Dave, I am thinking about taking a course online through University of Phoenix, but I am concerned about the testing process. Truthfully, I test horribly because I always feel time is evading me and I am under pressure. My aunt recommended looking into UoP to earn my degree because this would take some of the classroom pressure off.
Ah yes, if there’s a contentious topic in the world of higher education, it’s testing. Whether you have timed tests, structured tests, oral, written, essay, experiential, there’s always some compelling reason why it’s not the best choice and why some subset of people are disadvantaged. It’s true, though, that just as some people can learn through reading while others learn through hands-on doing and still others learn from listening to experts talk, there are different styles of testing and while some people thrive on timed tests like the GMAT or SAT, other people hate those tests and find them not to accurately measure their skill and knowledge at all.
Being one of the very largest online colleges, the University of Phoenix Online has a significant challenge with online testing, simply because of the sheer number of students and classes going on at any given time. Further, just as in most other college courses in “brick” buildings, online courses also require students to participate and contribute to discussions in a meaningful way.
While I can’t speak across the entire school, I can share how I grade the students who enroll in my computer and tech classes at UoP, and perhaps we can reasonably safely extrapolate from that.
Grades in my classes are comprised of attendance and participation, individual assignments and team assignments, in an approximately 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 basis.
Attendance is calculated automatically by the UoP system: students are required to connect and participate on the discussion forums five days out of seven (actually, they recently changed that to four days out of seven, I believe. I haven’t taught a course for about six months). If you meet that attendance requirement, you’re 33% of the way towards a perfect score. Participation is measured by the number of postings in the discussion forums, with a recommended 2-3 per day of participation (e.g., 12 or so each week).
Individual assignments vary, but my courses focus on a set of discussion questions that help clarify the student’s understanding of the course material, due at the end of each week in Word, in Q&A format. I think they’re pretty easy if students are participating in the course discussions and reading the assigned materials, but I still never fail to be amazed at students who have precious little clue when answering their individual assignments.
Finally, the group assignment is defined by UoP as part of the curriculum for the class (that is, I can’t change it), so these team projects are basically a substantial 15-25 page report due at the end of the course that comprehensively address a facet of the coursework. I grade such that everyone in a group gets the same grade regardless of individual contributions, but if someone is way lazy and I hear about it from other students, I’ll sometimes adjust the others up a bit to compensate.
What you haven’t heard me mention here are “tests”, per se. I’m sure that there are some UoP Online courses that have online or timed tests, but my experience is much more essay, reports, and other experiential assignments, which should be right up your alley and a good alternative to your worries about test anxiety.
Finally, before you take the plunge, I suggest that you read through the extensive and fascinating set of comments, pro and con University of Phoenix, on my business blog The Intuitive Life: University of Phoenix Reinvents the Week.
Good luck to you!