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This blog was born just as asynchronous (to use the pretentious word its advocates like) courses became the rage in American universities. University Diaries has chronicled the immense and ongoing public relations effort to make these cheesy offerings seem legit. Click on the category Poor White Trash for details.

Or just start with this detail, something that won’t surprise anyone who has thought even a little about the technology that has come to define America’s for-profit universities, and which even schools like Berkeley are considering.

…The researchers did everything from making students sign an e-mail course contract to placing personal phone calls to make sure they were on top of their class material, according to the study, which will be published in the International Journal of Management in Education in October. Students exposed to the strategies dropped out as frequently as those who were not, the authors said.

“We called them at home, sent them emails, quizzed them on the syllabus and made other efforts to try to engage them,” said Elke Leeds, an associate professor of information systems at Coles and one of six study authors, in a press release issued by the school…

And gee, nothing worked. Wonder why.

Wanna wait for the next round of studies on that one? Or wanna read the next paragraph?

Babe, you can’t even verify the identity of the person taking an online course. You can’t verify the identity of the professor giving the course. We’re in the twilight zone. Where are we? Who are we? Who took the midterm? Who gave the midterm?

Drift, drift, drift… I’m melting… Life is but a dream…

Okay so call the student! Put in a call! Place an actual personal phone call! Hellohello? Actual person? Here is another actual person. Come back! Why are you fading? Why are you dropping out….?….. Helloooo?… O tell me all about why you faded. I want to know all about why you faded…


Do not stand at your phone and forever weep.
I am not there; I make no peep.
I am a thousand courses that blow.
I am the students who nothing know.

I’m the dumbass emoticon on your screen.
An eager mind unheard and unseen.
The nightmare end of a bookkeeper’s dream.
The evil spawn of a cost-cutting scheme.

We are the students who might have shone.

Think of everything we’ve missed!
We are not there. We don’t exist.


Ooh la la!

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6 Responses to ““[T]he student dropout rates for online courses are 15 to 20 percent higher than those for traditional face-to-face classes.””

  1. Townsend Harris Says:

    “evil spawn of a cost-cutting scheme”?
    You talkin’ to me? Huh? You talkin’ to me?
    “evil spawn”?
    That’s more than my student dropouts. That’s me. I’m an adjunct. My provost incentivizes me to do as little as possible. I’m a sucker for refusing him.

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Nothing personal, Townsend. It was really more about the rhyme scheme.

  3. Townsend Harris Says:

    No offense taken. I drove a cab decades ago and was channeling Travis Bickle.

  4. yequalsx Says:

    It’s cheaper to run an online class than it is to run a class that meets in a classroom. A large percent of students work in jobs that don’t give flexibility to work around school schedules. A large percent have families and can’t come to school at traditional times. There is a need by some students to have flexibility on when/where their learning takes place. It’s not ideal but online classes do fill a void. This is especially so given that society isn’t willing to fund education like it used to.

    It’s OK to bash online classes. Maybe criticism will make them better but the fact is that the forces that are behind the drive for more online offerings aren’t diminishing. They are getting stronger.

  5. yequalsx Says:

    I’ve taught online math classes for several years. I’ve created my own video lectures, notes, and have live online office hours using a tablet PC and WebEx. I make available to the students the resources necessary for success. Many don’t take advantage of it. I do get a higher dropout rate but I’m fine with it.

    There are too many students in college right now. Given that roughly 35% of all students who start a 4 year degree never complete it then the sooner they dropout the better off they are.

    Want to hear something shocking? Roughly 30% can learn the material just fine without a teacher. They just need to be pointed in the right direction. The percent of students that really need a teacher, who benefit from a teacher, and who will be successful in school isn’t as high as one would hope.

  6. Margaret Soltan Says:

    yequalsx: They’re not always cheaper. One of the reasons that, as you say, online is getting stronger, is that, like for-profit schools – virtually all of whose courses are online, and much more expensive than equivalent face-to-face community college courses – non-profit schools are beginning to realize the amazing rip-off potential of this technology. You can get one faculty member to teach zillions of students AND overcharge students.

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