Monday, January 13, 2014

Online Education Must End

By Professor Doom

“Our nearly 60 fully online doctoral programs include Marketing, Leadership, Reading and Literacy, ”
--Yes, that is from an accredited school.

     Online education is major part of higher education today. It has been a huge source of money for institutions, especially private for-profit institutions that care nothing for education (i.e., slightly less than public institutions), caring instead only for the quick buck of student loan money.
     Administrators, blinded by the dollar signs in their eyes, gave higher education cancer when they watered down accreditation to a laughable joke. It’s taken years for their cancer to destroy the integrity of public institutions from their acts, and it’s not over yet.

“I go there because it’s easy.”
--many of my students go to University of Pheonix, and that’s the reason they give. Every time.

      Administration has been cancerous to higher education, but administrators cut higher education’s throat when they influenced accrediting agencies to allow for accredited online courses and degrees. They lacked the vision to see how quickly for-profits could spring up to take advantage of this loophole. These for-profits are able to exploit the weak accreditation to casually gain legitimacy accreditation, and then slap together an online curriculum able to compete with all traditional institutions everywhere, for an infinite number of students.
          Public institutions are bleeding students to online for-profit institutions, and have been sacrificing everything they can just to keep up. Public institutions have been around longer, but with their integrity destroyed, their physical campuses are just not a good enough advantage over for-profits that can compete with all public institutions, everywhere, for all students. All institutions are in direct competition to offer the easiest admission, the most minimal coursework, and the most convenient transfer of loan money.

      “We’re easy and convenient!”
--typical promotional line for an online institution. It used to be, institutions of higher education boasted of quality, success, reputation, challenge, prestige of the faculty. Now, it’s all “easy” and “convenient”, as though the institutions were selling fast food.

     It’s totally obvious online education is a fraud. Go to if you want papers; a small fee gets them written for you personally. Go to tutorialoutlet if you want to buy everything you need to do for online courses; you’ll just need to cut and paste your answers, and a few hundred dollars will have you covered for a full time course load. For your convenience, they sell material based on course number and by institution (and do note they have the entire U of Phoenix catalogue on sale) so you can be confident of getting exactly what you need. Still too much trouble? Go to and just hire someone to take your class for you. These sites aren’t alone, there are plenty like them providing whatever form of cheating a student may desire. Cheating is wildly out of control on campuses, and, bottom line, getting caught cheating in an online course is all but impossible using these methods…assuming the institution even cares (it doesn’t, generally). I’m not joking about that “doesn’t care about cheating” issue; when I first set up an online course over a decade ago, I caught cheaters, while similar courses didn’t. My course was shut down, while the other courses (which certainly had cheating issues) were not.

Accidental student email to me: “What did he give you on the test? I used the answers you gave me, and he gave me an F.”
--over half of my online class used the answers to the test I gave the previous semester, neglecting to notice that I had changed the questions for the current semester. This student elected to drop the course, seeing as she basically admitted to cheating.  

     The answer to the rise of online “competition” in higher education is easy: stop accrediting online coursework, with no such thing as accredited online degrees. It’s that simple, again, and the mad scramble for every institution to offer everything online, everywhere, all the time, ends. The “competition” of offering the least challenging programs also ends, making a college education meaningful again.
     Why destroy online accredited “education”? The answer is obvious, and should have been understood all along.

Faculty: “They’re cheating their asses off.”
--a brief but accurate description of online students.

   Eliminate accredited online courses because they represent nothing. It’s simple. Free online courses? Sure, no problem, if any institution wants to give credits and courses for free, I’m all for that. But stop this crap of putting people deep in debt for bogusly accredited bogus coursework.
      Online courses are nearly worthless when it comes time to get a job for good reason: if you do not personally know the person with the online degree, you have no reason whatsoever to believe that the degree represents any knowledge. An online degree is just too easily acquired, by cheating and/or without gaining any skills or knowledge, to open doors for someone who does not have any other connections, connections that often make the degree irrelevant beyond a job requirement.  

Student: “We studied together.”
--two students managed to get a question wrong in the same way, by thinking there were 24 letters in the alphabet, and thus blowing the calculation of “probability of randomly selecting the letters C, A, and T, in order. They were sitting next to each other. I had to ask how they both made the same mistake, and that was the explanation. I bought it. Stuff happens.

     “But there’s no guarantee that traditional students aren’t cheating!” is a counter-argument, but not a good one. As I addressed before, traditional schools need to start taking cheating seriously. The short-sightedness of administrators by encouraging cheating has annihilated the prestige of much of education. If all it takes to get a degree is to pay someone else to do the work, the degree simply cannot mean anything, even if merely half—and this is clearly an underestimate-- of degree-holders sub-contracted their “education” for some or all of their coursework.
     “But what about students that can only get a degree through online courses?” and “Why punish the minority of non-cheaters for the actions of the cheaters by denying online courses?” are other concerns, but again, only exist for the short-sighted. These online students are being robbed, paying a fortune for online degrees that are worth nothing. Accrediting online degrees facilitates the robbery. The students, even the honest ones, are cheated when they buy online courses only to find out much later how worthless such courses are. Only the institutions benefit from offering these courses, and only financially. Facilitating such theft is not acting with integrity.

Student complaint to admin: “I did not get the exam I was supposed to receive.”
--The student had somehow gotten a copy of the final exam in advance, and had the guts to ask me how to answer many of the questions on the exam, a few days before the exam was to be given. Thinking it odd that he asked questions identical to the exam, I changed the questions, passing out a different, but comparable, exam to the class. Of course, the complaint was taken seriously: admin felt I was unfair in doing this.

      Finally, the issue of “What about students that are learning through a life fulfillment goal?” needs to be addressed.  If the goal is honestly life fulfillment, then accreditation, a certification that the education is legitimate, is unnecessary—a person knows in his heart if he’s satisfied with what he’s learned. If the libraries and the internet are not enough to provide training and information for a topic, then surely some entity will provide content for those that really need and want to pay for training despite the lack of accreditation/student loan loot. Accreditation was accidently turned into a source of money through student loan programs, and needs to become something of value: a seal of legitimacy.  
     The problem is, this will never happen with online coursework. Even a minimal guarantee of legitimacy is impossible with online courses as they are now, and no institution can have them and operate with integrity. Get rid of fee-based, accredited, online coursework.
     Market realities won’t let this happen, I suppose, but with administrators in control of education, corpulently obvious ideas like “online students must take tests in proctored testing centers” and “after papers are turned in, students will be required to write summaries of said papers in proctored testing centers” will never be advanced or enforced…it would cut too much into those loan checks. These testing centers already exist throughout the country and are used for a variety of tests and certifications where integrity is important; it’s simple to set a center up. Those testing centers have been around for years. Only a system with rulers that don’t care about integrity would not already be using them.
     I must admit something self-serving here in wanting to be rid of online education, although “it’s robbery” is a pretty good reason unto itself. Sooner or later, an online school will get accreditation…and offer all their coursework for free. That will be the end of higher education in its current format, and I’ll be out of a job, but why I’m ok with that is for a later essay.


  1. If these "students" are stupid enough to essentially buy these worthless online degrees, surely they deserve what they get? "Caveat Emptor" in the US of hustles and scams, surely? These "qualifications" are the analog of the junk derivative securities that remain in the vaults of American banks -- they have no value in the real market of jobs.

    As I see it, so much that is being sold in the US is a scam -- medical insurance and retirement plans being two egregious examples. The selling of worthless degrees fits neatly into the zeitgeist of this neoliberal era.

  2. It may fit the zeitgeist...but the zeitgeist is wrong.

    I'm not sure medical insurance is always a scam, except for Obamacare, which is horrid. Retirement plans are highly questionable, I's so funny how my coworkers count the money in their retirement plans. I tell them to expect that money to vanish before they get to it, and to take steps to be responsible for their own retirement, and they look at me like I'm nuts. Well, except for the technical leaning folk, which accept that the track record of such plans is abysmal.

    Back to education. the bogus online education is sucking legitimate students into that system. The only way what few legitimate schools are left can compete is to become ever less legitimate.

    The zeitgeist seems to be that all is lies...but the zeitgeist is wrong. I prefer to fight an honest, losing, battle, than to be on a lying, winning side.

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