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Getting an online degree

Discussion in 'Parents Off Topic' started by moco89, Mar 29, 2013.

  1. moco89

    moco89 Approved members

    Mar 1, 2008
    I am probably going to have to take medical withdrawal for a fourth time since starting my undergraduate career at university.

    I have an autoimmune form of autonomic neuropathy, which leaves me with low blood pressure when standing up (and even while sitting down) and chronic nausea and vomiting (due to severe gastroparesis), among other things.

    I ended up with sepsis due to a central line infection (placed for my treatments) during spring break, and I subsequently ended up in the hospital. I am also going to need a more permanent central line placed for treatments, so I have an appointment with a vascular surgeon next week.

    Physically going to school to get my education is not working very well and no matter what I am not going to give up on getting my BS in electrical engineering. I have put too much work in to it and I enjoy the material too much to quit. My grades are completely fine (besides my transcript being littered with withdraws) and I have been forced to decline some impressive internships because of my health.

    There is an ABET accredited (engineering accrediting board in the US, which all reputable schools are accredited by) public, state university, that allows you to take all coursework online, by distance education.

    You do have to spend 7-14 days every summer on campus to complete the labs in person though. All exams must be proctored by an individual qualified to do so. Also, my transcript would not be marked with any indication of "online coursework". My degree would look exactly the same as if I took all of the courses on campus.

    It is more expensive, but I do have enough savings to pay for it.

    I am about a couple of years away from losing insurance (at least from having to pay COBRA) on my parents' plan.

    I am also thinking about applying for disability, but I am fully expecting to be denied due to my age. Plus, you have to be completely unable to work due to your disability, at least technically. No matter what, I don't have anything to lose by filing.

    Has anyone received a degree from doing primarily online coursework?

    In your opinion, was taking online classes more challenging than taking it in person?

    What were the advantages/disadvantages of pursuing this route of education?
  2. Lee

    Lee Approved members

    Oct 5, 2006
    Yes, I have participated in both Graduate Online and In Class options.

    Yes, taking an online class IS more challenging. It feels like it is so much more work then a classroom class. However, it probably feels like that because all of the interaction takes place via typing. There is not anything spontaneous - no talking, no asking questions, no conversations. It is all thought about beforehand and typed - there is no spontaneity. Also, the workload is more intense because there is no lecture,

    The disadvantage is missing out on personal interaction and talking to other students. The workload is a bit more challenging and you have to be very disciplined. The advantage is flexibility. You can do you work when and where you want. Also, another pro is you have more flexibility in the work. There seems to be a bit more freedom for the students - for example, you are more free to focus in on a topic that interests you, rather then being stuck in a group and researching something that does not pertain to your area of interest.

    I am a big fan of online courses and I am actually pursuing my Doctorate through my local university - all online. For me, the ability to not have to drive for 3 hours to go to course outweighs all of the other cons.
  3. moco89

    moco89 Approved members

    Mar 1, 2008
    The lectures are recorded on video from in-class lectures, although I doubt this would matter much in engineering. The classes are fairly unstructured and it is all up to you to learn all of the material on your own.

    Personally, I don't think I have much to lose other than it is expensive.

    Engineering is challenging, so I will really be in for a challenge taking primarily online courses.

    This is really a last resort option for me. Maybe my doctor could do something else to help me. This disease is just so frustrating.

    Congrats on pursing the doctorate!
  4. Megnyc

    Megnyc Approved members

    Nov 8, 2012
    First, I am really really sorry you are in this situation. It must be frustrating!

    A few thoughts though...
    I know at least all my engineering classes have a big emphasis on working in teams. All our problem sets require working in groups and usually that is the only way to solve the problems. Does this program account for that? I just feel like you would be missing out a ton on bouncing ideas off each other.

    Will you be able to work as an engineer? If not, to me at least it doesn't make sense to spend a ton of money on a degree. If you wanted to take some classes I know my university and a lot of others are offering free online classes.

    Could you handle one engineering class at a time with flexible attendance policies (perhaps with assistance from your college disabilities office)? You could even plan to take an incomplete in it and just finish up the work over the summer. At my university you have up to 2 semesters to fulfill the requirements of a course if you are given an incomplete. Let's say that is 4 credits. You can probably petition to take a minimum of 11 credits instead of 12. So you would need one 3 credit class and one 4 credit class. Those could be easy A classes that don't actually require attendance. My school has a list that students have made over the years that lists the easy classes that you don't have to actually attend. Maybe yours has something like that. It would take you longer to finish your degree so I am not sure how that would impact any financial aid you have or health insurance issues. Just some thoughts....

    I guess my concern if I was in this situation would be the social aspect. Would you be living at home? I know if I were to move back home my family isn't even living there and all my friends are off at school. I would be lonely. I would just have some plan in place to handle that. Maybe you could get a dog. My boyfriend's frat has a goat and I have met so many people just walking it around campus. I would suggest a goat but I am not sure if there are zoning regulations where you live plus we are in farm country so the goat will be moving to the farm soon.
  5. moco89

    moco89 Approved members

    Mar 1, 2008
    Sorry in advance for the disorganized post.

    Thanks for the support. It is very frustrating. It is by far the most frustrating thing I have ever went through so far in my life.

    Traditionally, at my school, we do work in teams for projects. Frequently, due to the challenging nature of the homeworks, we even work on that in groups, though informally. For exams, working in groups is useful and even essential.

    This program does not have any sort of emphasis on working in groups, at least for the (significant) online portion of the degree plan.

    I do have around 50 GB in pure electrical engineering books. I cross reference them when I am stuck.

    My disease is not degenerative, and supposedly people make a "spontaneous recovery" from the disease (after receiving long term immunomodulatory treatments), although sometimes only after several years of treatment.

    There are only case reports of the disease I have, and there is only one lab in the country that tests for it-the Mayo Clinic Laboratories.

    There is only one long-term follow up in the medical literature for people with the disease I have.

    Right now, not only are my symptoms getting in the way, but my treatment is too.

    I do expect to work in the future. I do not see why not at this point of time. I have been referred to vocational rehabilitation by my college's disabilities office, in the past year.

    Also, in the state of Texas, if you attempt over 30 hours (or 45 hours with my degree because it requires more hours) in college credits that do not count towards your undergraduate degree, you will hit an "enrollment cap". Once you hit that, you are forced to pay "out of state tuition" from that point on. Medical withdrawals are not exempt.

    I am 1 credit hour away from having to pay out-of-state tuition, for my remaining 50 hours required for my degree. The only way around this is appealing to the provost, according the the state education code.

    Engineering has no sympathy for my situation, especially towards the enrollment cap issue. Basically the dean for undergraduate students in engineering refused to give me incompletes the last time I was FORCED to take a withdrawal (because of him), even though I completed most of my coursework. He did not care that I was about to hit the enrollment cap, or the fact that I spent lots of money and I invested a lot of work in those courses. I also had a ton of documentation from that particular semester from doctor's visits. I will not GIVE A PENNY TO MY SCHOOL (if I do actually graduate from there) because of this. (Can you tell I am still furious?)

    Anyways, the point is, I only have so much energy. Although I live roughly 20-45 minutes away from campus (high traffic involved), I only have so much energy. I might as well conserve it at home, where I can stay as comfortable as possible.

    The low blood pressure issue and the fatigue kills me. I don't know, maybe I should get a wheelchair, but I really don't want to use one. But if it gets me closer to getting my degree, I might as well.

    I am currently taking 6 hours, all within my major. My professors this semester are about as lenient as they get. I do have attendance flexibility, basically, as an accommodation.

    I went to my primary care doctor about a week ago and she said to take 1 course a semester, at this point of time.

    However, it gets to a point where you get so sick that you cannot work with the material, no matter how easy it is. Due to everything that has went on, I am basically at that point (at least, this semester) and I am going to have to recouperate.

    The engineering college will not give you incompletes, pretty much period. The dean is the biggest douchebag in the world. The last time I took classes was in Fall 2011. I had a course that I completed everything except two homeworks and the final exam. I was in the hospital, ADMITTED during the final exam. According to my professor, because the "final exam was worth 50% of my grade" I could not get an incomplete. The dean stood behind him. I am not kidding. I have the emails to prove it.

    Also, I don't really have any "easy" classes left. I have also hit the enrollment cap, essentially, because I will be taking medical withdrawal.

    At this point of time, I am going to be applying for disability. I am expecting to be denied completely, but I do not have anything to lose. You have to be completely unable to work in order to be approved. It has nothing to do with how sick you actually are. I heard if you are under 50, they will say that you can do some sort of "sedentary work" as long as you are not illiterate.

    I live at home already. I will miss people a lot. I already do. I am so tired at school that after class, I literally go home when class ends. I then sleep for a really long time.

    I will have to find creative ways to socialize, no matter what. Maybe training a dog of some sort would be a good activity.

    Anyways, sorry for the disorganized post. I feel horrible!

    Thank you again.
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2013
  6. Megnyc

    Megnyc Approved members

    Nov 8, 2012
    Please don't take any offense to this but maybe you just need a different college. Is there any way you could transfer? I will just give you a few comparisons here. Last semester I was exposed to mercury on an ems call and I and the rest of the crew had to go to the hospital from some tests. I had an exam that night. I emailed the professor gave no details just said I was having a medical issue and may not be able to take the exam. His response was to focus on getting better, don't worry, get in touch when you feel better and we can figure it all out. A few weeks ago I had a bunch of things due all at once and I had a horrible stomach virus and I was super overwhelmed. I emailed the professor for my physics class asking for an extension on a take home exam, it was granted no questions asked and no details other then "I have a virus" given. I am not registered with our disabilities office. All my friends have reported experiences like this as well. This is not an easy school at all but there is a ton of flexibility. I have never heard of a professor not being totally willing to work with a student for any issue.

    I know you are at a public school and may be concerned about money. My college costs something crazy like 62k a year and we are paying less then 10% of that (and we are not considered "low-income" by any standard). Most of the top private colleges have a ton of financial aid (no loans) and scholarships to give out. So transferring to a private college may even make financial sense for you.

    Have you ever looked at Rice? It is in Texas and directly across the street from one of the best hospitals in the country. The campus is gorgeous and flat so if you needed a wheelchair you would be fine. The financial aid package I got from them was excellent, I just got rejected from their combined BA/MD program so I was too annoyed with them to go for just undergrad :D. They accept transfers and the acceptance rate is 20% which is much higher then it is for freshmen. Could be a decent option if you are willing to leave your current doctors.

    I wish there was something I could do.

    Also, on the issue of the central line. I had infection after infection with my hickman cath. Getting a portacath was one of the best decisions my parents ever made for me. It can leave a bigger scar but it greatly reduces the risk of infection. You do need to use a needle to access it but it is just a slight pinch and you can use emla if you want beforehand. I would highly recommend talking to your doctors about it.

    Edit: Also I can't say enough for the psychological benefits of having the port hidden under the skin with no tubing or dressing needed. I had a port until the end of high school and I can't imagine managing all the social issues in high school (changing in front of people in the locker rooms, relationships/dating, and just wearing dresses) with a normal hickman catheter.
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2013
  7. moco89

    moco89 Approved members

    Mar 1, 2008
    Thanks again.

    After the incident with the dean, I was seriously considering switching schools. Rice is my only other local option.

    Rice is close to me and my doctors are all in that area. I was thinking about transferring there, however with all of the withdrawals and the expenditures, I did not think it was feasible. I cannot risk another withdrawal for any reason-at a public or private school. My GPA is strong, and I already applied to take courses this summer at Texas A&M and I was accepted. I am not going to be able to do it, though.

    Actually, my old disabilites counselor at my current university is now the director of the disabilites office at Rice. He knows me well, so that would help.

    I guess it is worth a try applying there as a transfer. I don't have anything to lose at this point of time.

    I will probably always have to live in a major city due to my medical problems and the rarity of my disease. If I was healthier I could live on my own, but not at this point of time.

    I have a portacath too. It was placed in July. However, I am receiving plasmapheresis right now and a port does not work with the machines, since it was never meant to draw blood with that much pressure, especially using a machine.
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2013
  8. moco89

    moco89 Approved members

    Mar 1, 2008
    I forgot that you have to get something filled out by the dean of your college if you are transferring to Rice. It specifically asks if you are in good academic standing within your college.

    Because I will be taking medical withdrawal and it is past the drop date, I will get F's no matter what by the time the semester ends. Eventually, my professors will change the grades to W's.

    So, I will be on ENGINEERING PROBATION-no matter what,even though my transcript will say "Good Academic Standing". Because of the "policy" (written on the engineering website), once you get the email saying you are on engineering probation at the end of the semester-it stays no matter what. I even got a letter from the dean saying I was on engineering probation, even after my grades were changed to W's.

    I was telling one of my engineering professors about it and he even agreed that it was ridiculous.

    Sorry megnyc, but you are making me hate my school. :rolleyes: :eek:

    Maybe, by a miracle, I will be able to transfer to Rice. My GPA is not > 3.5, though.

    I did have to decline a 6 month internship with a company that starts with IN and ends with TEL (I don't want it to get indexed on a search engine), in California. So it's not like I don't have decent grades or extracurriculars.
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2013
  9. Ali

    Ali Approved members

    Aug 1, 2006
    I would try and go in to Rice in person and meet one on one. There is always a way around problems. I would start by talking with your old disabilities counselor who is now at Rice. Talk via phone or in person not by email. Megnys sounds like a great resource also. When you are as tired as you are it is hard to do this stuff on your own. If you meet with some people in person they may step up to take the load for you in helping to get you what you need. Sorry, good luck.:cwds::)ali I wanted to add if you can get in touch and work with someone at Rice really high up the food chain that will really help. Your old disabilities person might be able to give ou the name of the highest person at Rice who will lend you an ear. Go in and meet one on one with them. Often the higher ups are the ones who listen.
  10. selketine

    selketine Approved members

    Jan 4, 2006
    It is probably too late at this point, but I would suggest going over the Dean's head to the president of the university. I don't know your age - and I don't usually suggest this to college age adults - but I'd bring a parent or two if you are close to your parents and they support you.

    I worked at a university for several years (some of that time for a Dean - she wouldn't have done this to you) - and I can't think of a reason why you should have not been able to complete classes if you were in the hospital during a final exam. That is inexcusable on their part - they should allow you a credit for those at this point.
  11. moco89

    moco89 Approved members

    Mar 1, 2008
    Somebody on here suggested that I go to the ombudsman when this issue initially started.

    Engineering administrators are generally anal and I thought that trying to refute it with this dean would be like wrestling with a pig. He is not very friendly and he only cares if you are a "perfect" student (graduates within 4 years with a GPA >3.5, probably in the honors college, does not have any "problems"-family, medical, financial, etc.). Otherwise, he basically screws you if you have any sort of issue.

    Also, since I will be appealing to the provost due to hitting the enrollment cap (I will be hitting it now that I am taking medical withdrawal), mentioning the refusal for incompletes could only go against me. Appealing higher up could only hurt me at this point. Plus, it's not like they are going to give me my time spent on these courses or my tuition back.

    The whole situation is pretty outrageous. It is really hard to be sick while going to university. There are so many issues involved. There is always a way to fall through the cracks or get screwed, in general. At least at my school....

    For example, if you receive a grade in a math course in the math department and medical withdrawal is granted-the math department leaves your grade as an "F" because it is "department policy"! You get screwed. This is the only department in my university that does this, and the office that does the withdrawals warns of this.

    It's all bull****. I am so sick of my school.
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2013
  12. moco89

    moco89 Approved members

    Mar 1, 2008
    One of my doctors also teaches at Rice. She was the pre-med advisor there for some time. So, I have a couple of resources that I can go to so I can work up to that point.

    This is something I will have to plan for in the future.
  13. Megnyc

    Megnyc Approved members

    Nov 8, 2012
    I have been thinking about this. Do you have a student services office? We have an office with advisors with open office hours every day. Have you ever talked in person to the dean? What about the president of the university? Does the president hold open office hours? Have you thought of getting your school newspaper involved and bringing some attention to this issue? Do you have a society of women engineers?

    It is certainly possible at my school to fall through the cracks but there is a ton of help if you want it. I can't figure out how your school gets away with these policies. I feel like it is your school that is the problem and they should have some obligation to work with you.

    I would suggest transferring here but it would be truly impossible to navigate our campus in a wheelchair, there is no decent healthcare less then a 90 minute drive away, and it is either snowing or raining all the time (it snowed today :rolleyes:)
  14. moco89

    moco89 Approved members

    Mar 1, 2008
    This is disorganized again, I truly apologize.

    Yes, there is a general student services office. There are all sorts of "offices" that I can go to. I can try going to those, but I doubt I will get too far at my school. The whole university is notorious for "administrative" problems. I have spent a lot of time dealing with administrative issues due to my extreme/extenuating circumstance.

    (Ain't nobody got time for that-especially when you feel horrible and are sick)

    I am actually waiting on an email that I sent over a week ago (and just resent a day ago) from THE advisor in engineering responsible for this to see whether or not I am still on engineering probation from the last time I took medical withdrawal. Because, if I am on engineering probation, I WILL be put on suspension because I am taking medical withdrawal after the drop date.

    Engineering probation/suspension is quite ridiculous because it doesn't even go on your transcript. Obviously the engineering college writes a program (in C, python, matlab) that flags students that have an unacceptable major GPA at the end of the semester, because they aren't going to be going through the major GPA's of 3,000 students every semester. The question is, in which way did they code it? They could of been lazy while coding (and overlooked continuous enrollment). Also, based on the description on the engineering college website whether or not I am on probation is unclear, because I was not continuously enrollment.

    Also, my advisor within my major had a student who reached the enrollment cap due to other problems. He wrote a letter in support for him, saying something like it wasn't related to academics. He said my situation was horrible. At least he is nice, and is on my side.

    There are tons of advisors I can see. However, nobody really knows how to deal with it. I had a hard time finding the office that was responsible for the appeals for the enrollment cap. I found out from a professor who was advising me.

    Even the office that processes the medical withdrawals-the people who warn you about your medical withdrawal counting against your "enrollment cap"- had no idea that there was a way to appeal the cap, nor did they know which office or the individual to go to. I gave them a copy of the pertinent laws in the state education code, and they said they would "follow up" on the issue. But they never could figure it out, over the 3-4 months that the medical withdrawal was being processed over fall 2011.

    Yes, I did and I don't see any reason to go back to him. He is unhelpful. I avoid him at all costs.

    You can email the president.

    Yes, but I do not want my name tied to it. I do not want to disclose my disability, or the fact that I have health problems, because I plan on getting a job (eventually) in the future.

    Yes, we do. I enjoy SWE. I was quite active in the student chapter during the Fall 2011 semester, even though it was difficult to participate.

    I went to the national conference in Chicago during Fall 2011 and that is how I got the internship offer (in January 2012). After the trip, my health went downhill that semester.

    I am a current member, although I am not active. I have not been to one meeting or event all year. That is how tired I am. (Nor did I go to any IEEE events or meetings or the beginning of the semester engineering party.)

    Disability services are the best for dealing with this issue. They are willing to do actual advocacy and help with the appeal. Also, they can give practical advice regarding the future. The rest of the university, doesn't really know what to do or to handle the situation.

    One of my professors (nicest professor in the engineering college, pretty much) was asking ME how to go about taking medical withdrawal (and I also told him how this student could avoid engineering probation-at that point of time) because a fellow student broke both of his hands in a car accident.

    It is a huge university.

    The biggest problem right now is the enrollment cap. The law is discriminatory, more than anything else. And the university gets no reimbursement (for any of my tuition-after I reach the cap) from the state if they give me an exemption.

    (There is another portion of the education code that says that remedial courses don't count against you, dual credit (college credit in HS), and non-credit courses...and that is pretty much it...nothing said regarding extreme circumstances)

    HOURS. (a) An institution of higher education may charge a
    resident undergraduate student tuition at a higher rate than the
    rate charged to other resident undergraduate students, not to
    exceed the rate charged to nonresident undergraduate students, if
    before the semester or other academic session begins the student
    has previously attempted a number of semester credit hours for
    courses taken at any institution of higher education while
    classified as a resident student for tuition purposes that exceeds
    by at least 30 hours the number of semester credit hours required
    for completion of the degree program in which the student is
    enrolled. For purposes of this subsection, an undergraduate
    student who is not enrolled in a degree program is considered to be
    enrolled in a degree program or programs requiring a minimum of 120
    semester credit hours, including minors and double majors, and for
    completion of any certificate or other special program in which the
    student is also enrolled, including a program with a study-abroad
    component. An institution of higher education that charges
    students tuition at a higher rate under this subsection may adopt a
    policy under which the institution exempts from the payment of that
    higher rate a student that is subject to the payment of the higher
    rate solely as a result of hardship as determined by the institution
    under the policy.


    As for engineering, they are really bad, when it comes to any sort of extenuating circumstance, even common stuff like disabilities. Basically, the whole engineering probation/suspension crap in my situation is because they are lazy and they don't care. I guess the same goes for the problems I encounter in general within that college.

    I could switch to another "professional degree" outside the engineering school. I really don't want to, though. My heart is set on this. Plus with everything going on, who knows what I am getting myself in to with another degree.

    Thanks again.

    That weather sounds horrible. :p

    I do have to live close/in a major city. It really isn't an option. Although I wish I had that freedom. I am going to have to look in to all of my options and just try to make the best of my situation.
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2013

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