… provision of food content (grilled cheese sandwich), UD read a letter in the New York Times about the provision of course content:

To the Editor:

… [W]e should be extremely wary of the move toward online education…

People cheat. All the time. Sure, they cheat on campus, but it is extraordinarily easy to cheat online. The easiest way is to simply have someone else do the course for you. Another way is by searching for information while taking a test.

… If the company or university is going online to save money, you bet it will try to cut corners as much as it can. That means a noninteractive, bottom-of-the-line course, with students able to cheat easily.

We are truly on the race to the bottom…

Diana Lambert

Bottom-of-the-line, race to the bottom — As you know, UD has for years called online the poor white trash of education. I believe the letter writer is getting at the same idea.

Or think about it this way: When all the university’s doing is providing course content in the quickest, most efficient fashion, students feel quite comfortable providing, in return, exam content in the very same way. Students are responding in kind to the pointed disdain for students, and for education, that online represents. It’s a right back at ya situation.

With online, everybody gets an A for contempt.


Online’s bold new idea: We’ll save money by not educating our students.


Hey, and here’s another problem on the horizon: Presidents of online universities make like forty million dollars a year. Eventually, presidents of massive public universities which have become almost entirely online will start demanding commensurate compensation.


UD thanks Dennis.

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13 Responses to “While having this morning’s…”

  1. GTWMA Says:

    While I agree that online education opens up new opportunities for cheating, when uninformed people provide the critique, they undermine the effort to address the real problems.

    The better online programs address, in many ways, these problems. Search for information while taking the test? Good online programs require the use of a webcam during examinations. I’ve watched people try to cheat in many ways, and it’s no more difficult to catch them than it is to proctor an in-class exam. “Ghosting” courses and exams happens in resident instruction, too, and so you have to bring similar methods used there–requiring picture IDs for exams in larger classes, for example–to be brought into the online arena.

    Don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot to dislike about online classes. The worst of it is awful.

    But, the uninformed critiques of it and the blanket disregard for those students who seek it out, when some of them truly do want to learn, but cannot uproot their entire family and life to come to our campuses or lack the funds because of our increased costs? Well, I just don’t see that as being part of the solution.

    There are a fascinating set of new technological tools at our fingertips and a world of people thirsting for the insights we can share. I think it’s loony to turn our back on that simply because it requires us to develop new ways of approaching and enforcing academic integrity. And, as I’ve said, I’d much rather see some of us try to do it better, than leave it to the Strayer CEO.

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    GTWMA: You make the strongest case I’ve seen for online, but I remain unconvinced.

    For instance: You talk about people unable to uproot their entire family. But how often are such desperate measures the case? One hears of people who simply can’t be physically present, even one or two days a week for an hour or so, at a campus. Again, how often is this really the case? And indeed what does it do to the seriousness with which people should take higher education that they now need make virtually no effort to receive it? Never meet a professor or fellow student; never see a university campus; just sit there whenever they feel like it… University education as a convenience store. And people are surprised students, online deliverers, and administrators at online universities lack respect for the enterprise?

    Nor do I see online as about “insights we can share.” Online is overwhelmingly about provided content. Insights are things gained through serious human interaction in real time and space. They are earned; they emerge.

    As for the new ways of enforcing academic integrity: I’m sorry, but the only way to stop online people from cheating is total camera surveillance. Plus (in some cases) fingerprints, the whole you’re under arrest and under surveillance routine. The whole thing is SO at odds with any self-respecting, authentic academic ethos, any actual intellectual and respectful human values. It’s degrading, and utterly corrosive of attitudes and behaviors underlying real education.

    As for those enormous face to face classes: End them. Universities like Central Florida that have become 600 person warehouses are a national disgrace.

  3. Clarissa Says:

    Opposition to on-line teaching on the college level isn’t just about cheating. Our Dean is trying to force us, for example, to offer language courses online. It makes about as much sense as trying to teach people to dance over the Internet. The idea simply doesn’t rise to the level of college education. Of course, such kind of teaching (which is a completely useless waste of time) is very profitable for universities because costs are minimal and you can sign up crowds of people for every language course. Normally, our courses are capped because language courses are not taught by means of lectures. But the stupid administrators don’t have enough brains to understand any of this. All they see is yet another opportunity to increase their sky-high salaries.

    On-line teaching on the college level is absolutely indefensible.

  4. Clarissa Says:

    “As for those enormous face to face classes: End them. Universities like Central Florida that have become 600 person warehouses are a national disgrace.”

    -Hear, hear!

  5. Stephen Karlson Says:

    They pretend to teach us, we pretend to learn.

  6. Margaret Soltan Says:


  7. Y=X Says:

    Learning mathematics can be done easily online. Provided a student is motivated. That’s the rub with online education in mathematics. It’s hard to be motivated. There is something about coming to class – even a boring lecture class – that keeps more students on track. In online classes they tend to fall by the wayside.

    College is different today than it was when I went to school. A lot more students are going part time due to work, family, and other considerations. They don’t have the luxury of coming to campus everyday. There is a real need for online classes. Not all subjects are appropriate for an online teaching. Some subjects are.

    As for cheating, all of my tests are proctored either by me or by a paid testing service. There is massive cheating in many classes but that is because there are no standards in place. It’s easy to fix this problem though.

    One thing that I don’t understand about UD’s position with regard to online teaching is the fact that she gives online lessons about writing on her blog. I’ve learned a lot from UD about writing. More so than the writing classes I’ve had. UD, you are teaching online!

  8. bfa Says:

    What’s so stupid about online education is that it’s built on top of the real problem. Students have to work while going to school, because it’s very expensive and financial aid has all but dried up. So instead of lowering tuition and increasing aid, we’re creating a parallel system of online education, which is even more expensive, and of lower quality, but which our students can sort of participate in while they continue to work. I’d call it Kafkaesque, but I think that confronted with this, Kafka would be all “wow guys, and I thought the cockroach thing was messed up!”

  9. GTWMA Says:

    UD: How often is this the case? A lot more often than you want to admit. Plenty of people live in situations where they are not in reasonable commuting distance to multiple good universities; they have children who they care about and don’t want to disrupt their lives; they are busy taking care of those kids, too; they are not supported by their parents so they get paid $20,000-$50,000 a year and are just making ends meet or are living on their partner’s income and aren’t going to rip them away from a paying job (scarce as those are right now); they can’t afford the $30,000-$50,000 a year it takes to go to the liberal arts college, full-time.

    That describes A LOT of people’s lives, UD.

    One to two hours, UD? So, you’re telling this person working like a dog at making their life just work that they get to take 2 or 3 classes a year. Listen up, 25 year old nursing assistant/clerical worker try to better yourself–you get to finish your baccalaureate degree in 10 years, even if there are no roadblocks you encounter.

    No effort? So, really, you expect people to not only pay the $40,000+ to GW, but they have to give up their jobs, uproot their children and/or partner? That’s the effort you’d require? Many of the online students I’ve encountered put a HELL of a lot more effort into reading and thinking about the reading and discussing it than does the typical undergraduate student. That’s the effort I give a damn about.

    And seriously, UD…you are telling me that online interactions are not serious, human interactions? Your blog is not? The Dish is not a serious human interaction? I’m don’t know how you can every type that without exploding in a self-generated Big Bang of contradiction! Half my friends I know primarily virtually. Because I live miles away, 90% of my family interactions have been online for close to two decades. THANK GOD, for online, because it’s brought me so much closer to my siblings. These ARE real, human interactions, simply ones mediated by various technologies.

    Yes, I will agree that the BEST interactions involve both face to face and online. And, yes, much online education is dreck content provision. But, I don’t see how anyone like you who educates so many through nothing but online interactions could deny the idea that there is a vast amount of learning and real, human interaction that already goes on and is possible online today.

    Finally, academic integrity online does not require total camera surveillance, any more than resident instruction does. That’s a simplistic straw man.

    And if your vision of education knocks down the UCFs simply because they are big, why stop there. Dump the Big Ten. Dump the Cal system, and all the research universities. Let’s go back to only allowing a small handful of liberal arts colleges to offer education to rich people than can afford to pay $200,000 for their kiddoss to be tutored. That’s the only education that matters, right?

    That’s too narrow a vision of education and my responsibilities as a faculty member for me.

    I’ll apologize for my excess of emotion, and hope that it merely helps to break through at least some of the conventional thinking. Now, I have to go interact with some real humans–students and alumni–over dinner.

  10. Margaret Soltan Says:

    No worries about the emotion, GTWMA. I appreciate it. I’ll mull over what you’ve said. Enjoy your dinner.

  11. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Y=X: Thank you for that comment! Yet while I may be in some sense teaching online, I’m not giving a formal university course. In the sense of teaching you have in mind, the whole world teaches… We’re talking here about the evolution of a very specific setting and curriculum for the teaching of the liberal arts.

  12. Shane Street Says:

    There may be many problems with online education, but UD’s

    “Nor do I see online as about “insights we can share.” Online is overwhelmingly about provided content. Insights are things gained through serious human interaction in real time and space. They are earned; they emerge. ”

    is obviously wrong, and I think she will recognize that. The statement negates book-learning outright! So much for communing with the ancients. Insight and learning really only require the presence of one engaged mind.

  13. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Shane: I see what you mean; but what I’m referring to is the specific way in which insights emerge in formal discussion — the Socratic method, if you’d like.

    Yes, there’s a sense in which my point – counterpoint with the ‘consciousness’ of a book I’m reading yields insights; but I hope you’d agree that they’re not the same sort of intellectual yield we have in mind when we talk about what happens to you intellectually when you’re constantly, person-to-person, challenged and provoked to inquire into and deepen the things you believe about the world. The consciousness of a book cannot be in that sense a teacher, a human guide not merely giving out with one consciousness and its ideas, but responding to you as you respond to it. Is there no difference, in terms of depth and dynamism of insight, between a person sitting quietly in a church and listening to a sermon and a person having been, say, one of Jesus’ disciples?

    To use your word, one can certainly and profitably “commune” with the ancients; but to be taught by them, to be patiently led, poked, and prodded by them into the natural unfolding of your own understandings, is another matter.

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