“I completed 63 credits over 18 months and my total outlay was probably less than $200 per credit. That’s extremely competitive, especially from a major university.”
One of the first working adults to enroll in a University of Wisconsin Flexible Option program after its introduction in January 2014, Craig Kilgo had long considered going back to school to finish his bachelor’s. But, he said, “I never found the right program. I didn’t have time to attend classes in person and honestly, I didn’t want to pay for the ‘extras’ I didn’t need—such as dorms and campus fees.”
“I thought, ‘Perfect, this is exactly what I want,’” Craig said. “I didn’t have any hesitation at all. Once I decided to do it, my focus became how quickly I could get started and how much I could take on.”
Eighteen months later, in August 2015, Craig graduated with his bachelor of science in information science and technology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Recently, we caught up with Craig to ask his thoughts on this innovative online program.
How has life changed since earning your bachelor’s degree?
I was already happy with my job developing military healthcare applications as a project manager for the U.S. Department of Defense, but my bachelor’s degree gives me mobility. It looks great on a resume. I have since taken a new job, and having my bachelor’s meant I did not have to worry about answering a lot of questions [about a lack of a degree] during the interview or being disqualified immediately in the screening process.
My former employer knew what I could do and valued my experience. But in the outside world, you need that degree to get your foot in the door. There is a lot of competition out there. You will be going up against people with years of experience and advanced degrees.
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What did you like most about the Flexible Option’s self-paced, competency-based format?
First, the flexibility was vital to me. With Flex, I was able to work full time and fit my studies around my life. At one point, I even took off a month for a wedding and a move. You just can’t do that in a traditional program.
Because the program is online, I did a lot of studying late at night, after my family had gone to bed, and early in the morning. I probably did 95 percent of my work from nine to midnight.
I also really liked the concept of competency-based learning. It fit well with the way I like to work. In my mind, the clock is always ticking and that motivates me to work harder and faster. The self-paced aspect meant I never had to wait for an instructor to give me my next assignment. Once I passed an assessment, I could literally go on to the next course. [Editor’s note: Flex calls them competency sets.] I found that liberating.
What did you like about the Bachelor of Science in Information Science and Technology program?
I think the coursework was a very good introduction to the technology field. It offers a mix of theory and practice—traditional engineering and managerial or “soft” skills. It really prepares you for working on either the managerial or engineering side of information technology.
I studied communications and databases, and took an introduction to web programming. Some of the material intersected with what I do in my current job. The final course, the senior capstone, required me to apply my knowledge in real-world practice. It involved developing, testing, and presenting a mini-project. The programming was pretty rigorous.
Did you have opportunities to make use of your existing knowledge?
I absolutely did. I think it is vital to come into this program with existing knowledge. The initial courses are a lot of writing and theory. If you were to go in without previous experience, it could be overwhelming. I have a lot of experience in web development and project management, and that helped me to move through this material faster.
The capstone also put project management concepts into practice, which helped to crystallize my knowledge. For example, the curriculum explored two competing methodologies of project management: waterfall, which is a highly structured, sequential design process, and Agile, an incremental and more flexible process. My past experience allowed me to come to grips with the material quickly and delve more deeply into these areas.
Now that you have finished your degree, what is your opinion of the affordability of Flex programs? Is Flex as affordable as you thought?
I don’t know where else you can get this kind of quality education on your own time at this per-credit rate.
It’s probably even more so. I completed 63 credits over 18 months and my total outlay was probably less than $200 per credit. That’s extremely competitive, especially from a major university.
Plus, you get to work at your own pace, on your own hours. I don’t know where else you can get this kind of quality education on your own time at this per-credit rate.
What are your thoughts on the role of Academic Success Coaches?
My coach played a key role in charting my course to graduation. He checked in with me regularly to discuss my progress and ask if I had any questions or concerns. He was my liaison, my point of contact whenever I encountered any obstacles.
In Flex programs, your coach is your lifeline—to instructors, IT, or whomever you need when you have a question or concern.
How would you rate your overall satisfaction with the program? Would you recommend the program to other busy adults who are considering going back to school?
I definitely would. The Flex format is made for, and vital to, busy adults who want to go back to school to earn their degrees. If you have a lot going on in your life, you need flexibility to make it all work. If your goal is to complete your bachelor’s in 18 months or 2 years, this is the only program that lets you do it.
You may have heard the saying, “If you want to get something done, ask a busy person.” That’s true here—the self-paced nature of the program really forces you to be motivated and manage your time well.
Thanks for your time, Craig. We wish you all the best in the future!
Are you a busy adult in search of a bachelor’s degree program that fits your life? Find out why online, competency-based UW Flexible Option programs offer the convenience and flexibility you need. Call 1-877-895-3276 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your options with a friendly enrollment adviser.