Herb Riede's Blog

Thinking about going to an online college? An honest review of several I and close friends have had experience with.

I first attended college at the age of 19. It was a traditional brick-and-mortar teacher’s college, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania [ http://www.edinboro.edu/ ]. I left there due to losing my mode of transportation (I was a commuter), coupled by a lack of support by family (who had promised rides if I moved in with them, then never once took me).

Over the next year, I had twin daughters on the way (now almost old enough to drive). I forgot about going back to college and instead focused on getting a good job to provide for my family. 

Over the next 5 years, I worked as a network administrator, computer programmer and web developer, all without a degree (able to say “Some College” on applications and avoid mentioning I had quit school in 8th grade and had a GED).

In 2004, I tried to go back, looking into the University of Phoenix [ http:www.phoenix.edu ] . I started college at their undergrad affiliate, Axia College of Western International University [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axia_College then part of http://west.edu/ ]. I didn’t last very long there, as with a full time schedule, I wasn’t very compatible with:

* Needing to check in on specific days and specific times of the week
* The constant back and forth of writing papers and peer-reviewing them with other students, seemingly at random.

I quit Axia as too time consuming soon after.

I didn’t try again for four years, after I had repaid the loans (and grants, since I failed to meet minimums) I had received for attending.

In 2008, my employer changed hands, and I feared I may need to find another position. In order to boost my resume, I felt I needed to go back to college and get that degree that I had now been working nearly a decade without.

So I started looking again, and came across Western Governors University [ http://www.wgu.edu/ ]. I enrolled effective early 2009, and have been with them since.

WGU’s program differs from the others in that there’s no hard and fast track you have to follow. You can watch pre-recorded webinars or attend live ones. You DON’T get higher “grades” for being present at the right time. You are given a “Course of Study” that leads to a final exam - whether it is a collection of reports or projects that are checked for plagiarism or a proctored, you’re-on-camera exam, or accomplishing industry-standard certifications (that they pay for you to take, albeit with your tuition money), you are expected to complete the class objectives in order to get credit.

Other benefits include the fact that it was started by a group of Governors. This is a non-profit school focused on improving itself, rather than being driven by making money.

I have been a student there way too long, switching majors halfway through. That’s my own fault.

Finally, this school type is great for people who are good at self-directed learning. If you need to be led to your goals rather than passively guided to them, it may be difficult.

You can work on whatever class you want whenever you want. While you set goal dates when you start a six-month term, you can jump around and just make sure you have them all done by halfway through the 6th month. Or, you can plow through them all in a few weeks and add more to your current term - with no cost increase - actually saving money.

I get a call from my advisor (a mentor) every other week (though during hard times the calls were weekly). I also get invites from course-specific mentors (think on-demand professors) to attend optional webinars and to ask them any questions I have on what to do.

I <3 WGU.

I am on track to have my BS in IT with a software concentration in February 2015.

Kaplan University [ http://www.kaplan.edu ] was another university my girlfriend attended, and they are quite expensive. They do follow the weekly-project cycle, giving points for posting to discussion boards and attending conference calls at specific times. I think I couldn’t follow it, and it became challenging to continue when our son was born.

Ashford University [ http://www.ashford.edu ] is the university my girlfriend presently attends. It has very similar structure to Kaplan, but without the constant required-to-attend scheduled webinars. You do have to follow weekly plans and hit deadlines, but it seems slightly less in the hand-holding of Kaplan and more like working within a firm schedule in a self directed way. She is on track to graduate in early 2016.

Random Thoughts: tumblr Censoring weird things

In my post yesterday I was trying to talk about taking the PA Lottery online.

Every time I attempted to post, I got “There was a problem saving your post”.

I tried another day and another, having to save what I wanted to post in a Word DOC, as I couldn’t even save as a draft.

I finally tracked down information that your post can be censored for keywords.

Of course, I thought, I am talking about gambling too much, and even included the word “Bovada”, referring to an online gambling site born from BoDog to cater to US players.

Yet everything I just typed doesn’t get censored.

What causes tumblr to throw a hissy fit?

I mentioned the lottery’s “printable promotions” in my post, but instead of promotions I originally used the word “coupons”.

Having that two-word phrase causes tumblr to have “a problem”.

I can say “coupons”, and I can even say “printable”, but I can’t put them together.

I don’t know what people have done to cause this behavior, perhaps the reality TV shows where people stockpile stuff from shopping sprees has people abusing tumblr somehow.

I just thought in a post with “gambling”, “lottery” and everything else, saving 50 cents on a can of soup would be the least NSFW tag in my post.

Oh well.

Random Thoughts: Taking the Pennsylvania Lottery Online

The Pennsylvania Lottery has been growing leaps in bounds technologically in the past decade. With the constant tie-in of online second chance sweepstakes, and printable promotions, the Lottery is engaging what it calls its VIP players.

However, there is much resistance to the idea of allowing online purchases of lottery tickets. Some of the opposition comes from those worried about societal impacts, others who oppose the move are the businesses where the lottery is sold. Both of these complaints are valid.

On the other hand, there are some who enjoy leisure games such as WorldWinner or take their risks playing online at casinos like Bovada for whom self-limiting is not a problem, or if they have a problem, the state isn’t going to prevent access.

So, in order to try to balance the desires of a snow bound group looking to extinguish boredom, possibly increase revenues for the Lottery, and prevent damage to the businesses who host lottery terminals and instant games machines, I would propose the following:

  • Enable online accounts for people to interact with the Lottery. 
  • Require these accounts to be set up at a Lottery Retailer with a Pennsylvania ID or DL
  • Require funding to these accounts to occur at a Lottery Retailer or Instant Games machine
  • Limit deposits and playing volume on these accounts to $300/month
  • "Cashing out" must be done through a Lottery Retailer, subject to normal prize limits and potential other daily or monthly limits

This could be improved, obviously, however the potential tie-ins are increased beyond the simple sweepstakes. 

Second-Chance drawings could be as simple as using a QR scanner on a phone - they could be instant win second chance games tied to the user’s account that would credit their account.

Online instant tickets could also be developed. And any sales commissions for lottery or instant games could easily be credited to the retailer who accepted the deposit on a FIFO basis, with recycled winnings from those tickets remaining assigned to that retailer.

On that front, an aside - why can’t a user scan the cash-in QR code and discover whether a ticket is a winner, in order to confirm their reading of a ticket?