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Columbia MSOR Question about Columbia MSOR through CVN

Hi all!! This is my first thread in this forum. I hope someone can shed some light on my questions.
I just been amitted by the CVN for the MSOR degree. The video network is a very convenient way to study where I can fit lectures around my time table at my own discretion. But I need to know what I am signing up for. I have been told that I will receive the exact same degree, the exact same transcript and even participate in the same graduation ceremony as other regular students if i want to. But I was just wondering how well regarded is the MSOR degree in terms of future employability in the industry? Will it be on par with MSOR degree obtained in residence on campus in NYC? I am also planning on further study for a phd degree in operation research afterwards as well. Will I be disadvantaged when I apply for a phd program just because I completed this degree through distance learning?
Any help is much appreciated.
Hey wangshitao,

First off, welcome to qnet and congrats on your acceptance.

In regards to the CVN program, yes, you are correct that you get the same degree. However, based on my perception and what I've researched (I initially wanted to go this route when I was still in the military), I would advise you against the CVN option. First, you are not in NYC to network with your peers and future employers (which is one of the reasons why you would want to go to Columbia). Second, the perception of employers on virtual or online degrees might still be somewhat negative and you might be not as fully "valued" as a result. However, if your sole purpose is to go the PhD route, I wouldn't think it's a problem. But this is all just what I think - maybe someone can provide the facts or add to my comments.

Just a couple questions. Can you not go to the in-residence program? Also, will you be working at the same time?
Oh and one more thing, you don't interact with the professors in a classroom setting under the CVN program which is a huge down side. For an online MBA program for example (Indiana U or Penn State), you would have virtual chat rooms and Q&A sessions where you would still feel like you somewhat belong to a class. But I don't believe the CVN program has that in place. I think it's just watch the pre-recorded lecture, read the book, e-mail professor or TA if you have questions, and take the test on your own when the time comes. Just something else to think about.
It should be noted that CVN is a good option if you do happen to live in New York but if you can't regularly attend the lectures at the Columbia campus (say, because you are working in midtown or downtown and can't generally escape from your office to run up to 120th street for a mid-day class.)

CVN students are entitled to a Columbia ID card and can freely access the Columbia campus, libraries, computer labs, etc., just as regular Columbia students do, and can attend lectures in person from time-to-time for those courses which are begin given live during the current semester. (Of course, this option is not useful to students whose location is remote from New York.)

CVN students can also sign up for certain courses which were given live in previous semesters (listed as "Pre-Taped") but which are not running in the current term; regular Columbia students do not have that option.
If you want to get a PhD, CVN is NOT a good option. First, CVN is for those working professionals who just want to pursue a terminal master degree (or professional degree), because it's virtually impossible to conduct research away from campus. Also, professors will very unlikely to write recommendation letters to their CVN students whom they've never met in person. (Would you be willing to write a letter for someone you've never seen?) That would be a huge problem for your PhD application.

Otherwise, you are right that your degree is the same, and you can walk the commencement ceremony, you get the same transcript/degree designation. You can attend lectures in-person on campus or visit professors in their offices if you are in town. You can use the gym at Dodge if you want. And as myampol said, you can get a student ID, use library, and other campus resources if you are on campus, just like any other Columbia students. And yes, admission standard is just selective as the applications for on-campus programs.

I don't think employers would think negatively for the degrees obtained away from campus. In fact, many companies sponsor their employees to pursue master degrees away from campus (100% tuition reimbursement for many well-known companies). This should tell you that companies value this type of education greatly. Stanford and Georgia Tech have similar type of distance education programs catering working professionals.

But you have to be able to study independently, as you won't get much help from TA/professors as I don't think email/phone conversations are perfect substitute for face-to-face interaction. (In fact, I don't think email/phone contacts provide that much help if you are stuck in some topic or homeworks, so you better be ready to study independently.)
I am also planning on further study for a phd degree in operation research afterwards as well. Will I be disadvantaged when I apply for a phd program just because I completed this degree through distance learning?
if you are sure you want to go for a phd why do you waste your time with a masters? most phd's come straight out of undergrad, and a masters doesn't help you to get admitted to a good phd program

if you are not sure of your plans, you better go talk with people about phd and look at recent papers written in the field and see if that is what you like to do, before wasting your time and money for a masters.
Wow! Thanks for everyone's response.
I am currently working full time in the city of London as an auditor and thinking of studying for this degree while keeping my full time job. Hence I really need to know how well regarded on this degree its own right in terms of employability. I wouldn't categorise taking up the phd study as my ‘sole’ purpose but it is on my agenda after obtaining the MSOR degree.
My undergrad degree was in pure mathematics and I want do a phd in operation research. I am not too sure about my prospects in terms of OR phd application at the moment, but it is certainly not a strong one, at least not as good as after obtaining the MSOR.
About the assertion of ‘a masters doesn't help you to get admitted to a good phd program’. Are you certain about this? Not even a masters in OR with a nice transcript? One thing I really need to know is what are professors' view on the distance learning part of the degree.
And about the independent study. My undergrad study was in mathematics, I passed all my ACCA(the equivalent of the CPA in the U.K.) exams during my undergrad years without any tuition(currently fulfilling the work experience requirements to obtain the charter), all I had was study text book and past exam papers for revision. So I think I should be ok with independent study.
Thanks again for everyone’s reply, I will chat with friends who is in the states about other aspect of a phd study as well.
About the assertion of ‘a masters doesn't help you to get admitted to a good phd program’. Are you certain about this? Not even a masters in OR with a nice transcript?

masters courses are almost the same as undergrad courses. in almost all cases the text book is the same, and in some cases the students have the option to sit in either class which fits their schedule and they only have to register under different course number. I have seen cases that the exam was the same as well and only the letter grade was based on comparison with peers in the same program.

in this system, masters is nothing but bundling some undergrad courses for a shorter term program with less total tuition for the people who screwed their undergrad and thus cannot find a job, or the people who want find a job in an area different from what they studied in undergrad, or the people who do not have any ivy league name on their resume. Some smart people with good background go into masters program as well, but they are mostly non american, and masters is just a means for them to get into US job market.

when a top tier phd program admission committee looks at your resume and undergrad transcript, they can say it if you are smart and diligent and that's all they need. they don't care about your masters transcript because they know that if your masters grades are good it is either because you were re-taking those courses from your undergrad, or that you were compared with some weak peers.

Besides they know that you have not learned much more in the ms program than what they teach to their undergrads.

On the top of that, undergrad shows that if you can stay motivated, hardworking, focused and committed for four years. Most people can work their butt off and make a nice transcript out of a one year masters program but phd is on the average 5 years
Some great points (especially the 2nd paragraph), startover. For the MSOR program, certain courses can definitely be taken by undergrads also. Plus, it is a "professional" degree so research is not even needed. So yea, as startover eloquently put it, really just for folks that "screwed their undergrad and thus cannot find a job, or the people who want find a job in an area different from what they studied in undergrad, or the people who do not have any ivy league name on their resume".
Top Ph.D. programs receive many applications and admit a very small number of students, and admission is extremely competitive. Most applications are from candidates whom the faculty at that school has never met, but there are a few applications from students whom the faculty do know, because such students may be undergraduates or graduate students at that institution and are seeking further study as a Ph.D. candidate. So, if you are on the faculty admissions committee, you need to choose between the "devil you know" and the "devil you don't know" -- do you choose to admit a Ph.D. student whose work you are familiar with because (s)he has already been in your classes, or do you take someone coming from far away who has a superb record on paper, but whom you've never met?

If your goal is to get into a Ph.D. program at a competitive school (say, for example, Columbia) then you would certainly become a more competitive candidate for Ph.D. admissions at that school if you were to arrive there as a Master's candidate (paying the formidable tuition out of your own pocket) and forming a close working relationship with one or more faculty members with whom you hope to do research. Obviously it would be challenging to form such a relationship if you were a distance (CVN) student, but I should think it would be feasible if you really made the effort to get to "know" the faculty, even remotely. I don't know whether innovations such as Skype video conferencing are in active use by such faculty, but such communications would obviously be a cost-effective way for a distance student to become more than just a name on a roster.

Note that at Columbia, especially well-qualified MS candidates are permitted to take some Ph.D. level courses (those with course numbers in the 6000 and 8000 range) in addition to, or instead of, some of the Master's level courses (those with course numbers in the 4000 range.) Note that very few of these upper-level courses are offered through CVN -- most of these have very small enrollment, so the numbers just don't make sense for the video overhead. Of course, you would have to do extremely well in these courses in order to impress the faculty and strengthen your application to continue on as a Ph.D. candidate, because if the faculty choose to keep you on following the masters, they are making a major financial commitment to you, rather than vice-versa.

In the USA, the major distinction between Ph.D. candidates and MS candidates is money. If you arrive on campus as an MS candidate you would (in most cases) be paying the tuition(and your living expenses) out of your own pocket, even if you sign up to take all of the same courses that the incoming Ph.D. candidates take, while those Ph.D. candidates would most likely have fellowships, stipends, and tuition waivers. Of course, some people have external sources of funding, such as employers who have tuition reimbursement plans -- but such schemes usually indenture you to that employer for a specified period of time, otherwise you have a formal obligation to repay a specified portion of your tuition benefit if you choose to quit the company prematurely.

This is how (American) universities fund such programs -- a large number of tuition-paying MS students provide the funds which the department uses to be able to support a smaller number of Ph.D. candidates. If you can afford the MS tuition, then it could prove a worthwhile investment. But there are many bright people for whom the only way they can afford such education is if they are fully funded, which happens only at the doctoral level. That is why admission into the Ph.D. programs is so competitive.

Best of luck!
another nice thing about CVN is that you are not asked to pay thousands of dollars of misc fees (such as student activity fees or mandatory fees or insurance fees). And you don't have to spend money on dorms or apartments. All you have to pay is the per-point tuition and $375 of CVN fee (and one-time transcript fee charged in your first semester's bill). So you get to save some money if you get your degree via CVN. (If you work for a big company, then you probably pay nothing since it's good chance that you'll get full tuition reimbursement.)
startover: wow thanks for the insights. But what if you have no exposure to OR during your undergrad and was inspired to pursue a phd in OR after your undergraduate studies? (i.e. EEE major deciding to do OR)

Wouldn't a master's degree be beneficial in that case?
What about taking some CVN courses as an undergrad? Would it bolster my chances for admission to columbia ieor phd program? The thing is, my current university doesn't offer a lot of courses related to operations research/financial engineering and perhaps taking some CVN courses before I finish university would add an extra dimension to my phd application.

But the CVN courses are a bit expensive for me so I'm having second doubts and I really appreciate all the feedback on this thread.
I've asked this question in another post, but I hope I can get more insight/opinion about this: regarding the CVN's Operation Research: Finance Method, is this program really theoretical? Or is it more practical ? By theoretical, I mean do most classes' HW or tests require doing proof, deriving formula, or do most classes focus on project (programming, research, paper, etc) ?

Thank you!