Online University
10 Students 10 Questions 10 Answers

Justin Pettyjohn

Justin Pettyjohn
I wasn’t sure if an online school would be as good as a traditional education, but I felt like it was time to buckle down and get my schooling done. My online classes fit with my military work schedule, which was inconsistent at the best of times.
Bachelor of Science in Information Technology, Networking and Telecommunications
Total Time Enrolled
4 years
  1. Are online schools just in it for the money?

    I honestly don’t believe that online school is about money. That certainly hasn’t been my experience at University of Phoenix. I feel that I have been able to get my money’s worth out of every class that I have taken because my teachers challenge me with each new subject. At the same time, if students want to get the education that they are paying for, they need to apply themselves to their program. Nothing is free, and that includes education.

    When students are checking into different online schools, they need to consider factors like accreditation, program history and whether they offer on-site education to ensure that they are choosing a legitimate program. Accreditation is important because it shows that a university has set up a high-quality learning environment that stands up to outside scrutiny. Students should also investigate the history of any school that they are considering. I think a well-established school will have more to offer than a school that started yesterday. And personally, I wouldn’t go to a school that doesn’t have satellite campuses, because I think it is important to know that there are real people that stand behind the name of a school.

    For my part, I am very happy with my Information Technology, Networking and Telecommunications program at University of Phoenix because my school offers many different kinds of educational resources. For instance, we have access to an online library where you can do research and have your papers peer reviewed. There are even online resource centers that offer tutoring help. And if you have access to an actual University of Phoenix campus, any student is allowed to go online and use its facilities.

  2. What are the pros and cons of studying online?

    The biggest pros to studying online are the convenience and the technological knowledge that you gain. Online programs are convenient because they fit easily into my schedule. For example, when I first began to study online, I was in the U.S. Air Force. I wasn’t sure if an online school would be as good as a traditional education, but I felt like it was time to buckle down and get my schooling done. My online classes fit with my military work schedule, which was inconsistent at the best of times. I also think that studying online makes sense these days, because the world is more reliant on technology than ever before. Online school helps students to understand how a computer functions and that they need to keep it well-maintained.

    Online school has been a great choice for me, but 1 of the drawbacks is that I don’t get to associate with others as much as I would like. I am a people person, and I like conversation and interaction. It isn’t impossible to make personal connections with people while studying online, but it is more difficult. That can affect my studies too. For example, in a traditional classroom, I could talk to my teacher immediately if I had a question and then I would receive an answer. With online school, I have to accept that there will be a delay in response time to any of my questions.

  3. Can you actually learn anything while studying online?

    Yes, you can definitely learn while studying online. In fact, I feel like I am learning so much at such a rapid pace that I have to figure out how to organize all of the new information into separate pieces so that I can revisit it later. Online school is not the easy way out, it is just a different way to learn.

    Overall, I consider my program to be challenging, but manageable. While I am required to do more work than I had to in a traditional classroom setting, I have gained confidence in my IT skills which will carry over into my career.

  4. How difficult is it to get a job with an online degree?

    It is no more difficult to get a job with an online degree than it is with a degree from a traditional institution. I don’t think that the source of my degree has affected my job search in any way. I have interviewed with a few different IT companies, but none of those potential employers have asked me anything about whether I completed my program online or in person. In fact, I have gotten several calls from people that are interested in having me set up their networks and provide remote technological assistance for their businesses. As long as I have the job skills, people don’t seem to care where I got them.

    It seems like my degree has opened many doors for me. In my experience, companies are generally impressed by the fact that a person has the fortitude to finish a bachelors degree because it shows intelligence and the willingness to work hard. And especially in my field, an online degree presents no disadvantage.

    Another aspect that I appreciate about University of Phoenix is that they offered students help with job placement through an online career center. At the career center, they offered resume-building services and helped connect students with different outside organizations who had jobs to post.

  5. Is online faculty any good?

    Yes, the online faculty who I have dealt with through the University of Phoenix have been professional and knowledgeable. I have also been particularly impressed with the fact that my academic advisor has remained engaged with me throughout my entire bachelors program. My relationship with him has been a big factor in my success. Not only does he check in on me to make sure that I am succeeding academically, he seems to care about me as an individual. For example, he calls me from time to time to make sure that I am staying motivated with my classes and keeping up with my work.

    That kind of communication works both ways too. A couple of times, I have called my advisor because I was feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work that was expected of me. He acted as a sounding board and helped me to gain perspective on my situation. I appreciate that I have someone I can reach out to who will listen to me when I get stressed by all of the responsibilities that I have to juggle.

  6. Are online degrees actually cheaper?

    I am not sure if online degrees are any cheaper than their offline counterparts. I did compare the costs of tuition at the University of Phoenix with other schools when I first considered getting my degree online, and I remember it seemed like they were charging a reasonable rate. But since I am in the military I don’t have to pay for my education out of pocket. I get a full federal tuition reimbursement. All I have to pay is a $90 resource fee, which covers my books.

    On the other hand, my wife is also a University of Phoenix student and she is paying for her education through financial aid offered by the government. The financial aid that she was offered has been more than enough to pay for her entire tuition, and we are both grateful for that.

  7. Doesn’t the lack of live student-faculty interaction during class detract from the overall learning experience?

    I don’t think that a lack of live in-class interaction has much of an effect on my learning, although I could see where people might like to have more face-to-face time with their teachers. Personally, the only drawback that I see in the lack of physical interaction with a teacher is that it can make communication a little more confusing. For example, you can’t sense tone, or even non-verbal clues like facial expression or hand gestures, through a computer screen.

    In some ways, it feels like online education actually benefits my learning process. I have always felt more comfortable studying online. It allows me to relax because I can create my own learning environment. That allows me to concentrate better. And from a wider perspective, I think people need to get used to the idea that most of their learning will not occur in a classroom with a teacher walking them through every step. They will need to find a way to stay engaged when they inevitably have to learn new skills on their own, such as on the job.

    Finally, people who are considering online school should know that their teachers will still expect them to perform to a high standard. I can give you an example. Once, I missed the point of an assignment and the work that I turned in was sub-par. My teacher did not let that slide. He actually called me up on the weekend to tell me that I needed to redo the assignment since it wasn’t up to the level of work that he expected. I was both amazed and impressed. That experience let me know that my teachers were watching and they did care.

  8. How do online classrooms work?

    At University of Phoenix, our material is mainly presented through a discussion board format. My classes last 5 weeks each, so the pace is quick and you have to stay on top of assignments every day so that you don’t fall behind. At the beginning of the class, we are given all of the literature that we are expected to study in the form of e-books, or occasionally, actual textbooks. Then the instructor posts discussion questions on our class forum. We are supposed to apply the information that we read about in the literature to contribute to the class discussion.

    For certain classes, we actually have had access to pre-recorded lectures too. For example, in my math class, I entered a virtual lab to watch a video of a teacher showing me how to solve math problems. I like using that format, because I can stop the video if I feel like the instructor is moving too fast. I can rewind it and watch a certain part over if the math gets confusing. I have always felt like I shouldn’t ask a teacher to re-explain concepts in a physical classroom because it slows down the whole class.

  9. How computer savvy do you have to be to study online?

    I don’t think that you have to be very tech-savvy or proficient with computers when you enroll in an online class because your school will guide you through the information that you need to know to succeed. I believe most online schools make it a point to teach you how to navigate their user interface as part of the orientation process.

    The basic programs that you will need to be familiar with are those in the Microsoft Office Suite, like Word and Excel. Because I am in an IT program that included classes in web design, I also have used design software like Dreamweaver and Microsoft Expression Studio. But those programs are specific to my degree path. If your degree doesn’t revolve around computer skills and performance, you won’t have to deal with those.

  10. Can you make friends in an online school setting?

    Yes, I have made a few friends through my online school. We read and respond to each other’s thoughts and opinions on the discussion board, so we get to know what a person thinks fairly well. At University of Phoenix, we also have the option of using instant messenger or e-mail to communicate with people. Even though most of our interaction occurs online, that doesn’t make it less valid.

Get to know Justin

Bachelor of Science in Information Technology, Networking and Telecommunications
Expected Graduation
Total Time Enrolled
4 years


Justin Pettyjohn is in the fourth year of his Bachelor of Science program in Information Technology, Networking and Telecommunications at University of Phoenix. Prior to starting his current degree program, he also earned his associates degree online through University of Phoenix.

Justin initially chose to attend college online while he was an active-duty member of the U.S. Air Force. His job as an airman required him to work rotating shifts with inconsistent days off. He found that online classes fit best into his fluctuating schedule. He expects to graduate with his bachelors degree in 2012.