Thursday, July 26, 2012

Online Physics Degree? Degree From "For-Profit" Universities?

I get these questions surprisingly often. And to make it less confusing, I'm splitting this topic into two separate parts, because the issues here are a bit different. But in the end, I'd like to hear if you either have gone through the same process, or have dealt with students who went through that process.

The first part is the question on getting a physics B.Sc degree predominantly via remote learning. Certainly, with the internet and advances in web-based learning, this question is bound to prop up. I know that many schools have started to offer various courses that one can take entirely either off the web, or via some remote means. This is certainly helpful for students who can't make the long commute, or for continuing education students who are already working, but want to obtain either more knowledge/expertise, or pursuing higher degree. But I don't know of any program (at least, here in the US) where a student can obtain a B.Sc in physics entirely via remote learning. And in the remote chance that such a program actually exists, I would really question that, because to me, an undergraduate physics program must include laboratory work, and often, more than just a few of them. One can't do "physics lab work" remotely and get the same experience.

So, do you know of such a program or have you encounter a student that went through such a program? I haven't, and certainly not those that I know of who enrolled in physics graduate programs.

The other question is regarding "for-profit" universities, such as University of Phoenix, DeVry, etc..(I'm not including diploma mills that produce worthless degrees here.) I've looked at many of these schools, and not surprisingly, most do not offer a B.Sc degree in physics. I'm guessing that there are just not enough of a demand for such a major at these institutions. Thus, it certainly is expected that we don't encounter physics graduates from such schools. Still, do you know of anyone graduating from such schools and are either working, or enrolling in a physics graduate program? I do not know of the quality of physics education in such institutions and wonder if they are producing students that are on par with other "regular" schools.

A lot of people who asked me whether they can get a physics degree via these routes can't seem to point to me examples of others who have. So from my perspective, this is untested waters, and I have zero ability to make any kind of recommendations for something that I haven't seen to have occurred.



Jason Virdin said...

I don't know of any physics degrees that can be obtained via online learning only. I am an electrical engineering student in UND's Distance Engineering Degree Program (DEDP). As far as I know, it is the only program of its type. Though engineering isn't identical to physics, there are a lot of similarities since engineering requires a significant amount of lab work as well. The DEDP program offers all the required coursework online, excluding labs. The school offers the labs on campus over the summer in an accelerated format (1-2 weeks). The labs are required to be done on campus as a way to maintain ABET accreditation. Even in engineering, I don't know of any accredited program that is 100% online.

None said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ZapperZ said...

Thank you for your first-hand account. It isn't a surprise, I must admit.