The long-time readers of JerseySmarts.com know that I started teaching courses at an all-online university back in the spring. In fact, during the short time that I’ve been employed by this all-online university, I’ve instructed seven different courses. Some of you might say, “Seven courses? Good grief!” Well, that’s a proper reaction, however the courses are only two months in length and I’ve had a few courses overlap.
But the point of this entry is that I’m beginning to grow suspicious of this all-online university setting and I’ll tell you why…
A few months ago I popped into an online discussion board populated by professors from this all-online university. Among the many interesting and engaging discussions was the poor writing quality of the student population, in general. This was a problem that I noticed in my classes, but I wasn’t sure what to make of it because of the demographic composition of my students. They’re mostly older students that ended their education during or immediately after high school and then entered the working world. Then ten, twenty, thirty, and even forty and fifty years later they decide that they want to get a Bachelor’s Degree and enroll in the all-online university where I teach some classes. With that type of background, the class instructor (me) needs to be able to process and ultimately comprehend a different writing style.
I’m fine with that – believe me.
But reading through these discussions (and the one cited above, particularly) led me to start thinking about what type of student was actually enrolling in this school. However, as with most “deep thoughts” that I’ve had recently, I put it aside and worried about the work at hand that I needed to complete before whatever deadline hit. Most of you know how it is with deadlines.
But then I began teaching another section of my course and within two weeks of the class starting, half of the students were not responding to e-mails or participating in the online discussions. When you’re enrolled in an all-online university, you must participate in the online discussions – it’s how you’re graded for goodness sake! Like any educator would be, this lack of engagement made me pretty concerned. I tried contacting each of the students that chose not to participate in any of the assignments and I received three responses. Two of the students said that they planned on completing all of the work, but they were a little busy at the moment and to stay tuned because they would submit all of their work on-time. I didn’t hear from them again until, well, read on. The third student, however, was a real eye-opener for me. The third student told me that she was enrolled in 54 credits through December.
Repeat: FIFTY-FOUR CREDITS THROUGH DECEMBER!
Folks, that is absolutely obscene. For this all-online university to allow a student to register for 18 classes in a five month period is disgusting. For comparison’s sake, in a bricks-and-mortar college semester (which is about three and a half months) the typical student takes between 4 and 6 classes. And those students who opt to take 6 classes during the semester know that they are getting themselves ready for an extremely busy three and a half months! Yet, the all-online university where I teach some classes allowed a student to take three times the amount of classes that a traditional university would allow.
That’s ridiculous and the all-online university should be ashamed of itself.
I advised the student to drop my class since it was not feasible for her to submit the required information in an appropriate timeframe. She agreed and dropped the class and actually thanked me for giving her such good, sound advice. Look, I should probably be advising students to stay in my classes because then I get paid more, but I couldn’t do that to the student. It’s just not right.
That was about six weeks ago when the class was just getting started. Now let’s fast-forward to last week when the class ended. Guess who I heard from all of a sudden? That’s right – I heard from those two students who told me that they would have everything submitted on time. Since they didn’t complete all of the required work during the required timeframes (or even the grace periods), they scored a “0” on each item which led them both to fail the class miserably. However, two days before the class was scheduled to end (I’m not exaggerating, it was two days prior to the class ending) they contacted me, separately, and asked if they could submit all of the past due material.
My mind when I read those e-mails: “Really? Really? You didn’t have time to do the required work during the two months that the class was in session, but now you’re going to do two months worth of work in two days? Really? Do I really have a sign on my virtual forehead that says, ‘Moron!’? Really? You’d have been kicked out of the course already in a bricks-and-mortar university.”
However, one of the tenets of this all-online university is that we cater to our students’ professional lives and personal needs. So I had no choice but to tell these students that I would accept their late work and grade it, replacing their “0” grades with whatever they earned. But I have to tell you this – the work they submitted was rushed and really poorly done. They didn’t score well at all and, in truth, they should have been removed from the course as soon as they didn’t submit the required work on time (or a day or two late).
So this latest experience mixed with the generally mediocre-at-best writing skills of my students has me growing more suspicious of this all-online university stuff. I’m not sure where this is going to put me at this particular institute of higher education as I continue to build and expand my professional teaching resume, but at this point – I’m very concerned about my students and whether or not they are capable of the type of quality that the job market expects from a Bachelor’s Degree holder.