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Bogus degrees devalue the rest

Submitted by adm_wordpress on September 5, 2012 – 7:05 pm2 Comments

A lot of students hate getting out of the bed in the morning. The typical school day could be seen as daunting for almost anyone. Balancing school, work, family and other commitments could drive even the most steadfast person up the wall.

So it’s no surprise that college courses taking place 100 percent online are becoming more and more popular. It’s even to the point where schools are offering students the opportunity to complete a degree without ever stepping foot in a classroom.

Another reason for the race to online courses and degrees is in response to the rising enrollments at “for-profit” universities such as the University of Phoenix or Strayer University. (You know, those schools that you are inundated by each time you turn on the television.)

Chancellor Joel Anderson recently spoke to the University Assembly regarding his goals to keep up with the online trend here at UALR.

There is a huge problem with all of this, though. Do university leaders across the nation not realize that this is devaluing the diploma that we receive after all of our hard work? Do these same leaders really believe that someone who sits at a computer and completes a degree is as well-equipped to face the world as a student who went to class and actually got involved in academics and extracurricular activities? (Not to mention the fact that no one really knows who is actually completing the work in the first place.)

Most of the leaders probably do realize the circumstances, but most don’t have a choice. Their job is to keep a university running, and in order to do that you must have students and steady income. To do this, they have to keep up with the trends. If they don’t, they get kicked to the curb.

It is a scary thought, but definitely not a new problem. Many people would agree that most of the learning in college happens not inside a classroom, but rather in the friendships, networking, and other events outside of it. Going to class and completing the work builds a foundation. But if you don’t build upon that, it usually turns into useless information that students won’t remember after the exam. Someone who is completing a degree at home doesn’t get those experiences.

Before a few people get up in arms, it is also important to realize that some working people don’t have a choice. They work and have families to care for. Online degrees are usually an ideal solution for people like this. But is it really the best option? A college education shouldn’t be something that is easy to get. That defeats the purpose. Students should have to work long hours to prove themselves worthy of the honor of being called a college graduate.

But as in most situations, the cons outweigh the pros. If this trend continues and people can graduate with a 4.0 GPA from an online program where they don’t progress as a student or professional, then the diplomas received by all graduates become worth less and less. They become just fancy sheets of paper with some signatures at the bottom. What is the value of having a PhD if you didn’t learn a damn thing in the process of getting it?

With such easy access to a college diploma, higher education is on the path to a horrible death. When the job market is flooded with graduates who don’t know much more than how to tie their shoes, it becomes nearly impossible for employers to weed through the mess to find those students who worked hours upon hours upon hours to obtain, what they thought, was their ticket to a brighter future.

 

2 Comments »

  • Melanie Edwards says:

    I am one of those working adults who has no other choice other than to take online courses if I want to finish my degree, and in my opinion it is a bit presumptuous for one to assume that an online degree is “easy” to get. I have completed several courses on-campus with the last two semesters being completed completely online, and I have found on-campus classes extremely easy in comparison to the work that is required from an online setting. It takes dedication, a will to succeed and excellent time management skills to complete a full course load from most major universities that offer this type of online setting. With online courses, you don’t have an instructor coddling to your every need and dissecting every detail that arises. You must be responsible and intelligent enough to do this on your own. I do realize that not all instructors are like this, but a large majority of them do grade on a curve and in my experience are more likely to cave to the demands of students that they must face once or twice a week versus those that they may never once meet in person. In fact, I have had a few online instructors that provide minimal to no instruction. They send you the syllabus, a schedule of homework assignments and then expect you complete the work and pass the tests yourself. If you don’t do the work, you don’t pass. For example, my online English Comp II course started with an enrollment of 15 students. By the time finals rolled around there were only 3 of us left. Most of the students found the class too difficult and withdrew so that they could re-take the class in an “easier,” on-campus setting. I do understand your concerns with diplomas earned from “for-profit” colleges, but equating their value with all other college diplomas earned on-line is ridiculous. There is no doubt that some of these online colleges “devalue” the worth of the diploma, but the same can be said for degrees earned from “party” universities that don’t place the same emphasis on academics as they do on social activities and sporting events. Saying that all online degrees “devalue” the worth of the diploma is the same as saying a degree from UALR,ASU or the UofA devalues the worth of those degrees earned by hard-working Harvard and Yale students. Comparing colleges, online or otherwise, is literally like comparing apples to oranges.

  • S. Clark says:

    I agree with your statement about for-profit schools. The tuition is massively inflated, which in this economy can mean unemployment with massive debt. Another fun fact about for-profit schools is this- none of the credits transfer to any other university. This leaves students feeling shackled to a degree that they may not even want anymore. Courses at these institutions are not unchallenging, but they are massively overpriced. In fact, our government is beginning to crack down on these programs, recognizing that they lead to the highest amount of defaults on student loans.

    However, I totally disagree with your statement that all online courses are somehow easier. In my experience, it really depends on the instructor. I took Microeconomics online and our teacher would show us how our class did in relation to the other classes he taught. On tests, the online classes reliably performed a letter grade lower than the face-to-face classes. Surprisingly, the online-only degree track seemed to perform the worst. Our teacher said that this was pretty common and cautioned that if we even thought we might need extra help or have problems with self directed study, we should take the version of the class offered on-campus. Most of the online courses I have taken required more work with less instructor interaction than an on-campus class.

    This isn’t exactly a case study, just my observation of our class. If online classes are so much easier, wouldn’t they reliably have the highest scores? I would not be surprised if online degrees also have a lower graduation rate. Ask instructors that teach online classes whether the curve is higher in a traditional or online course, and I’m positive that they will tell you that people do better in a classroom.

    As for the efficacy of online courses, I’d like you to consider this. Remember times when you’ve been so absorbed in a task that you’ve forgotten the world around you? Intense concentration is probably the best mode of learning there is- and it’s probably not going to be achieved in a classroom with 30 other people in it. This only happens when you’re totally engaged with the subject matter, which for most of us, takes place when we’re at home, studying. In short, the ease of online learning is pretty variable. It depends on what is being learned, on the individual taking the class, and how comfortable the instructor is with online teaching.

    As for the argument that no one knows who is taking the test–a great many courses have proctored midterms and finals. If schools are serious about making sure people don’t cheat and follow the rules, proctored finals are the way to go. Skip the broken Lockdown browser and just get someone to stand in a lab and proctor the exam.