Undergrad DL at Chadron State

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by MISin08, Jan 9, 2009.

  1. MISin08

    MISin08 New Member

    Here's a review of distance learning via Chadron State College that I wrote for another board. User ChrisH asked about Chadron in another thread and I didn't want to hijack that one.

    I signed up because I need MIS electives. Where some people come to a MIS concentration with certifications, I only have experience. It's OK, some book learning will be good for me. Chadron came up in a thread about MBA programs and I looked at the school on a lark, discovering upper-level MIS electives in Database Management, Systems Analysis & Design, and Project Management, that follow common curricula (so I expect Excelsior to accept them, but I have not received approval). Their programming class appears to be about VBA, so I am taking programming (and Data Communication) at my community college.

    Chadron's enrollment, registration, and administrative processes are top-notch, and service from the staff is great. I have been able to do everything via email. Jodi and Lisa in particular have been fantastic. Getting into this class was easy. In order to sign up for additional classes (with prerequisites), I had to write a brief summary of why I am ready for upper-level coursework (I have the credit hours and had already proved myself in the E-commerce class, so it wasn't too hard).

    This class is about doing business on the Web. The book drives the content. It's a recent edition, which is good since it keeps things up-to-date and minimizes the incidence of 'look at this great influential trend' that has fizzled since the book came out. It's information-dense and the accompanying website is only OK in terms of ancillary material to study from. If you've read any of my other postings you know I like textbook websites with enough info that you don't need the book! The book's design is monochromatic with a blue theme, and while there are plenty of tables to summarize info, it's not chock full of eye-candy graphics that some texts have. You have to read to pass this class. You need to know the terms, but will not be tested on them -- it's more about concepts and applying them. Fortunately, each chapter has a summary that covers all the main points and if you are already knowledgeable about the subject matter, these make the reading go a lot faster.
    There isn't that much interaction with the instructor, though I'm sure I could have got help if I needed it. If you want more than the book you have to find it yourself, which is of course not a problem for self-directed CLEPers. The work this term: 50-100 pages of reading and 1-2 pages of writing weekly. The first 4 assignments are pretty basic -- read and understand the chapter, visit one or more e-commerce Web sites and report on how what you see relates to what you read and bang together a report ; bringing in more sources than required has earned me full points and compliments on every assignment. The last 3 require a little more abstract thought and research outside the book. There's a cumulative final exam. Weekly discussion postings are required, as are responses to others' postings. The level of discourse is about what you would expect from inexperienced students at a little college. If you have experience in business or have attended college before you may find it underwhelming. On the other hand, it's easy points. The final was three questions aimed at 'reflecting on my learning' in the class. I found it a bear because I don’t write well under a clock, and my browser crashed during the exam! That cost me an A on the final, but I made my A for the class. Content-wise, the final is just feeding back stuff from the reading and activities. There are no multiple-choice tests in this class.

    How hard is this class compared to preparing for a CLEP? Way harder than Information Systems and Computer Applications, not as hard as Macroeconomics (which I started from zero knowledge). It's part IT, part Management, part Marketing, and even with experience I think I am getting more out of the class having just taken the related CLEPs. Week 7 we do a tiny bit of reviewing company financial statements.

    It's really awesome to walk away with 3 semester hours of upper-level A for two months' work. The 8-week term is hard, but kind of invigorating in a way. A business trip and a cold set me back in the readings and I thought I faced a marathon to get caught up for the cumulative final. As it turned out, I could have aced the final if I had made some notes ahead of time based on the outcomes in the syllabus.
    Next term, I'm hitting my book before the class starts. Next up is Project management, and I'll provide an update if people are interested.

    Bottom line, Chadron is great if you need electives unavailable elsewhere or want a taste of the college experience; it's cheaper than EC courses. I might even be tempted to finish my degree with them if I weren't addicted to clepdrenalin.

  2. MISin08

    MISin08 New Member

    The book (link didn't work in post above)
  3. MISin08

    MISin08 New Member

    Here's an update on taking undergrad distance courses at Chadron State College. I took E-commerce in Fall of 2008 and Project Management in the first half of the Spring 2009 term. These are 8-week classes.

    After two of these, I sort of have a system for pacing myself through the 8-week term. Vitamins, gingko biloba, and espresso figure prominently, as does planning for each coming week before it starts. (I also read half the book over the holiday break between terms.) Most of my weekend and Tuesday evening belong to Chadron. I fit my other class into Saturday morning and odd moments during the week. I have also decided that I would not try to learn an all-new subject at this pace. At the very least, I would read a general-audience book before the term starts.

    Project management was a senior-year class and more challenging than E-commerce was last term. The content is aligned to the PMBOK; the book is well-organized and practical. The workload: discussion postings weekly, requiring about as much work as the weekly unit assignments. You have to respond substantively to at least two other class members. This can be tedious unless there are a couple other bright lights in the class, which in this case there were. The best tactic is to post early (this is where starting the week before comes in) so that the others have to work to say something that isn't just rehashing the same thing you said.

    Weekly assignments required knowing the material in the chapter and completing a task such as a pareto chart and fishbone diagram, a 1-2 page paper on the importance of scope control, or fill out a spreadsheet template and explain what the result is about. There was less writing overall than the e-commerce class. Also, weekly we completed the textbook web-site's quizzes for credit. Easy. There were two exams, midterm and final, each consisting of 5 brief 'essays' and 25 multiple-choice. The multiple-choice items were comparable in content to the textbook site quizzes, but were not the same questions. They are timed, open-book, and if you have read the book well enough to know where to copy 1-2 lines from you can ace them. Yes, copying from the book is OK.

    A neat feature of the class was a two-part "exploring Microsoft Project" assignment where I followed steps in the book that introduced the major features of Project. This exercise related the software to the concepts in the book; the items I turned in were selected screen shots of what I did using example files from the book and 2 pages on what I thought of Project and what kinds of projects I would use it for. The school has MS Academic Alliance, so I was able to download a free full version of Project 2007. Nice. In fact, the software I could download would have paid for the class.
    Finally, there's a team exercise where 5 of us performed a simulated project over 5 weeks using the the course concepts and deliverables and a scenario from the book (starting a new business). For this project we had 3-8 deliverables weekly (mostly using templates) and a final presentation. I let myself be volunteered to play the team leader role; this added significantly to my workload. This was a new experience for me and I learned from it, though I'm not sure it was worth the extra credit! Three of us carried the project. I ended up finishing other people's tasks and making sure all the assignments met the professor's standards, sometimes uploading the work minutes before the deadline. This extra effort cost me an A in my beginning Java class and if I had known what was coming at me I would have handled it differently. Live and learn.

    The professor. This term's professor -- a CPA and Phd student -- was clearly new to some aspects of the class, or to teaching, or something. She made good use of the technology, she was responsive. She was also obviously very busy and a bit disorganized. Kept asking us to change how we formatted assignments so she could print them for grading -- like she'd never thought of it before? None of this disrupted the class materially, but it seemed a bit odd.

    Bottom line: I am satisfied I took the class. I'm not sure it's because I learned that much about project management -- having done it before -- although I am using the concepts in my other classes. The class also shed some light on practices at my company, many of which follow generally-recommended Project Management methods, and some of which don't. I walked away with a requirement fulfilled, a boost to my GPA and a few ideas I can use. Good enough. I have one more 8-week term with Chadron and then I go back to CLEP & DSST for a few months.

    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 3, 2009
  4. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    Word of the day: clepdrenalin

    Ha! I totally remember that feeling! "Three more credits!! YES!!!"

  5. ChrisH

    ChrisH New Member

    Second course at Chadron

    Some of you may remember I was slightly distraught about my rejection into OSU...because of my low GMAT score..

    I did, however, decide to enroll at Chadron State and thus far am very happy, as this is my second course.

    Some small observations:

    The course work is intense.
    Currently, I am taking Business Strategy...The course is 8 weeks totally online. The weekly work load requires about 80 pages of text book reading, 8 posts to the discussion forum, one Harvard Business Review style case assignment, one exam-guard test, and a weekly synchronous team meeting through the live learning tools of the e-college platform. The team meeting is required for the GLO-BUS business simulation game...Along with the weekly assignments aforementioned there are two accumulative assignments due in week 4 and week 8, with a final exam...the first accumulative assignment is a 10 page single spaced industry analysis of a company of my choosing (this analysis has required me to actually perform interviews with people at my chosen company) and a final GLO-BUS team presentation in week 8...so lots of work

    Another observation:
    Quality students...
    I am very impressed with the level of quality in the student body...most of my class mates are well established career people with solid undergraduate backgrounds...and many foreign exchange students too...maybe the GMAT has a purpose :)

    So Chadron is highly recommended!

  6. Interesting. This course is my program's first year capstone, taken after all of the other typical prereqs like stats, finance, accounting, economics, etc. Are you taking the classes out of sequence or is this how the program is structured?
  7. MISin08

    MISin08 New Member

    Thank you for the follow-up Chris. Nice feedback. There were some folks in my Project Management class who said the undergrad Business Strategy is pretty intense as well.

    So far Database Management and Systems Analysis have been hard, but I planned to take a day off from work every week for schoolwork and couldn't get the days off in the first two weeks of the term, so my perception may be skewed. This weekend was supposed to be catch-up time, but I lost Friday to a headache and needing to sleep. That's one advantage to testing out, if you blow off a day of studying you only answer to yourself.

  8. ChrisH

    ChrisH New Member

    Yes you are correct...I requested to take this course due to other course availability...My undergrad is Business Admin, so I thought maybe I could "wing it"...yeah, getting my tail kicked. You are right this is typically the capstone course for this program too...I learned ANOTHER valuable lesson!

  9. guz19

    guz19 New Member

    how many transfer credits do they allow?
  10. MISin08

    MISin08 New Member

    Looks like you can transfer in 66 or possibly 70 hours. I'm transferring these credits to Excelsior.

  11. MISin08

    MISin08 New Member

    I took Systems Analysis & Design and Database Management from Chadron in the 2nd 8 weeks of the spring 09 term. Two upper-level classes at once is hard; for two months this was my life, apart from work. I managed 2 As which is great for my GPA and I rewarded myself with a bottle of artisanal brandy from Clear Creek distillery.

    Each class requires a discussion posting and two 'meaningful' responses to others each week. As mentioned above other students often write pretty generic postings that make it hard to reply meaningfully if you're looking for an A. I had a couple live wires in each class so engaging with them kept it interesting. It was a little different one week -- I and two others were assigned as "discussion leaders" -- who were tasked with making the first post, keeping the discussion going by writing extra replies, and posting a summary at week's end. Note that I saved myself 4 points by keeping the email in which one of the others agreed to write the summary -- she turned it in late, but since she had agreed to do it I got the points back.

    Instructor Dr. Waugh views Systems Analysis as the capstone of their MIS concentration. As such, it's advanced work for an undergrad program and somewhat challenging. I had experience with some of the topics and time management was perhaps the biggest challenge for me. The assignments in sys anal are all drawn from the scenario in the book. It's a simulation of you as the newly-hired systems analyst at a fictional IT consulting firm. You have 2-4 to-dos each week that reflect the readings in the book. Stuff like creating Data Flow Diagrams, class diagrams, ERDs, recommendations for technology.

    The midterm is open-book essay; if you have read the chapters, it's easy to get done in the time allotted. The final is a powerpoint presentation where you recap the assignments and show you understand how they relate to the SDLC. You have several weeks to complete it, but I banged it out in about 3 hours from an outline I had stuck on my office wall for about a month to let it sink into my brain. Nothing fancy -- all in black and white outline style, no powerpoint tricky junk. You just turn it in; you don't have to "present" it. I got a 100.

    Prof's a little particular about the writing of the "business" memos and emails in the simulation. Formal and detached is the way to go. If you've been in anything but the most formal workplace, or a business writing class in the last 5 years (where I was told "the way they teach you to write for business in college is wrong") you'll have to grit your teeth and play along, but it's no big deal.

    In Database Management the biggest challenge IMO is keeping up with the reading. It's information-dense and 50-100 pages weekly. The assignments in Database are built around doing stuff in Access that illustrates basic database concepts like normalization, relational design, and basic SQL. In the course of the class you build a database of your own design to solve a problem you select. If you have done anything in Access before, the use of the program is elementary -- this is not an Access class, Access is just the tool used to teach basic database concepts as applied to business situations. If you're new to Access it moves pretty gradually and is approachable. If you're new to databases, it will be challenging enough but doable.
    There's a midterm derived from textbook site quiz questions (do the reading and practice the quizzes & you can score well w/minimal pain)and a final requiring short essay answers (don't let the e-word scare you -- direct copying from the book got me a 98). Two shorty papers where you explain how you would use Access to solve business problems.

    The two classes overlap and complement one another. The same prof teaches them both. You do ERDs in database, then do them a couple weeks later in SAD. You do design in both. (Knowing how to use Visio really helped with the diagramming tasks.) If doing systems analysis or DBA is on your career path this would not be the only training you would expect to receive, and so it's OK that in 8 weeks you can only begin to touch the subject. In 15 weeks you might be able to do more projects and have more time to assimilate the reading, but I think you would still walk away needing more specific technical training in order to work in IT. If you're like me, the classes will offer a combination of review and new information. If you have experience, you might wonder "is this all?" (though not from lack of work) but others in the class will remind you through their discussion posts that the level is about right for college seniors, and in some respects the class is validating what you already know.
    These are my last classes at Chadron unless something changes my plans. I would do it again. Taking these classes slowed down my testing progress, but I wanted to have a concentration and I do MIS work already, so it seemed the logical choice. If I had time for a degree from a non-Big-3 school, I might finish my degree through Chadron. My local urban U has a few more sophisticated course options, but for the price, service level, and accessibility, Chadron is excellent. Highly recommended.

    Now back to testing!

  12. ChrisH

    ChrisH New Member

    I recently completed Business Strategy with Chadron...I honestly thought it was the most difficult class I had ever taken, both online and ground. The class was taught very well. The academic rigor was borderline overwhelming to insane...

    So far I am very happy with Chadron State. The price is great, RA with ACBSP business accreditation and its a state university of Nebraska.

    Great school; I will certainly finish my MBA there.

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