have always been so popular with the IT industry. The fact that you load up on certifications while attending WGU will probably go a long way towards getting your resume noticed.

What made me finally decide to go ahead with enrolling at WGU was their regional accreditation. They have the same level of accreditation that a brick and mortar university would hold. This means I can always take my degree to another school and they should accept it in transfer. I’m betting on the idea that I won’t have to unless I’m doing it to upgrade to a masters degree.

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