Picking Up Where I Left Off 18 Years Ago

Well, ugh. That’s my reaction after completing the first three assignments for the first of four undergrad courses the University of Michigan is forcing me to take before I will be permitted to join that exclusive club, grad school, on 29-June.

UM’s School of Ed pointed me to, of all places, Brigham Friggin’ Young University’s online independent study department to pick up two geographies, one political science and one economics class in the next eight weeks. I didn’t know it was possible.

But for a mere $1,380 plus the cost of books, you too can get 12 hours of undergrad college credit from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. And believe me, the course materials let you know that little fact.

Other than the rather obvious evangelistic efforts, it actually is pretty slick. After you register and pay online, they send you CD-ROMs with Quicktime movies and an access code. You can order your books directly from them or, as I did, cheap online from half.com. (Geography120: $93 at BYU; less than $10 online.)

I received the first CDs last week, and the book for the first geography course today. I went online, entered the access code, enjoyed the presentation from BYU’s president extolling the virtues of education to Godly young men and women, and then started the course.

You are given supplemental text lessons and you read the textbook, then are given opportunities to write short-answer essays and practice the true/false and multiple choice assignment. Once you feel you’ve mastered the text and the practice sessions, you do what is called a ‘Speedback Assignment,’ which is 25 multiple choice and true/false questions. It is open book. Once you’re satisfied with your answers, you hit submit and the assignment is graded instantly.

For my first geography course, there are 13 lessons, a ‘mid-term’ and a final exam. Only about half of the lessons have graded Speedback Assignments, but each of those are worth 5% of your final grade.

The mid-term and final must be proctored by a qualified person. BYU sends the exam materials to the proctor, who administers the test and sends it back (you pay postage). Two weeks after you complete the final, you get a final grade and an official BYU transcript showing completion. Since that will satisfy the state of Michigan that I meet their higher-than-Oklahoma standards for an elementary education social studies minor, it works and I can recommend it … so far. After two graded lessons, I have a 94 average.

Still, I’m having flashbacks to the ‘80s, especially since the middle school class I ‘guest taught’ today spent an hour watching The Goonies. A college boy once more. I’ll have to try better this time around; not cutting classes to go watch bad ‘80s movies like, well, The Goonies should help.

Y’all excuse me now, though. I have a headache brought on by contemplating the peripheral distribution of the populations of Mediterranean Europe, Jefferson’s theories on principal cities and whether Belarus or the Czech Republic is a better source for computer programmers and whether the latter will be able to successfully deal with 100,000 historically repressed Romany.

Ah the halls of ivy.