Online “education”

Now this is what I call online!!!!

Academic fads are a real pain in the ass. The most pressing problem in higher education in the United States is academic fads. Assessment, shared governance, first year experiences, residential colleges, whatever the flavor of the month. If you can sell it, you can become an assistant dean of idiotic administration. Some people literally weasel their way into creating bureaucracies within  universities devoted to their pet academic fad! Online education is the latest one, and it’s spurred by interest groups selling bullshit privatized degrees (and copping most of their coin from Federal student aid). My buddy Mike Humphries and I were lamenting this today. Why the fuck should a real university even try to compete with some online diploma mill? Indeed, why should it even try to use these technologies? The whole fucking educational system is now stratified not only by who does or does not go to college, but also by who does and does not go to a REAL college! Ask your local or global capitalist if they are going to hire someone from the University of ” Phoenix”. Universities need to  confront this problem directly and advertise the fact that, for example, our humble department of sociology would not admit a student to our graduate program if their degree was done online.

I just met a dozen or so really bright young people engaging important topics at our SIU Sociology Club meeting. I’m really glad we have Cathy Field helping with our undergrads, and what that means is that these people get set straight and have access to real honest to fuck sociologists who do research and publish shit and stuff. And maybe some of these young people might aspire to do likewise. And, I’ve seen our undergraduates go on to get PhDs and become tenured sociologists. You don’t get that online. You never will.  The children of your corporate overlords do not have online degrees.

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6 Responses to “Online “education””

  1. James Sweet Says:

    Interesting points. I’m not in academia so maybe this is hopelessly naive, but I do kinda think online courses are pretty cool, if not online degrees. I have a friend who went back several years later to finish up his degree after leaving early to take a job, and he was able to fill in some of the blanks by taking online courses — though of course the vast majority of his education had been in an actual classroom. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

    It’s also probably somewhat different for academic-oriented fields like yours vs. things like engineering, which (and I’m allowed to say this since my degree is in engineering) at the Bachelor’s degree level is almost like just a really math-heavy and challenging trade school — you aren’t being taught to think, you’re just being taught how to do a certain type of job, albeit an open-ended and highly-skilled one. If I need to take Circuits II, for example, the important part is that I know how to apply the equations and can pass the tests, not that I have some rich and deep understanding of why everything fits together that way (though obviously the latter is desirable and something I seek after, but most engineers will never acquire it).

    You make an excellent point in asking why legitimate institutions feel the need to compete with diploma mills, though.

  2. Hagan Says:

    D- I taught two night classes at one of these schools last semester and it is a crazy world. Luckily you won’t see any people applying for grad school because from my limited experience I saw: a) the vast majority (60%ish) are business degrees, most of those I met were older people who wanted to start a business and just wanted some form of leg up. b) the rest are criminal justice be a prison guard/security guard/cop classes.

    The question that needs to be answered is does their degree matter in those fields? I want to see real data on it though, not the schools data of course.

    Part of me likes what they are trying to do. Give people with way too many kids or way too many jobs a chance to get a leg up. But their execution feels from my experience full of lies and misinformation. Sadly, you are most right on the part that real schools feel they have to compete with this model. We are not losing dedicated students to these schools, the students that these schools get would have never made it to SIUC or a similar institution to time. It is about trying to take whatever small niche those schools have. They want all the pie I guess.

  3. khal spencer Says:

    My wife and I have a friend who is still at Kapiolani CC back in Honolulu, where my wife, a former English professor once co-directed the remedial studies programs. Unfortunately, that field had a lot of growth potential for new faculty.

    Our friend has been teaching a couple online courses every year which in part are aimed at non-traditional students who can’t always make it to class. Of course, a lot of these courses are as Darren suggests, the latest and greatest fad.

    Our friend spends a shitload of time on her computer, literally communicating back and forth with these virtual students and trying to make their degrees mean something.

    As skeptical as I am of these online courses, I suppose its not so much whether much of the work is done online, but whether the work is significant enough to merit a degree. I suspect that with a lot of these private “colleges”, one is indeed doing the academic equivalent of fucking a corpse.

    Oh, Darren. Congrats, I guess, on your promotion to Dept. Chair. Back when I was in an academic department at the U of Hawaii, that was considered a rather thankless job for which one volunteered to keep the Chair out of the hands of those who would do the department harm.

  4. sherkat Says:

    Yeah, thanks Khal…This is my second trip to the hot seat, and I plan to make sure a colleague is promoted to Full Prof this year so I can stick her with it!

    I’m also slightly ambivalent about several aspects of lowbrow “college” education. I did 27 hours of credit at a junior college when I couldn’t afford tuition at the U of Tulsa, and I made sure I maxed out my transfer credit. And, I can understand the poor sap who just needs some credits. But this is moving more and more into a system where poor kids pay a lot (usually on loans, since grants disappeared with Ronny Raygun’s war on education) for an inferior product. Headlines today in the Chronicle are talking about community colleges giving four year degrees, and for profit online outfits are raking in lots of money from unsuspecting students and maybe giving them worthless degrees in exchange. Fucking a corpse would at least be more fun, I guess….

    This is really the end game of the war against the middle class. Low tuition is gone because of decreases in state and federal funding. Grants have been replaced by loans, so students commonly graduate from modest state universities with six figures of debt. Now, the poor and the middle classes will have to pay high prices for online degrees, while the rich go to liberal arts colleges where they get to hear lectures from real professors and converse with fellow students.

    Sweet Jesus up there can’t fool me with his “I’m just an engineer” crap. I’ve seen him wax poetically about qualia and shit like that. I think he once had a philosophy class or two at a real university, either that or he’s the smartest guy to punch a library card.

  5. James Sweet Says:

    heh, thanks for the flattery sherkat, but it’s true. My education is restricted to a five-year BS/MS program in computer engineering, and a 20th century literature class I took several years later at a local community college (partially for personal enrichment, and partially because the prof was a drinking buddy of mine).

    No philosophy classes for me at Rochester Institute of Technology — as you might imagine, the 5-year BS/MS program is pretty densely packed with not much room for the humanities.

    Sorry to say, but most of my knowledge of philosophy comes from the University of Google…

  6. Hagan Says:

    Oddly I hear the U of Google is just as good as Phoenix.

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