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Good Online School For BS in Software Development

Hi all, I'm looking for some advise on finding an online Bachelor program that is what you might call hard.

I came upon programming after growing bored of helpdesk work in my early 20's. For nearly the last decade, I've been developing and loving it. After reading Joel on Software and More Joel on Software, I've come to the conclusion that my lack of a sound foundation is keeping me from reaching my maximum potential.

I'm a father of two young children and my wife works. For me to accomplish my goal, the school must be an online school (if one of sufficient difficulty does exist).

I don't care about the "name" of the school. So, can anyone suggest a great online school for Software Development?

Thanks
Jim Andreasen Send private email
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
 
 
MIT, Berkeley and I think Stanford have undergraduate CS courses as podcasts.  I would start there.

I am not sure what you would get out of a formal BS from an online school.
Who Send private email
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
 
 
The short answer as to why I want a BS instead of just reading a few, well-selected books is posted in most job openings: "The position requires a B.A. or B.S. degree."
Jim Andreasen Send private email
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
 
 
Just avoid Phoenix; I've heard good and bad about it but most people seem to think the degree is worthless.
Anonymous Coward #9000 Send private email
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
 
 
If  you have been developing for a decade I don't think a 2- 4 years to get your BS is the best use of your time.  Do you really want to go work for a company that will not either accept your years in the industry in lieu of a degree, or that is so intransigent it can't value you you based on your contributions?

If you feel there are things missing, then again, I point to the undergraduate courses online form the most outstanding schools in the country. 

Going from no BS degree to one from an "online school" is really not a big step, nor one I think worth investing the time into. 

IMO
Who Send private email
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
 
 
You might check into some reputable state universities that offer online programs, such as UMUC.
Nate Reed Send private email
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
 
 
Nate Reed Send private email
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
 
 
Most of MIT's curriculum and classes are available for free on the internet. No need to even bother with a piece of paper unless you think the paper is worth tens of thousands above and beyond the course content.
Scott Send private email
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
 
 
@Scott

It's not what 'we' think about the piece of paper that matters, it's what potential employers think.  And yes, it would be great to talk to a company that doesn't care about the degree, they only care about the experience, but I fear that those companies are extremely difficult to find.  As in, next to impossible. 

I happen to have > 25 years of experience in SW development, always at the designer / developer / tester level (i.e. no desire for mgmt) and feel that my skills are on par with (actually far above) those of your average developer.  But, I know that finding my next position, if it's outside my sphere of people, will be a struggle.  That won't stop me from trying - I intend to blow out of my current position in a few months (contractural reasons) - but I'm interested in the response I will receive.

To the OP though, if you want to do online school, make sure it's an adjunct to a REAL brick and mortar school - not a school like UofPhoenix which has offices, but a real institution like University of Md (for example) that offers their full curriculum both online and at the school.
schlabnotnik Send private email
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
 
 
Well you have to figure out whether you are interested in an education or a piece of paper. They are not the same thing, and now with Open Courseware type programs, you get to choose which one you really want.
Scott Send private email
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
 
 
+1 for substance/content over form/appearance.
Who Send private email
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
 
 
He did say he wants one that is "hard". That suggests to me he wants the education. Obviously someone successfully completing and understanding the curriculum at MIT or Stanford sans paper is going to be far more capable than someone with a UoP degree.
Scott Send private email
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
 
 
And I will claim that I can tell them apart in an interview without having to ask!
Scott Send private email
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
 
 
Scott, Scott, Scott.....

But the problem is, most of us have to get past HR before we get anywhere near you.  I have always been offered a job after an interview.  Always.  But, I have no idea how many HR people tossed my resume when the "Education - Bachelors degree" requirement was not met.

And it will be the same tomorrow and every day after that.  I'd love to be able to get to the hiring people right away - it would make their jobs much easier - simply by no longer having to interview anyone else ;)
schlabnotnik Send private email
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
 
 
Scott, the online MIT content is nowhere near the actual class experience. My undergrad degree was from there and I took many of the CS classes they also have online, so I could compare them. Many of them only provide lecture notes, and even the ones with all the lectures you still miss the textbooks, supplementary unpublished papers they often hand out, recitation classes, problem sets, test reviews, post-test reviews, and the labs. All of that is needed to make it come together. 

To the OP I'd second looking into U of Maryland University College (UMUC) which is fully accredited as much as the other U of Maryland schools.
CC Send private email
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
 
 
botnik, you are a smart guy. You shouldn't be going through HR at all by this time in your career. You use your industry connections to contact the people in development directly. When it comes up that there is a position available, you want to be the first person your peers there bring up, and then you want the manager there to be making a deferential call to you sucking up to find if you would be willing to switch jobs.
Scott Send private email
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
 
 
CC, are you really complaining that the textbooks are not free as well? And so the alternative is to pay for a full degree where you will definitely pay for them? That makes no sense.

With the textbooks you buy the previous year's edition used. Exact same content, but price is $5 instead of $175.
Scott Send private email
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
 
 
@scott

Yes I am, and that's how I expect it to go. I'm already priming the pump, albeit very quietly.  However, I want out SO bad that I may deign to submitting resumes.  We'll see.
schlabnotnik Send private email
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
 
 
Have you looked into any local state schools?  Many have online programs targeted at older, working students.  You might also be able to leverage your years of experience into getting out of some perquisite classes.  And you'll get to pay in-state tuition.
Jason Send private email
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
 
 
@jason

sorry, can't resist: prerequisite (not perquisite)
schlabnotnik Send private email
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
 
 
damn FF spell check!!
Jason Send private email
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
 
 
Jim Andreasen: "Hi all, I'm looking for some advise on finding an online Bachelor program that is what you might call hard."

'I don't care about the "name" of the school. So, can anyone suggest a great online school for Software Development?'

No, I can not.  I am just finishing my BCS this semester.  Even with my experience (over 20 years), I have learned a lot because of campus presence.  Some of the most important stuff was not in the textbook.

I did do one course remotely, and even with frequent LD calls to the instructor, it still felt as if I had one arm tied behind my back.

I think you will be shortchanging yourself if you go the on-line route.

Sincerely,

Gene Wirchenko
Gene Wirchenko Send private email
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
 
 
I'm trying to resolve two problems.

1 - I would like a degree for the purpose of getting past the recruiting gatekeepers. If this was my only concern, I would look for whatever was the shortest, easiest route to getting a degree. I get enough offers for in-house development jobs, but I want to work at a software company.

2 - There are enough fundamental gaps in my knowledge that I believe that I could profit from a rigorous and challenging curriculum. My greatest weakness are the things whose existence I'm completely unaware. (I don't know what I don't know!) :)

In short, I want my knowledge to be augmented by the experience, not just the perception others have of me.

I would definitely consider going to a brick and mortar if the difference in quality is as drastic as you all indicate.

I appreciate all of the input, thanks again everyone!
Jim Andreasen Send private email
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
 
 
I can't recommend a school but I can encourage you to do it. A degree, especially a "hard" one, gives you a depth and breadth that I could have never got otherwise. To employers its also a sign that you have accomplished something.

The sooner you start it, the sooner you will finish. If you can't find anything good right now then at least try getting some credits in a community college.

My only concern would be that when you have completed a technical degree you may not want to be competing with all the 22 y.o.s in the job market for pure programming jobs. My suggestion would be to add some business/marketing/management topics so your degree has some longevity and can help carry you up the ladder. Good luck and get started
jz Send private email
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
 
 
1. with all this development experience, better get an MBA
2. if a company says "B.Sc. in CS required", they mean a REAL one; online schools do not count, simply

An online B.Sc. may even work AGAINST you, as it says "I am too lazy to read books on my own so I had to pay someone to get me to do it".
quant dev Send private email
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
 
 
1. Some people have mentioned that an on-line degree may not have the same value as an in-person degree.  So you need to talk with people who actually do hiring, and find out if an on-line degree would have value.  Most job postings will say something like "B.S. or equivalent experience."  Don't burn five years of your life and a hunk of money on something that has no real value.

2. I can't speak from my own direct experience but a friend got an MSCS from the University of Maryland and was happy with what he'd learned.
cal_programmer Send private email
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
 
 
@quantdev
Completely disagree, as you are conflating degrees earned in an online program with online "university" degree mills.  The later is a proper subset of the former, and you do want to avoid those completely.  However, there are many real, brick and mortar universities that offer distance degree programs (now generally administered online) that are as rigirous as the same degree done on-campus.  Some of these programs distinguish between a degree earned online and some do not. 

Unfortunately for the OP, most that I am familair with, and I believe in general, are at the graduate level.  I am matriculated such a university (Columbia CVN) and it does not distinugish the degree earned here from the degree earned on-campus as you take the same courses by watching recordings of the lectures posted immediately after. 

A notable exception I can think of is the Harvard Extension School, which does grant undergraduate degrees.  This is distinugished as being from the extension school rather than Harvard proper.  I checked and they do offer Computer Science as a concentration:
http://www.extension.harvard.edu/undergrad/
Mr. Simplex Send private email
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
 
 
Taking everything into account, I've decided to apply to Penn State.

* It's associated to a brick and mortar university.
* Students graduating from Penn State Online receive the same diploma as traditional Penn State students.
* Per GRE: it's the 52nd best Computer Science program in the country.
* Very affordable at about $470 a credit.

If I decide to pursue a Masters in the future, I would be able to go to a traditional college for those courses as both of my children would be well out of diapers by then. :)

Thanks again to everyone for the different perspectives and thanks to Joel and everyone at Fog Creek for making and maintaining this message board!

-Jim
Jim Andreasen Send private email
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
 
 
Plenty of real brick and mortar schools with decent or good reputations offer entire degree programs' worth of classes  through online  and distance programs.  The degree they give out is the same, no matter what.  There is no way for HR to tell whether you took your courses on campus or not, unless you went to one of the for-profit online only degree mills.

+1 for the UMUC recommendation.

To Gene: Your experience does not necessarily apply to the OP.
SM Send private email
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
 
 
SM: Possibly, but I have my doubts.

I am 49 years old and have a lot of IT experience already.  As I am about to graduate, I am further along the path that OP might take.

My experience might be the best match to OP of anyone in this forum.

Sincerely,

Gene Wirchenko
Gene Wirchenko Send private email
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
 
 

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