My Distance Learning Experience at AIU
I wrote about the fact that I chose to attend college later in life and decided to attend an online program that gave me the opportunity to participate in a distance learning program that I could fit around my schedule.
AIU's Online Distance Learning Program
For my Associates and Bachelor's degree, I attended American Intercontinental University (AIU) Online which has locations in Schaumburg, IL and Atlanta, GA. AIU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission as well as by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ABCSP). AIU offers several courses of study for your Associates Degree and then offers equivalent courses of study for a Bachelor's Degree program. For those that choose to, you can complete your Graduate degree at AIU as well.
The institution does offer the ability to have previous coursework evaluated for transfer credit to help defray the cost of tuition, which ranges from $302 per credit hour for undergraduate courses to $582 for graduate courses. These per credit hour prices place the full cost of AIU's programs between $15,000 to just over $55,000 for a course of study including materials and associated fees.
The program is delivered via an online portal where students log in to interact with the course professors as well as fellow students in the course you are enrolled in at the time. I spent most of my time in the portal during my four years of study at AIU. The portal is where students submit deliverables such as essays and reports to be graded and view videos and other ancillary materials related to the course of study an student is enrolled.
AIU now offers a new program called intellipath™ which allows a student to customize their course of study based on their learning style and skip over what they already know and focus on content in the course of study that they need to learn. This program was not available when I attended AIU, but I see value in the program as a valuable tool to accelerate through the program. There are several testimonials on AIU's website that explain the program in more detail.
No Final Exams
One other interesting aspect of the program is that there is no mid-term of final exams. The University measures your understanding and mastery of each course by assigning either individual or group projects for students to complete. For many this is a non-traditional way of measuring knowledge but it is a growing trend among many online and distance learning programs. Project-based work is reflective of how work and tasks are completed in the business world, so the project tasks and interactions that take place in group projects are designed to mimic real-life situations in the business world.
As with most online degree programs, one needs to have the ability to manage their time wisely and not procrastinate, or you will quickly fall behind on the project based assignments for each course. Secondarily, you need to be very comfortable with writing essays and research papers in an academic setting. You will be asked to format your papers in APA format and make sure they are grammatically correct and utilize proper punctuation, which can be a challenge for some who are not comfortable writing.
The university does offer writing courses and other tools to assist with the writing component of the program by logging into their portal to view videos and read materials to help you with these tasks. Students will also find an extensive virtual library that they can use for sources on the papers that they are asked to write. Nothing drives a professor battier than when students use Wikipedia as a source. In academia, Wikipedia is not typically viewed favorably as a credible source.
All About the Experience
I had a great experience at AIU Online. I was comfortable with the writing component of the course of study and found the group projects to be interactive and fun and a new way to learn traditional coursework. Additionally, this gives the student real world experience with working with remote teams and having to lead people through the completion of a project, which at times can be challenging. My number one piece of advice is to be ready to write, a lot. If you are not comfortable with writing, you may want to talk to an AIU Online admissions counselor to gauge whether the program is right for you.
In a follow-up post, I will write about my recent experience at Western Governors University where I completed my Master's Degree. It is a much different model and much more affordable so be sure to stay on the lookout for that post.