For those who haven’t been following along, I just recently finished my fourth term at University of the People. It already feels like it’s been so long, yet I’m only just begun my journey. I always make a point to review each term, and summarize my experience, as well as some thoughts about the school; these thoughts are usually quite critical. This time I’m going to focus more on what’s good, because there is a lot 🙂
Just to catch any new readers up to speed, I lost my previous job at an electrical company in January 2015, and decided to look into my options for education. I had jumped around from job to job my whole life, and each time I was laid off, it was difficult to find work. I simply don’t have any formal credentials, just real work experience and references. I’m making a windy, uneven path more straight by leaving out details, but in short, I found UoPeople and got in!
I kind of had no idea what I wanted to do when I decided to go to school, other than that I wanted to be a programmer. I had been teaching myself programming on and off for years, playing around with making silly games, and simple applications, but nothing too serious (with my jobs, I didn’t really have the time). So I sort of just started throwing myself into it fully this year, not really knowing exactly what I was going to focus on. Getting into the computer science program at UoPeople, helped to give me at least one path to focus my efforts on, however I have always, and continue to push myself to learn way beyond what I’m doing in school.
So, I made the hard decision of pursuing my studies one course at a time, while I work on other things in conjunction, which has really paid off. It took about 10 months after my lay off, but I finally landed my first paid programming gig working as a computing curriculum consultant at Khan Academy! (Sounds fancy eh?) I also make the same amount of money in half the time. And this is one of the greatest things about University of the People (aside from the affordability) – it’s the flexibility.
What UoPeople has Done for Me
Studying at University of the People has allowed me to create the ultimate synergy between work, home, and school. I’m able to be home for my wife and son whenever they need me, and I’m able to balance my school and work. Both my job, and my courses are completely online. Since I’m also able to fit self-study into my daily routines, it’s the flexibility that ultimately got me into a position where I was able to get the job I currently have.
My new job, alongside the courses I take in school is helping me to accelerate my learning curve. I spend all day, everyday learning to code, getting paid to code, and talking with others who code. I just code, code, code and code. It’s crazy! But I love it!
This last term that has just gone by, really highlighted the benefits of my education to me. Things I was learning in school were helping in my work, and things I was learning at work, were helping me with my school – synergy! On top of this, I’m able to fit in time to work on extra projects like this blog, and learning other development technologies, while slowly working on a descent little portfolio of the work I’ve done in my spare time.
What did I think of my 4th Term?
I have to say that overall, everything has been amazing at UoPeople so far. I have had my complaints about things, and I still do, but honestly where are you going to go ever in life, and not have something bad to say. A fellow student put it in an elegant way recently on our school’s social network; “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”. It’s the first time I’ve hear that saying before, but how true is it? It’s a tuition-free education, and accredited to boot. It’s online, it’s flexible, they offer a lot of great services like career, and academic advice, as well as access to some great learning resources among many other opportunities.
The community at UoPeople is the one aspect that really stands out to me. I rave about it in every term’s final review. The one thing that has really helped me succeed thus far is all of the great people I’ve met through school. It may be online, and I don’t see these people in person, but the connections we make are real. You can share a lot of experiences with each other over the internet, and I’ve started feeling a real sense of friendship with many of my class mates over the last 10 months. And it’s not that unreasonable to imagine that I might meet some of these new friends face to face one day, you just never know in an ever globalizing world.
Another benefit of the community is the career related connections, and exposure to the fields many of the students are already working in while in school. A lot of students have already started their careers and are using UoPeople as a way to get ahead, while keeping their current jobs.
We all share information with each other, whether it’s blog posts, job postings, career advice, webinars, or any other helpful resource you think would be worth sharing. We’re all there for each other, and we all want everyone else to succeed. It’s a very respectful, inspiring, and grateful community; which I’m proud to be a part of.
In my 4th term there was no exception to the rule. I had amazing discussions with fellow students in my course, which was Programming 2 (CS 1103). The quality of the discussions were augmented by our instructor who was very good at guiding the direction of our conversations, and getting us to think more deeply about each assignment’s topic.
The course was also very challenging too, which is why this review post is much later than previous ones have been. By the course’s end, I hadn’t finished all of the exercises and readings that I wanted to (I completed all of the course requirements). In fact the last 3 weeks, I basically skimmed the readings while jotting notes almost randomly hoping it would be enough to do alright on the exam. I did amazing in all of my assignments, but my exam grade, brought me down enough to break my 4.0 average 🙁
Anyways, although the course was challenging, the concepts covered helped me immensely as a programmer. As a self-taught programmer, I’ve developed a lot of holes, and missing or weak links in my knowledge and general understanding of some important computer science topics. This course helped to fill in a lot of those gaps and it’s given me a heightened sense of confidence in myself (having an actual job as a programmer helps too).
At this point, I have no plans of quitting this program at all. I hope to continue studying at UoPeople, moving at my current pace of 1 course per term, and working full or part time alongside my courses. I think the opportunity is far too good to pass up, and although it’s difficult staying motivated and disciplined, it’s going to be well worth it in the end. Even if it takes 6-8 years to get my Bachelor’s, I’ll be able to say I have the degree plus those number of years with real work experience. Perhaps I’ll even be in a position to give back to this incredible institution and help it bring more labourers out of the ditches and into better more secure opportunities like it has done for me.
I look forward to what my 5th term here has to offer. I’m taking Software Engineering 1, and so far it seems there is a great wealth of information in this course. My instructor seems great, and I see a lot of familiar faces in my class, all of whom I look forward to having even more great discussions with.
If you have any questions about the school, you can reach out to me and ask – either leave a comment bellow, or shoot me an email. I’m a student ambassador, so it’s sort of my duty to help potentially new students when I’m able to.
For more official information, check out the school’s website: uopeople.edu
And, for those who are already students, good luck with term 3 of the 2015-16 year, I look forward to seeing you in class!