University of Phoenix

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Want to be University of Phoenix Faculty? Read this -

Apr 15, 2011 (Updated Apr 19, 2011)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Might work for you if you are desparate and can tolerate the culture

Cons:Low pay, no integrity, bad reputation  

The Bottom Line: Don't do it unless you can fake the cooperative, corporate cheerleader model effectively no matter what kind of abuse they throw at you.


If you plan to apply for a teaching job at University of Phoenix – Beware!
 
I recently had the distasteful experience of doing so for a job as adjunct faculty for the University of Phoenix in San Diego. After reading some of the reviews here, I see my experiences and opinions of this “university” are not unique. So, I am adding my two cents.

Their hiring process was an exercise in being cast into the classic pits of Hell:
First you must be Sisyphus, pushing the rock of paperwork up that hill, over and over again without relief. Should you actually make it to the summit, you get to experience their “facilitator training” program:
Imagine yourself sitting in a group, up to your chins in liquefied outhouse waste, all moaning, “Don’t make waves”; while two corporate wonks bully you into becoming Stepford Wives who are expected to spend more time towing the company line than educating students.

As for Academic Freedom – Forget about it!

If you are determined to apply to U of P, you should practice smiling politely until your teeth break and your tongue bleeds, as you and those around you are insulted by dictatorial control freaks whose primary purpose is to “assess” your willingness to put up with many hours of disrespect and unprofessional treatment in order to be deemed worthy of becoming a company clone.

Don’t forget to learn to say at every opportunity, “Oh, yes. That’s a wonderful idea. I can clearly see how that would be of use in my classroom. I plan to make it part of my teaching method. Thank you so much for that helpful assessment!”

Then, for four weeks each Friday night go home after 4 hours of relentless intellectual masturbation and abuse, pull the hair out of your teeth, rinse your mouth with antibacterial wash, and eat some high quality, dark chocolate…

If you make it through that, the real fun starts. You’ll go through more paperwork and vetting than a Gay Communist applying for a government job in Security during the McCarthy Era.

Once you get all that done in the ridiculously short amount of time they allow, you MIGHT be invited to be a probationary teacher with a “mentor” watching over you – maybe - in about 2 to 4 months.

Good Luck and Good Karma to you –
Marina Cohen

Here’s my story if you want to hear the ugly details:

Upon contacting the local U of P recruiter I was encouraged to send in my resume, which I immediately did. I have a Masters in Pure Math and have been successfully teaching college Math, Physics, and Computer Science courses to working adults since 1974. Long before anyone made noise about “Andragogy” vs. “Pedagogy”, and “Facilitation” vs. “Lecture”.  

Once my resume was accepted, I was told on very short notice to complete countless hours of computer based and hardcopy paperwork with deadlines that can only be described as “flaming hoops” they required I jump through. I took this and what came after it as a challenge to test my genuine interest in getting this job.

I was given 24 hours from the time they sent the email requesting it to prove I had ordered my transcript to be overnight expressed directly to them, even though the company in Chicago that handled this was shutting down because a massive blizzard was slamming into that city. I managed to prevail on a very sweet person at that office to forward my application to my Alma Mater as the last thing she did before she left the office. 

I was required to submit an essay on how I would conduct the first class of the semester in my subject area. It had to meet certain format, length, and style criteria. This essay would determine if I would be granted a phone interview. Another short deadline…

Then there was a lot more paperwork to fill out on the University’s system.
Again, this all came with the admonishment that if not done on very short notice I would not be considered as a candidate for the job. There was no leeway on any of their time constraints, regardless of cause. Most of the time, that notice was 48 hours. For a person who already works full time, this seemed a bit ridiculous to me. But, as I run my own business and can pull an hour here or there for other purposes at will, I made it happen.

Having successfully negotiated the new set of obstacles, I was invited to attend their in-house “Assessment” Process. This consisted of 5.5 hours on a Friday night of live interviews, giving my 15-minute presentation on a topic in Math to the other candidates using Facilitation techniques, listening to their presentations, and participating in “Team Exercises” all while being observed by the school’s “assessors”.

This process was allegedly designed to eliminate those not suited to be faculty for U of P.  It seemed to me that I passed this process with flying colors. Even my observers got caught up in my presentation on Scientific Notation and found themselves participating, which they were not supposed to do.

I was subsequently invited to participate in the U of P “Facilitator Training” course. This was 4 weeks of 4-hour Friday night classes from 6 – 10 PM: A How-To course on Facilitating Adult Learners and navigating the heavily online-weighted teaching model that is U of P. Keep in mind that we were NOT paid for this time.

I found out by accident and my willingness to proactively ask questions that we all had to do a ton of reading and prepare PowerPoint presentations PRIOR to the first class session. No one who counseled us during that interminable in-house process ever disclosed that information to any of us.

I only stumbled on to this fact because I started nosing around the ecampus web site account under my name.

The course I saw there was identified as being an online class starting a week before I was supposed to show up for my in-class training at the local campus. I had no clue what this was about and figured someone had made a clerical error. When it did not go away after three days. I called the recruiter about it. That was the only way I knew to get the assigned, pre-course homework done on time.

The failure to communicate this critical information to us ahead of time was very unprofessional. One candidate was so confused by what he read on his account that he drove down (from very far away) to the campus a week ahead of time, prepared to start the training that night.

Some candidates never found this out and were not prepared for the first class session. Interestingly enough, those of us who did the work on time did not receive any recognition for it and the ones who did not were given a “by”.     

When I got there for the first class, I discovered that nearly EVERYONE who had been invited to the in-house assessment had been invited to this training. Even the people I overheard openly make racist comments and the intractable bullies who insulted other candidates with snide remarks. So much for any meaningful “selection” to date…

As this training progressed, it became clear to me that it was mostly a case of “let’s see just how much grief these people will take to get this job”, instead of useful demonstrations of how their experienced, full time faculty handled the classroom environment. The trainers we had were burnt out, disinterested, and just going through the motions because they were forced to.

They broke most of the rules we were tested on defining Faculty Policies and Procedures per the U of P Faculty Handbook during those 4 weeks.

We spent many hours doing reading assignments that went on and on about how we should call ourselves Facilitators (not teachers or instructors) and that we must call what we do Andragogy (not Pedagogy or teaching). How we needed to be sensitive to our students’ busy lives and recognize that outside influences such as work and family created conflict for them. They would require counseling and support from us to overcome these conflicts.

We were also told in no uncertain terms that as part time instructors for U of P, our health, families, outside interests, and possibly our full time jobs would suffer. It was expected of us that we would welcome such sacrifices to have the honor of becoming members of their faculty. They even had us do a team exercise to drive this point home wherein we wrote lists on large sheets of paper with bold highlighters saying what the members of our team would be giving up. Then, each team read their lists out loud.

They couldn’t care less what any of us might be going through that affected our lives, but we heard a lot about what was affecting theirs. These sugarcoated control freaks were telling us to “do as they said, not as they did”.

Furthermore, faculty development time would NOT be paid. While participating in these U of P defined activities was not “required” of us, we were “strongly encouraged” to attend the planned development activities once hired. Any fool can read between those lines: Show up or we won’t offer you any classes to teach (i.e. you lose your job). But, since it is not “required” we don’t have to pay you for it.

This immediately reminded me of the pre labor-rights days when companies could post signs that said, ”If you don’t come in Sunday, don’t come in Monday” and summarily fired any worker who took the Sabbath off. Then, we were informed that all facilitators were required to respond to student’s communications within 24 hours regardless of when they were posted, even on weekends. We were to be prepared to spend our weekends grading papers and answering student’s questions. BINGO! My enteric brain was now starting to rebel…

Obviously, the main purpose of this “training” was to ensure we would give the desired lip service to the corporate line on the U of P educational philosophy. This seemed infinitely more important to these trainers than how well we could teach, our ability to connect with our students as adults and actually facilitate their learning, or any real knowledge of our subject area.

I certainly never felt “facilitated” during the entire month. Requests made to the trainers for clarification on technical issues from several candidates went unanswered. There was no meaningful feedback about our individual progress whatsoever.

Each of us was required to observe a working instructor’s class in our subject area. I went to two classes because I had two areas of interest to teach: one Math and one Computer Science. I witnessed what I must sadly describe as one of the worst teachers I have ever observed, and a student body that was too busy surfing the web and texting on their smart phones to be engaged in the course subject matter.

When I suggested that I would not allow my students to have their laptops open or phones turned on during class activities unless that equipment was needed to complete the assignment I was reprimanded by our trainers. They gave us excuses for allowing the students to keep their toys active during class. I still don’t buy it and never will. In fact, the studies presented in the “Digital Nation” video our trainers assigned us to watch support my long-time assertion that multitasking during class with electronic equipment puts students at a disadvantage. I believe it also contributes to A.D.D.

But hey, U of P is mostly an “Online School”. So we can’t really tell students to shut off their web connection while attending class, now can we?

We were indoctrinated in the use U of P’s “assessment models” to evaluate the students’ progress, regardless of how inappropriate these techniques might be for our particular subject area.

One of these assessment models had us writing down critiques of our fellow candidates’ 15-minute long PowerPoint presentations on a “complex topic” in their teaching subject area. These papers were balled up and thrown around the room at each other. Then, each was read aloud by someone other than the author, as a “gift” to that candidate.

This process became nothing short of abuse (a term one of my classmates used to describe it). My presentation was received with a particularly vicious exercise in this method – Primarily because I teach Math.
 
Every Math teacher knows that there will be students in their class who blame and hate the teacher for “forcing them to do Math”. These students carry with them their prior bad Math experiences. That is very heavy baggage. Good Math teachers know how to fix this over the course of a semester. Bad Math teachers don’t care. And, mediocre Math teachers have given up because they don’t have the skill to find the student’s barrier and get them past it.

However, I never expected to be presented with that problem while dealing with potential colleagues.  

I had done exactly what was asked of me for this project. I’d done it with humor, enthusiasm, and expertise. I’d given individual attention to those struggling with the concepts. I even managed to include 3 team exercises encouraging the students to demonstrate and absorb what they had already learned as we went along within the allotted 15 minutes. I made a couple of mistakes in creating my PowerPoint slides. The color purple looked better on the PC than it did on the screen. And, I had to back up to a slide I skipped at the beginning of the presentation because I wasn’t used to the remote. But, my presentation perfectly met the definition for its title and stated goal according to Bloom’s Taxonomy.

When the experienced college instructor, our trainer, whined at me that she hated Math, always had a problem with it, resented being forced to learn it all those years ago, got lost during my presentation, and proceeded to encourage the others in the room to engage in the same noxious whining as an excuse for trashing my work, I knew something was wrong with this picture.

One candidate angrily expressed the attitude that he never saw any reason to learn Math, that I hadn’t given him a good reason why he should, and he wasn’t going to do it and I couldn’t make him! When I imagine this person teaching a college course, the word “scary” comes to mind!

Yet despite all this: 5 out of 8 of my classmates actually understood the complex concept I presented, saw the patterns I was trying to get them to recognize, and could use the techniques offered properly to solve a problem although they had never seen the material before and were very rusty at the small amount of Algebra they had learned many years ago.

From the beginning, the environment became more and more hostile. Stupid comments were made insulting various individual’s personality and degrading some of the candidates’ areas of expertise. On more than one occasion, I found myself stepping in to defend other candidates against this character assassination: A job that rightly should have been done by the trainers instead of by me.

This training course degraded into Romper Room on steroids with a bad attitude, complete with unchallenged, fake statistics. Our trainers not only did not do anything to ameliorate this hostility, they participated in it, added to it, and singled out particular candidates for the worst of it.

By the fourth week, I couldn’t hide my disgust any longer. Attack after attack on my background, energetic approach to the training itself, interest in exploring my fellow candidates’ areas of expertise, interest in exploring alternative techniques to reach recalcitrant students, and my socio-political opinions went a bit too far to be tolerated without fighting back. I wasn’t the only person to be subjected to this treatment, or the only one who was upset about it. But, I certainly got the worst of it and I pushed back the hardest.

Yes, they got to me. I got angry and defensive and it showed.  Perhaps that is why they did it: To see who would kowtow to their corporate taskmaster’s model, be kicked around and come back for more vs. who would refuse to be shoved into their square hole.

I felt by the end of the third session that there wasn’t much point in going back anymore. My gut told me they had no intention of having an independent thinker who would not politely accept stupid and inappropriate doctrine on their staff. But, I could not leave my teammates stranded for our final presentation, or the dinner it was my turn to provide. So, I forced myself to go there one more time.

I’d spent over 40 hours of my valuable time, and countless gallons of gas at $4 per, being forced to endure this travesty while still meeting my obligation to the college I was teaching at only to receive a one-line email telling me without explanation that I had “not passed” the training course. My emails and phone calls to the trainer requesting clarification have been ignored.

As I suspected, it turned out to be a personality contest after all. Having had the strength to stand up to my oppressors and challenge authority made me “undesirable” to this corporation. No big surprise.

My subsequent call to the Math department chair, who wanted me to work with him, and with whom I had established an immediate rapport and mutual understanding during our first interview, only led to the disclosure that he had no authority whatsoever in the hiring process – much to his disappointment and mine.

He had to take whomever the recruiters/trainers approved regardless of his wishes even though he was in serious need of more teachers as many naïve students flock to U of P out of desperation because they can’t get the classes they need at the budget-starved State schools.

I even got an email from the scheduling department asking if I would teach daytime classes because of the need to accommodate these students. This is unusual for U of P because they offer mostly night classes and count on their cadre of otherwise fully employed part timers to teach for them after normal working hours. Yet, of the two Math candidates out of 60 that showed up for the initial assessment at least one (that would be me) was dismissed without so much as the courtesy of an explanation.

On reflection, it does not surprise me that a for-profit degree mill that spends most of its administrative energy making sure it looks good on paper, credits from which are rarely accepted by other higher learning institutions, and that takes ALL of the money up front from students who matriculate for degrees (with no refunds should they choose to stop attending) would have this kind of culture. U of P is currently embroiled in a class action brought by dissatisfied students over this financial abuse.

This so-called facilitator training gives U of P an excuse to turn experienced, talented college instructors who show any independence, integrity, interest in academic freedom, or self-respect away with nothing more that the dismissive phrase “you did not pass the training course”.

While I have not yet looked into this, it would not surprised me to discover that U of P hires many teachers who hold graduate degrees from their own school in order to improve the statistics on their students’ success rate. In my considered opinion, those degrees are not worth the paper they are printed on. Apparently, I am not alone in that assessment.

They do not even require that the Masters Degree in Math Education they issue include any demonstration of expertise in or successful completion of courses in Math!!!

A very smart friend of mine took two classes at U of P only to find out the real University he was trying to reenter would not accept them towards the credits he needed to continue there. He described the classes themselves as “…the worst educational experience (he) ever had!” 

U of P applauds itself for its 62% graduation rate. But seen from the other side, this means 38% of matriculated students do not complete the degree curriculum at U of P. Yet, that corporation keeps ALL their tuition anyway. No wonder they make a profit*.

I personally know some truly fine college instructors who teach for U of P now because the State budget crisis has all but closed down the local colleges. This has made U of P the only game in town where laid off college teachers can hope to get work, even if it is only part time and *pays well below the national hourly salary standard.

I respect these colleagues and their dedication to their students and higher learning as a whole. U of P is lucky to have them. Perhaps they will raise the standard of education there over time (so long as they manage to do it sneakily).

To be completely honest, like any good student I learned a lot on my own in that course. I did my homework and paid attention in the classroom and really examined the concepts they mouthed, researching many of them on the web. There were some great instructional ideas presented as part of the Policy declarations. What I didn’t see was any real consideration for us as students, colleagues, or human beings.  

However, it has always been clear to me that I am not well suited to the corporate cheerleader model. I couldn’t even fake it long enough to get in the door and do what I do extraordinarily well – teach.

I know now that it is their students’ loss and my very good fortune that I did not end up teaching there. I also know that I will find something better and more honest to do with my talents and time. I really dodged a bullet!

In the end, the most redeeming aspect of this experience for me was that I came away from it with two new friends. Bless them for being so great to work with, intelligent, and supportive.  I love you guys!


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