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Capella University: an honest review

Online universities are a boon for adults who wish to continue their education despite working. Capella is amongst those names that come to mind foremost when one is considering earning a degree online. Formed in 1993, Capella University became fully accredited in 1997. With accreditation came a name change and formation of five different schools namely: Education, Business, Technology, Human Sciences and Psychology. Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the university offers 650 courses in 70 specialization areas of studies. With statistics such as 650 faculty members and over 550 administrative and personnel staff, the university is inarguably one of the better places to earn an online degree and currently has over 13,000 learners enrolled with it.

There are several upsides and some down sides of studying at Capella. Consider these points for instance:

Capella has a personalized portal for e-learning called iGuide. After enrolling students are given secure access to courses and transcripts which will enable you to join the interactive learning community. On joining the online classroom, which they refer to as ‘Courseroom’ the student has access to online assignments and discussion forums. Most students find this alternative far superior to the cumbersome online chats and perpetually non-functioning webcams of their competitors. Similarly, the assignment submission protocol through Capella is quite convenient. Under the system, students have to submit their assignments in zip files or Microsoft Word documents.

The University also offers a number of opportunities that extend beyond graduation. One, for example is the alumni center located on the online portal. This service offers recent graduates and students access to networking opportunities, professional employment information, and developmental grants. Students are generally pleased with this feature although some have criticized the alumni center as being much more fluff than actual job offers.

While on the subject of employment, it is important to consider that many students in online universities choose that option for the chance to work at the same time. Unfortunately, however, students are frequently finding that the University does not do much by way of providing employment for students. Students find the opportunity for work-study rather dismal. The University does not offer much assistance for this except for students who live in the vicinity of the headquarters.

While this type of limitation might be expected from an online university, the school does offer some rather extensive assistance when it comes to special needs for learning. Capella University provides disability services to physically challenged students in the form of additional learning time, residential colloquia support, including sign language interpreters and mobility assistance.

Regarding other services, however, Capella comes up short. Capella does have a bookstore, which offers a wide variety of books and software. But it is generally felt that the books can definitely be bought a lot cheaper from other places instead of the university bookstore. While some students claim that the use of a University book store is merely a means for Capella to generate revenue at the expense of the school, it is rather simple to opt out of this trap by purchasing books online. And in other respects, the school, regarding cost, is quite competitive with other online universities, and a real bargain compared to its brick and mortar counterparts.

While many of the individual schools within Capella carry quite a strong reputation, the psychology school is regarded as quite unsatisfactory. The Psychology School has been plagued with some problems concerning its top management. The school has been beset with repeat changes of deans resulting in total lack of coordination. Add to this, the program is till now, not approved by the apex American Psychological Association (APA) despite being in existence for so many years.

But as stated previously, the condition of this particular school should not be taken as an indication of the collective university. With a faculty numbering 650, many students find the quality and variety of professors a major asset to the university. Some students have argued, however, that contrary to this, existing students often complain of these very instructors as being part time contractors and as such not dedicated enough to adequately serve their students as teachers and mentors. In fact professors at Capella are often labeled as ‘incapable of online teaching’, a criticism pointing to many professors non-familiarity with the online environment. An argument in favor of this thought comes from the experience of some students who loved the experience of pursuing an online masters degree with Capella and after coming back for more by enrolling for their doctoral program, were disappointed. They claim an obvious degradation of quality of mentoring at the higher levels. This may be because the vast majority of students enrolled at Capella do not seek to extend their education that far.

Overall Capella provides students with a bit of a mixed bag. The format of class teaching and the ease of assignment submissions is a very tangible benefit of this school over its competitors. In addition, the University faculty has some very able-minded and talented teachers. But with these positives, come some very serious drawbacks. The teaching quality at Capella is inconsistent at times, leaving some students with the impression that the qualifications required for teaching are too low. Additionally, the failure of the school to attain accreditation in some areas, despite its age, can only leave the impression that the quality of the administration has some serious flaws.

Jean Chortillion enjoys writing about online education. See http://www.universityreviewsonline.com/2005/10/review_of_capel.html for another review of Capella University.

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