Walden University Reviews
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"The True Walden Experience."
I am writing you concerning my Walden experiences. Let me say these have been mixed. I started this program after attending an enrollment seminar here in Philadelphia. I was made aware of Walden form my son’s psychologist. She received her PhD from Walden and had high praise for it. My work kept me on the road and so needed a school which would allow me to continue my program no matter where I was assigned. Walden, an Internet based institution appeared ideal. Why I wanted a PhD in the first place was documented in the Professional Development Plan (PDP). In that paper, I described my background, the reasons for wanting a PhD and my estimate of how long I thought it would take, to earn a degree within the Walden program. At the enrollment session, I was lead to believe I could complete the program in as little as two years. My documented estimate was between three and six years. I felt six years was a bit much but how was I to know, I didn’t know what it would take especially working in isolation on subject matter for which I had no background. The level of this isolation did not become completely obvious until I got into my program of study. My advisor at the time said I could reduce my estimates by overlapping my course work and probably complete the program is four years at most. Given what I know now I probably should never have been accepted into the program. Speaking of course work, this involved the production of a total of seven Knowledge Area Modules or KAMs including my work towards a dissertation (i.e., a Dissertation proposal, research, the Dissertation itself, and a defense). Each KAM eventually results in a detailed document of over 100 pages consisting of three major sections. The creation of each of these documents required that I invest an extensive amount of time in researching the subject matter (i.e., acquiring material, reading it condensing it and writing the final paper. The resources for this research were mostly acquired from the Internet and during the summers when I would go to Indiana University (IU) for a two to three week summer session. At IU I was able to take advantage of the excellent library facilities which were made available to me. Walden provides a loose outline of KAM expectations and it is up to the student to decide, with the approval of an advisor/domain expert, exactly what will be researched. This research plan, put together by the student takes the form of what is called a Learning Agreement (LA). Walden is a unique university in the sense that beyond office space in Minnesota and Baltimore it has no student campus facilities. In addition, most of the instructors/advisors are part time employees working full time for other universities throughout the world. My dissertation advisor for example was a professor at DePaul University in Chicago. This arrangement has both advantages and disadvantages for the student which I soon came to realize. On the plus side you might have access to true professionals but on the negative side, to the advisor, Walden is just a part time on-the-side activity. One instructor basically put it in a nut shell when she said to me that it took so long to get back to me because she was “Too busy with her real job to devote time to here remotely located Walden students.” As a Walden student, one quickly came to realize if you are going to learn anything, it is going to be totally at your own initiative. Many are the time that I left messages in the form of voice mail and email for my advisors only to be ignored for weeks at a time. I gradually became used to this type of treatment. However, it was very hard to initially get used to being ignored, especially for my wife who would get more frustrated about this lack of attention than me. I came to accept it as part of the program. I did not complain too much because the first time I did, I was dropped by my KAM advisor and had to look for another one. One doesn’t want to be dropped by an advisor because; to get another mid-way into a KAM can mean having to redo a considerable amount of work. The Learning Agreement is signed up to by the advisor and the student and if it does not meet up with the expectations of your new advisor the LA has to be redone. Thankfully this did not happen to me as my new advisor kept the agreements as originally signed. As a result of the inattentive nature of the instructors, most of the questions which come up during KAM research are answered by the student himself. This requires a lot of time and holding down a full time job while simultaneously taking a Walden PhD can at times be overwhelming to say the least. During my last KAM this isolation became exceptionally frustrating. My advisor at the time was the Dean of the Health and Human Services department and an actual full time Walden employee. I would have to make countless phone calls to him, leaving messages each time before he would get back to me. One particular situation I had involved doing statistical analysis on an instrument I created to assess on-line student’s level of self-direction. I had no idea exactly where to begin and was given little guidance from my advisor. I began to think he really didn’t know much more than me until one day as an aside he mentioned that I look into SPSS. I did this and found I could download a 30 day free copy of the software. Having done so and after teaching myself how to use it, I was able to complete my statistical analysis within a couple of weeks. While I am on the subject of tools needed to complete the Walden PhD program, I would like to add that nothing was ever provided to me by Walden beyond possibly a corporate discount. I personally wasn’t even made aware of this benefit until I pursued this avenue while trying to acquire the SPSS tool. In general, very little by way of information is volunteered by Walden staff. It is up to the student to find his/her own solutions and resources. Thank God for the Internet. Without it I would have failed much earlier than I seem to have ultimately done. This failure has however not been brought about by scholastic delinquency on my part. I’ve worked very hard for eight plus years within the Walden PhD program receiving excellent grades in the process. This is especially significant since, as mentioned above, I started this program without any formal training in education or the theory of learning. In that time I paid my tuition on time every quarter. A quarter of tuition at Walden over the past eight years has ranged from a low of about $2800.00 to a current Autumn Quarter high of $4050.00. Only during the past spring and summer quarters was I late and finally refused to pay tuition. On several occasions I asked why my tuition was so high given how little by way of services were provided to me. Walden’s response was and has always been that they could not tell me how my tuition was being spent. In short my tuition was a lump sum and there was no record that they could reveal to me as to how it was being divided once I paid it. This brings me to my current situation. When I was working for Unisys and making good money I could afford the pay Walden’s tuition out of my pocket. Even so, I had borrowed $50,000.00 over the years to supplement my own payment and since my major was Education and not Computer Science, Unisys reimbursed only a small portion of what I have ultimately paid out. In fact, Unisys particularly in the later years was not very happy with my having to take time off for school and I was ultimately laid off. I remained unemployed for almost seven months yet during this time I continued paying my tuition. I repeatedly asked Walden if I could be given some form of assistance given that I was unemployed and each time I was just directed to the Walden Web site to look for loans or to talk to the bursar to negotiate a payment program. At no time until just recently (i.e., the same week I first called you) was I informed that I could take a leave of absence for up to 180 days. The funny thing is that when I was finally so informed, and made application that evening, I was later informed that because of my financial delinquency I could not be considered for a leave of absence. Before and during this past summer session, on several occasions I attempted to contact the dean of the school of education in order to explain my situation and on no occasion did she ever return any of my phone calls. Also, at no time did my educational advisor ever initiate a call to even see how I was doing in over two semesters wherein I was struggling to find a job and continue with my PhD work. This is despite the claim within the Walden school catalog that such teacher initiated contacts must be performed at least twice in any semester. In short if I or my wife hadn’t initiated contacts no contact with Walden would have occurred except for attempts by them to collect my summer tuition. As I said in the email I sent them I feel more like a piggy back than a true student. After having been a faithful paying student at Walden for over eight years, I thought I was part of the Walden family. Now I realize that all I am, and probably ever was, to them is a money source. Over the years, I gave them so much and received so little in return. I tried to get them to help me with finding a new position and received nothing. While looking for a job, I contacted schools like Michigan State and found that they wouldn’t even consider a student graduating from an on-line university like Walden as a candidate for even an assistant professorship. In short it appears that a degree from Walden isn’t worth a hell of a lot. I have been pursuing the dream of a PhD and now am unable to pay the tuition demanded. Yet while I received little from Walden itself, I learned a great deal and feel today that I am a better person as a result of all of the things I have learned on my own. While I did end up paying all of my tuition, I feel other individuals who are thinking of getting involved with an on-line university should be warned that the attention and interaction provided can be significantly inferior to that available through even the poorest brick-and-mortar institution.