General Misconceptions About UP Open University

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own, not of my employer(s), or anyone related to me.

It’s a common trend to be both ignorant and demeaning these days. We all deserve a beating for acting in such manner, and in this post I will be disputing some common thoughts about U.P Open University and Open Universities in general. I also have to reprimand myself for complaining way too much.

Here are the misconceptions about U.P Open University which I will dispute in this post:

  1. U.P Open University is like a MOOC. You can’t get the same education as the real University.
  2. U.P Open University not like the University of the Philippines. It is a dumbed down version of it.
  3. U.P Open University is waste, because you will not get the same quality as on-campus programs.
  4. U.P Open University is only great for introverts who can learn on their own.

Why I Studied at U.P OU

I have a little over a decade experience in Software Development. Probably more if you count the years I worked while studying in University as a programmer for people in various countries. In the year 2003, I was already building dynamic websites, and fiddling with SQL. Even after gaining years of experience professionally as a software developer and a mentor, I felt a need to go back to school because I think good education works like a passport in many ways. As a Louisian, I didn’t struggle in some ways certain people did. I call myself a “Louisian” because I studied at St. Louis University and St. Louis School Center. I managed to graduate with honors despite being lax in my habits of studying. I crammed a lot. My brain years ago worked very differently. In some ways, better and in some ways, worse. The good news is some knowledge has been retained, although most of it got lost in an ocean of nothingness.

The institution helped a lot in making me who I am. My teachers were great, and that probably deserves a lengthy post. I would, however, not attribute any of my bad habits to them.

But to give you an idea of what it’s like to study at SLU. Here’s a short story: I had a very wealthy professor in Law who won many international cases. He’s wealthy by world standard probably as he owns a Law firm. Taking his class was interesting. But it was tough for most. More than half of the class failed. His rule was to make sure those who get slightly above the passing mark would fail. I guess he really doesn’t want just anyone to be a lawyer. I did very well in his class, even if it was relatively difficult. But that meant a lot of preparation. I cared more about that class than my major subjects. In my other Law class, my professor gave me zero because my seatmate copied my answer including my errors. I would never cheat, or give away my answers but that happened. As to why they think I am a genius and anything I write down must be perfect is still puzzling to me. I forgive that person, because I made it despite the blatant error. We were taught to be forgiving at St. Louis. We were taught to be balanced individuals.

Of course, it’s not just my degree that made everything much easier for me. I would like to thank my former employers Andy Singleton, the founder of Assembla, Inc., Moe Abdou, the founder of 33voices and everyone I worked with for helping me out. The list’s quite long. I sincerely believe they are great entrepreneurs, and do not regret working for them.

The University of the Philippines is a good brand. The University of the Philippines Open University is more of a branch of The University of the Philippines Los Baños. They can’t be tainted in any way, and my opinions of the University are generally positive. They are probably my best option if I wanted to study in a Philippine University.

U.P Open University is NOT A MOOC

A MOOC is a free online course which nearly anyone can take. U.P Open University is quite far from a MOOC, and dismissing it to be like a MOOC version of University of the Philippines is a huge mistake. It’s an arrogant thing to say considering it’s obviously as real as on-campus programs, and may even be more challenging in some ways than on-campus programs.


  1. It’s not free at all for graduate school, and overseas students pay more for admission.
  2. Admission process can be daunting. You are required to write an essay, and provide references they can contact.
  3. They do anal checking and will ask you to submit your official transcript.
  4. They have ways of enforcing the honor code even if it’s all done online.
  5. They select their students through certain obvious metrics. Not everyone can make it. Many of my classmates were experienced software developers. If they were not, they excelled in Mathematics or had a really great-looking transcript, or a well-written admission essay probably. They’re all smart.

How U.P Open University Enforces The Honor Code

You can’t fake it. Even if you try. It’s more tough for those without experience in software development.

In some ways, studying at U.P Open University is more challenging than taking the class on-campus. We were asked to make so many videos about various topics.

You can’t cram. Unlike Coursera, there are no practice exams or assignments. Everything is graded and everything has strict time limit. It’s easy for me to get 100% for a quiz on Data Science at Coursera, and I almost always get exactly 100% only because there is a practice exam.

Coursera is very easy. You can take the quizzes on a train ride and still get a perfect score on some courses like Data Science Math Skills. I will share my notes on that course in another post.

Data Science Math Skills

U.P Open University Does Help You Gain Social Skills

The group projects are tough. If you are used to working and studying alone, this program is not for you. Do not make such risks as it will hurt those who care a lot about their future. Your grades depend on the performance of everyone else. I tried to lead when no one can, but I was squeamish for a lead and I asked for help a bit late because I thought I could do it all alone and not bother anyone. Don’t do that! Just don’t.

It’s amazing because my group mates were super smart and agile. We got things done on time, but that was so close to not making it at all.

U.P Open University Needs to Adopt Open Source Standards Quickly

What is an open source standard? It’s a standard defined by the W3C or the open source community. Focusing on teaching open source standards means you are ensuring that both your professors and students are ready for the real world. The open source standards only have significant changes every 2 years or so for languages like JavaScript.

Use open source books as primary materials over books that take years to update. An example of an open source book is You Don’t Know JS. We just can’t go back to the year 2003. Keep moving forward.

Thinkful teaches both ES5 and ES2017 standards. I’ved worked as a mentor for Thinkful, and I still do. I definitely appreciate how nothing is set in the stone. We can change what we should to make sure the students learn what they should.

My other opinions of my experience in the University have already been submitted as a formal review to the University.

This post is futile at most if you don’t need read this part, and read it with a bit of concern because traditional education STILL matters:

I have a request for those in the academe and off the academe to see their flaws. Students need both high quality theoretical Computer Science education, and bootcamp-level training for software development and software engineering. They need both. Education provided by the institutions is still about education. If you don’t care to fix what’s broken about such institutions, good luck to your country. To be fair, there aren’t a lot of things broken. The students know it. They generally know what education they lack. Dismissing that they don’t need either because of theories on signaling which almost suggest that you don’t really learn anything in University, and you can gain that so-called signal in 10 minutes. “Productivity is independent of education.” They are saying nothing great came out of the four walls of a campus, and you will not learn a lot in University. That’s odd because Terriyaki Boy was feasibility study you can still read today at St. Louis University. Anything said with much confidence can be disputed. Generalizing is a common error. Thinking everything is black and white, and we can make clear conclusions on everything is just odd. This is called binary thinking. We need the education universities provide, and the theories on signaling are often mixed up with complaints that learning does not happen in a University, cheaters abound and so on. For all these reasons, I refuse to make references to such insensible articles. You are better off googling them.

As a mentor at Thinkful, I always asked about their situations. Many of them can’t go back to study in a University. They just want to work. I will never give such suggestions to do post-graduate studies to everyone. There is nothing wrong with that at all as long as they see the fact they need to learn a lot and what they look like in today’s job market. Always think about what people need, and how different people learn differently. Most people are intelligent. They just have different backgrounds. I don’t believe any student’s truly “dumb.” I found that they mostly can figure out how to solve problems they encounter.

Perpetual Student

This year, I am focusing on my work. But I am a perpetual student. I don’t claim to be an expert, and I am actually more afraid of listening to the overconfident fool or inadvertently turning to someone like that.

To my classmates, cast your nets WIDE:

You’re all great! Don’t give up and finish the program. Do not drop out. I fully support you all. Listen to everyone. Even those who look like beginners. Once you learn how to listen and how to do filtering of what you learn from others, you will not have a lot of problems. The global open source community is always better than the local Philippine community. Today I joined the React.js community and everyone calls themselves a “beginner” despite 2 years experience in the using the framework. Listen to everyone, and listen to yourself.

To my program chair:

I could go back if I had more time. Even if I won’t, I am thankful because I learned a lot.