BYU Independent Study is kind of adorable. As far as I can tell, it’s been around in some form or another since the 1920s. You can take a huge variety of accredited college and/or high school classes and you don’t have to be accepted to BYU (though you can be if you want), and there’s no need to apply. Plus, it’s cheap.
I found myself in a bind several months ago, needing to finish some pre-requisites for a graduate program I was applying to while also not wanting to go over my ‘this will forever give you non-resident’ status limit at that university. One of my friends suggested I do BYU independent study. I said,’there’s no way I could get a bishop’s endorsement.’ And he said, ‘dude.’ (he calls me dude even though I am ambivalent about caucasians) ‘these are classes for girls who got married but didn’t finish their degrees! you don’t need an endorsement! or even be accepted to BYU! you just pay the money!’ Which is funny because of all the people taking a BYU independent study course, the women that went to BYU but didn’t finish I bet are the good, nice people who still qualify for a bishop’s endorsement. He was right, though. I paid 450 bucks for a fully accredited college anatomy (and online lab!) course.
So I signed up, bought the book, bought BYU’s lab manual and DVDs and then they sent me a packet.
(she’s cute right? she reminds me 0f a BYUified SB2)
Included in the packet are info about the course and lab, homework assignments for every section, lab assignments, these things called ‘Speedback Assignments’ (it’s trademarked, don’t try using that name for anything, don’t try), and scantron sheets. I ordered the online as opposed to print version of the course, so the scantrons were kind of adorable, but it turns out I was really pleased with that packet. It made me write down definitions, label things, answer questions, take quizzes. The pen to paper action made me remember more and do more work than I probably would have done otherwise. It was printed on remarkably thin paper and doubled-sided, so you know, props to BYU for making it as eco-friendly as possible. It was also full of spelling mistakes which kind of made me feel superior every time I noted one. I kind of liked that too. And if it weren’t BYU, I would have sworn it was a template designed by the dude who loves caucasians, little space for long answers, lots of space for short answers, weird alignments, misnumbering and mislabeling. I can only assume someone was high on fun. It’s unprofessional look might be off-putting for some people but I didn’t mind it at all. I’m not kidding. That poorly put together packet made me learn anatomy better than if it were just me and a book.
I found a Meridian article about BYU independent study (I’d link to it, but somebody told me it causes cancer) which noted that 75% of students who take these distance courses are not members and that through these courses BYU “is able to extend a positive influence among non-members”. And, adorably, they try to be a positive influence with questions like “David slew Goliath by hitting him in the forehead with a stone. What area of the skull did the stone enter in Goliath’s head?” (answer: frontal sinus) and in lab, they showed a vein that stays the same but changes names and the little lab assistant on my lab DVDs says, “the best way to remember this is to think of this vein like Saul/Paul. Same person, different name.” Then the lab assistant told the story of Saul/Paul. Did he seize a teaching moment? Yes, yes he did. Plus they spend a long time and many pages emphasizing birth defects caused by alcohol (a lot! don’t drink while pregnant!).
I do have a couple of complaints and they’re both having to do with that fact that they won’t let you take exams online. It was not their fault, but I misunderstood that when I signed up for the online class, so there I was in motor-vehicle-inaccessible, unreliable-postal-service Iquitos Peru being told that they could only mail (mail!) my exams to an authorized, unknown to me, English-speaking proctor of my choice. I spent a lot of time on the phone with very polite people trying to explain that while I understood their hard-copy exam/mailing policy, surely Iquitos was weird and we could work something out. No. No. No. Very politely no. What if their approved proctor received a soft copy of the exam and proctored it for me? No. C’mon BYU! This is 2009! Every online class I’ve ever taken has exams online. There are lots of ways to get around people cheating! You can have proctors, you can have time limits, you can have open book tests (which people still fail if they don’t study)! This behind-the-times-ness is even more annoying to me than short-sleeved white button-up dress shirts. Use the internet! I know it’s evil. But also, it’s your friend! You can harness its powers for good!
The other complaint is that you have to wait a long time for your results, since once you take the exam, it must be mailed in, then graded, then the results are mailed back to you. And you never get to look at your graded exam. They tell you how many questions per section you missed but because they want to recycle questions, you have no idea really what you missed. Also, there’s no one to argue with over your scores or the wording of a question but that might be okay because usually being able to argue those things makes us annoying people.
So that’s it. My review of BYU independent study. Overall, even though I’ve been calling it adorable which it was, I liked it. It saved me a lot of money and I felt like I learned as much as I would have in a regular class (though probably not with a regular lab, it’s different watching a DVD than dealing with a real-life cadaver). You have to be motivated to do get it done, you have to live in a place with a reliable mail service, and you have to not mind typos, but if you’re in a bind and you must.have.a.college.credit then BYU independent study is for you!