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Learning Online: My Experience With Western Governors University

Updated on July 23, 2021
Hope Wilbanks profile image

Hope is a freelance content writer, specializing in mental health and wellness, personal growth and development, and content marketing.

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I am currently (January 13, 2012) in my third and final year of studying at Western Governors University. I will student teach this coming fall and then graduate with a Bachelor's of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (Elementary Education).

There were many years when I dreamed of going to and finishing college. I even made many false starts. Then I'd become overwhelmed and quit. A few years ago though, something changed and I decided it was time to finish this thing I've started so many times before.

Tips for choosing an online college

  1. Do your research.
  2. Ask lots of questions.
  3. Count the costs.
  4. Check out more than one school.
  5. Compare the pros and cons of all schools.

Why I chose an online education

The first thing I want to share with you are my reasons for choosing an online college instead of going to one locally. There were two major reasons for me choosing online over brick-and-mortar schools.


My family is and always will be my top priority. When my husband and I had children, we both agreed and decided that me raising our children was much more important than us both working and letting a babysitter spend all that precious time with our children. So, for the most part, I've been a stay-at-home-mom for the last twelve years (with a few part-time gigs sprinkled here and there throughout the years). Because I made the choice to give up having a job while my children were young, I felt like setting up classes at a local college wasn't in the cards for me either.


The second biggest reason I shied away from a brick-and-mortar education had a lot to do with my own self-confidence. My husband would have supported me finishing school years ago, even when our children were younger. I have no doubt of that. But I was extremely nervous about going to a (big) new place where there would be hundreds (if not thousands) of people I did not know. That thought overwhelmed me.

For those two main reasons I finally decided to give online education a try. After all, I could participate in classes without having to actually go to school. It was a win-win for me. I could stay at home and be with my kids without the stress of massive crowds, while bettering myself.

Enter: Western Governors University (WGU)

Rather than lament over the different colleges I've attended (and disliked), I'll just skip over all that and get right to the point of my time at WGU. After lots of starts and stops, I finally discovered WGU by a happy accident.

I don't even remember how. I think maybe I was surfing the Web and just happened to see an ad for it. At any rate, I called and set up an appointment to speak to someone about their Elementary Education program. I can tell you looking back over two years later, that was the best decision I ever made. I only wish I had learned about WGU much sooner, because I wouldn't have wasted so much time, money, and energy at all the other schools.

Learn more about WGU

I have nothing bad to say about WGU. Nothing. At all.

Okay, here's where I'll get down to the nitty gritty with you. I'm a pretty skeptical person. As much as I'd like to be positive all the time, and as much as I try to practice positive thinking, I tend to automatically look for flaws. That's my humanistic nature. I don't like it, but that's how my mind operates. And I'm telling you this because it truly shocks me when I say what I'm saying to you right now.

I can't find anything wrong with WGU.

Believe me when I say that if there were some fault or flaw, I would have found it in the last couple of years. But I haven't. I truly have had nothing but a positive experience with Western Governors University. And here are some reasons why...

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Other reasons I like WGU

  • Their financial aid department is on top of things, which says a lot. I have not had the first hassle or problem when dealing with them. They are just awesome!
  • They provide eBooks for many classes as part of the resources. What does that mean? I don't have to buy expensive textbooks that I'll never use again. Yay!
  • They provide a wealth of resources for students on the career path to become teachers. As I state in my list, this was a huge deal-maker for me when I made the switch to WGU.
  • WGU hosts a real graduation, with a simulcast online for families who can't travel to the graduation, but would still like to watch their loved one walk across the stage and receive the honored recognition.

4 Reasons Why I Love WGU

#1: I'm not just another number.

Every other school I've attended (six, I think? I've lost count!), including two "real" ones and the various online schools, never made me feel like I was important. I never felt as if my education was of any importance to them. Not to the instructors. Not to the staff. It just didn't matter to them. That's how I felt. Not so with WGU. The staff and instructors are attentive and caring and always available.

#2: I'm accountable for my actions.

From the first phone call I made to WGU in 2009, I have felt like I'm a part of a family: the WGU family. Every week I have a recurring phone chat with my student mentor (who is awesome all on her own). This accountability system has, without doubt, contributed to my success as a student. At times when I struggled (I had to take a history exam 3 times before I finally passed the class!) and thought I was a failure, that weekly call with my student mentor encouraged me to keep trying and not give up hope. Accountability is key for me.

#3: My success is important to WGU.

One of the previous schools I attended essentially told me I was on my own when it came to figuring out the necessary steps I would have to take to earn my licensure to teach in my state after I graduated and had my degree. Interesting, huh? Especially since that was the whole point of my going back to school. I wanted to become a teacher. I didn't want to just hang a piece of paper on the wall that said I finished school and had a degree. I needed to know how to get from Point A to Point B. And that school couldn't have cared less if I got to Point B or not.

On the contrary, WGU offers extensive resources to students to guide them on their career path. Any question I've ever had has been answered. I have no doubts about the steps I'm taking. I know exactly what I have to do to be qualified to teach in my state.

THE most important reason I absolutely love WGU...

#4: I'm actually getting an education.

This one is HUGE for me. Huge. I cannot stress this point enough. Before you decide to attend an online college, be very sure of their standards and what/how they teach. Aside from the two brick-and-mortar schools I attended locally years ago, every online school I attended before WGU was pointless. I get sick when I think about the money and time I wasted, but there's no point in crying over spilled milk.

All the other online schools I attended required one thing, and one thing only: writing. Every class, no matter what subject area it was, required a research paper, of up to 12 pages at times, every week. The other common requirement was weekly "discussion" posts to message boards, which was a pointless waste to time, too, because such discussions were rarely productive or offered any usefulness. I was essentially paying them to make me write research papers that did not teach me diddly squat.

With WGU, I can honestly say I am receiving the same, if not better, education as I would have at a traditional college or university. Sure, I write the occasional research paper, but this has been a process of learning, not writing papers. Every class I've taken has given me deeper knowledge and understanding. I'm actually learning!

Snarkiness aside, WGU is an awesome school. I'm sure there are those who may have a different experience from me and could offer you a dissimilar opinion from mine. But after having experienced college life at many other schools, I can honestly tell you that I would highly recommend Western Governors University over any other online school. In fact, I have. And I do.

I've had several friends inquire about WGU over the last year and I just can't say enough good things about them. WGU is a great school, with an amazing staff who are interested in more than just taking your money and then giving you a piece of paper at the end of four years. They care about your education. And quite frankly, that alone is worth me shouting their praises from the roof top.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Hope Wilbanks


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