Back to School

The countdown is on!  I start the first in a set of three university classes this weekend.  Its been a long time since I attended a college or university class.  Fine, I’ll fess up.  Its been over 18 years(!) since I got my “Computer Systems Technology” diploma from college.

I’m not worried about being the oldest kid in the room, I can deal with that.  It’s the class format that has me a touch concerned.  The class is partly “distance education”.  I’m very much in favour of distance learning, but only if its implemented well.

When I was on leave after the birth of my second child I started a distance program in Technology Management at a major technical school.  I started out quite excited about it.  It was 2010 and all the necessary technology existed.  I did the reading and followed the instructions and… wait!  Not so fast!  I couldn’t follow the instructions.  They all referred to something that didn’t exist, such as a case study on page 34 or questions on page 52, where there were no case studies or questions.  I didn’t get concerned right away, I thought I’d just alert the instructor and they’d fix it right up.  Except I got no response.  I submitted more questions that were also ignored.  When I brought it up with staff from the department I got the distinct impression there WAS NO INSTRUCTOR.  Someone must’ve been assigned the task of marking the assignments, but all the answers I got regarding the instructions were guesses.  They didn’t know the course or the subject matter at all.

That was the end of it for me.  I’m sure I could have gotten through the course, but why would I bother?  There’s no way I was going to put up with that for an entire program.  I wasn’t going to spend my time and money trying to get a degree from an institution that wouldn’t communicate with me.  I was sorely disappointed.

The part that surprised me the most was that nobody from the program ever followed up with me to see why I’d dropped the course.  Surely attrition is a problem for distance ed programs and a little customer service would go a long way?

I’m optimistic that this won’t be a repeat.  Each class starts with a weekend of in-person class time followed by 4 weeks of distance ed.  The instructor has been in touch already and I have instructions to install R and RStudio.  I’m looking forward to learning and practicing some Business Intelligence, Data Analytics and R.  I’ve some experience with BI, but always as a developer and I want more theory so I can contribute more to the design.

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