Western Governors University....Explained

With so many new online universities and colleges, I thought it was time to get down to the nitty-gritty.  Though I can't speak to all online universities and colleges, I keep being impressed with this one..... Western Governors University - a totally online four-year university.

To help make sense of WGU, as it is called, I interviewed a former student who recently graduated there.

Welcome, Carrie and congratulations on your recent graduation!

Why did you choose WGU?
When I was looking at 4-year schools to attend after finishing classes at the community college, I was looking for two main things: flexible class hours and price per semester.  When I looked into the local "brick and mortar" schools the times of the classes would have made it difficult to be home to get my daughter off the bus and since I was going to school full time and working part time I didn't have the money for childcare.  I became very discouraged until I started researching online schools.  The more I read about WGU the more I thought it was the school for me.  I could work on my school work when I had time and the classes per semester was soooo affordable, I was able to take as many credits a semester for one price which also included e-books.

How did it satisfy your needs or not?
WGU was the best choice I could have made.  I was able to work on my school work during the day when my daughter was at school.  My entire time in the program I never had to work on tasks in the evening or on the weekend because I set a routine of completing them during the day when my daughter was in school.  The great thing was that I was still able to be an active school parent and volunteered at her school at least once a week.

What was applying to WGU like?
The application process for WGU was very simple.  I applied online (paying a small application fee) and an admissions counselor called me and asked a few questions over the phone.  I had to submit my transcripts to see which credits they would accept, which wasn't as many as I would have liked. Since WGU is not an in state college they did not have to accept as many of my previous credits which was one of the only disappointing experiences with the college.

What did you like best about taking WGU courses?
I am a very organized and self motivated person so having the ability to pick and choose when to complete work was perfect for me and one of my favorite things about WGU.  I also loved that the classes are competency based, meaning that if the classes required a test to complete it instead of tasks I could take a pretest and if I did well on that I could take the test.  This gave me the ability to start and finish a class in one to two days!  Another bonus was that each student is assigned a student mentor. My mentor would call me once a week in the beginning and check in to see how I was doing etc.  It was nice to have that connection and I always made sure to write down any questions, comments, concerns that I had so I could ask my mentor when I spoke to her.  During my last two semesters my mentor would call every other week but if I had questions during the in between week I would email her and she would get right back to me.

What did you like least?
As I mentioned before I was not happy that WGU did not accept as many credits as I thought they should, and I did push to have two more classes transfer and after researching they added them to my transfer list.  

What advice would you share with others like yourself?
In order to be successful in online learning you need to be self motivated and organized.  I am not the type of person that needs teacher reminders to complete assignments so online education is perfect for me.   You also need to know that WGU is more labor/time intensive than a regular "brick and mortar" college.  The amount of tasks (assignments) that I had to complete was much more than a typical college class.  You will complete these tasks on an online task system called Taskstream.  In this system they have graders who will use a rubric to grade your task, and they will let you know if your task is complete of if you need to make corrections.  You need to be able to follow a rubric and you also need to be able to take constructive feedback in order to make corrections.  The nice thing is that you have several, sometimes unlimited, opportunities to make corrections to complete the task.

Carrie graduates!  Yay!
Is it true you pay a flat price and can take as many courses a semester as you like at WGU?
This is very true and pretty amazing.  One semester I took 40 credits, for one very low price!!! WGU is also year round meaning you can finish your degree faster and you can start at the beginning of any month, you don't need to wait till fall or spring.  Click here for my tuition information (I just checked - it is under $3,000 for six months of classes!)

What about textbooks - is it true you only pay a one time textbook fee for all e-books?
The courses offer many options for reading assignments, from magazine articles, to online sources to e-books and all of these materials are include in the online program for one price that you pay at the beginning of the semester.

What kind of technology or Internet connection do you need to have to be successful at WGU?
During my first few semesters at WGU, I had a regular desktop PC and an external hard drive.  It was important that I had the external hard drive because I didn't want to loose my work or worry about keeping track of flash drives.  During my second half of the program I purchased a Mac laptop and it was the best purchase.  This gave me the opportunity to work on my tasks anywhere, especially times when I was sitting waiting for my daughter at swim team practice and dance class.  I have a regular Internet connection and my hubby who is an IT guy picked the best service for our needs.

Since you want to be a teacher, how was student teaching at WGU seeing how it is an online university?
The student teaching was a little tricky because WGU is not a local college.  The nice thing was that my local school district has had a few students from WGU complete student teaching and the person who supervised me had worked with several WGU students and was familiar with the program.  It did take me longer to find out my student teaching placement than it would have if I went to a local college because the local colleges have a relationship with the county.  In the end I got two amazing student teaching placements with amazing mentor teachers so the rocky start was worth the end result.

Was finding a job difficult or easy after graduation?  Did WGU help with this?
It was difficult to find a job after graduation but I don't think that had anything to do with the fact that I went through an online program.  The county is very slow at hiring new teachers who are not already working in the county.  I went to a lot of job interviews and ended up with a wonderful teaching position in special education at an elementary school. WGU does have an employment service but I am not very familiar with it, it was not something that I used.  Congratulations to Carrie, again.  She recently emailed me to say her state teaching certification was complete, as well!

Any other thoughts about WGU?
I loved my experience at WGU so much that my family and I flew to Salt Lake City in July so I could graduate on the big stage!  I am also going to continue my education at WGU in October when I start the graduate program in Curriculum and Instruction.  If you are looking for a way to complete your degree in a flexible and affordable college than WGU may be the school for you.

Well, what do you think?  Might WGU be an option for you?  With the quality teaching, full accreditation, low cost per semester, the almost zero textbook costs, and the flexibility of learning anywhere, anytime, WOW!  Pretty neat university.

Thank you, Carrie, for sharing your thoughts with us.  


PS - I also want to mention that Carrie is a fantastic student in person.  So, if you are considering a totally online university like WGU, please make sure you can manage your time well, have the right tools and technology, and don't necessarily "need" to see your teachers/mentors/classmates in person.