Myths of Online Learning
#1
Quote:John Ebersole
8/24/2012 @ 1:38PM

The Myths of Online Learning

More than one-third – six million – of all students in higher education took at least one online course in the fall of 2011. Yet despite its growing popularity, online learning continues to be seen in a negative light by politicians, regulators, and some members of the academic community, especially faculty.

There are six commonly heard myths that are often used to denigrate this form of instruction.

•Myth #1: Online learning will reduce the need for faculty. Nothing could be further from the truth. From surveys and interviews, we have come to know that the number one reason for student success, in a classroom or online, is a caring instructor. Also, online institutions are much more strict about limiting class size than traditional schools, usually setting a maximum of 20 to 25 per section. Thus, there is the need for more, not fewer, qualified instructors. Faculty are also in demand to build new courses, revise old ones, and create the learning assessments for which there is growing need. Not surprisingly, a recent Inside HigherEd/Babson survey reveals that faculty at institutions with more extensive online offerings are more positive about online learning than those who have little or no such involvement.

• Myth # 2: All online courses are the same. Again, not true. Those institutions with restricted budgets may use formats that are little more than text-heavy electronic correspondence courses. However, on the other end of the spectrum are courses that rival a Hollywood production in their use of color, graphics, animation and simulations. Capstone assessments can test a student’s ability to apply concepts and make decisions based on their learning. These are not cheap, but they are engaging, effective, and growing in use.

•Myth # 3: The quality of outcomes is less for an online student than for one who has received the same instruction in a classroom. Research over many decades has shown that the outcomes for those studying at a distance do not differ from those in a classroom. As much as our egos might wish otherwise, students don’t have to sit at our feet to learn. In fact, there has been such consistency of finding in this regard that the phrase “no significant difference” has become the expected hypothesis in making comparisons.

•Myth # 4: “Online” instruction is synonymous with “for profit” institutions. While it is true that many proprietary colleges and universities use online methods to deliver instruction, not all do. It is equally the case that a majority of nonprofit academic institutions are also delivering instruction online, including entire degrees. This myth has been perpetuated, undoubtedly, by the much greater publicity and advertising conducted by for-profit institutions.

•Myth #5: Credentials earned online are not accepted by employers. Over the past several years, Excelsior College and the Zogby organization have conducted nationwide surveys of employers and hiring officials to determine their perceptions of online certificates and degrees. The results of the survey in 2011 revealed that nearly two-thirds of those familiar with online education believe that a degree earned online is a credible as one earned through a traditional campus-based program. Respondents stated the most important factors in determining the credibility of an online degree were the accreditation of the institution awarding the degree and the quality of its graduates.

•Myth #6: You don’t know if the person doing the work is the person receiving the credit. As pointed out by WCET, a partner to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, student authentication is a complex and frequently misrepresented issue and one that is not unique to online education providers.

An entire industry has now emerged to deal with this concern. At some institutions, face-to-face or “secure” testing is required for online students. Others use 360° cameras mounted at the student’s exam site and employ third party monitors who observe the entire exam process. Most popular is the use of challenge questions to validate the exam taker’s identity. Drawing from public records (i.e., tax, motor vehicle and property), questions that have answers unique to the registered student can be randomly asked during an examination. The answers are such that they are likely only known to the enrolled student. New forms of student verification are being developed and include such things as retinal scanning, electronic fingerprinting, and key stroke analysis. Suspiciously improved writing is a very common “red flag” and submissions can be automatically checked for plagiarism through one of several detection software products.

In this era of post-traditional higher education faculty, libraries and students can be virtually anywhere in the world. Will there ever be a time when the physical college campus becomes obsolete? I doubt it and certainly hope not. What online learning does is bring knowledge to the student. How we harness the power of online learning to advance our society is where we need to focus our efforts and not on the perpetuation of myths that will hold us back.
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#2
(09-02-2012, 10:21 AM)Don Dresden Wrote: •Myth #6: You don’t know if the person doing the work is the person receiving the credit.

This is starting to look like PED testing in sports. PED production science is always a generation ahead of PED detection science. Will students soon be required to submit whiz samples after an exam?

Quote:Paying for an A
September 21, 2012
By Alexandra Tilsley

The growth of the online education market appears to have spun off another, more surreptitious market – one that goes beyond the paper-writing services long available to less than honest students – and online educators are taking note.

A handful of websites have sprung up recently offering to take a student’s entire online class for them, handling assignments, quizzes, and tests, for a fee.

These sites make an appeal to the busy online student, struggling through a class they’re not good at or not interested in. The description of one site, wetakeyourclass.com, reads: "I’m sure you are here because you are wondering 'how will I have time to take my online class?' It may be that one class such as statistics or accounting. We know some people have trouble with numbers. We get that. We are here to help.”

Prices for a “tutor” vary. Boostmygrades.com advertises a $695 rate for graduate classes, $495 for an algebra class, or $95 for an essay. When Inside Higher Ed, posing as a potential customer, asked for a quote for an introductory microeconomics class offered by Penn State World Campus, noneedtostudy.com offered to complete the entire course for $900, with payment upon completion, and onlineclasshelpers.com asked for $775, paid up front. Most sites promise at least a B in the course.

Much about these sites is unclear. E-mails and phone calls from Inside Higher Ed went unanswered – and some of the sites have received negative customer reviews. Some seem to be run by the same person or group of people, and two of the sites, wetakeyourclasses.com and onlineclasshelpers.com, have the same IP address. Some do get good reviews, however, and at least one online forum includes comments from students who say they have successfully used an online class-taking service. Either way, administrators are concerned, seeing the emergence of these sites, scams or not, as a harbinger of an online education black market.

“It’s what they say about cockroaches: when you see one there are hundreds that you don’t see,” said A.J. Kelton, director of Emerging and Instructional Technology for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Montclair State University.

Concerns about cheating online are not new, of course, and institutions offering online courses are required to verify a student’s identity and check IP addresses to protect against financial aid fraud. But Eric Zematis, director of Enterprise Systems at Charter Oak State College, said sites like We Take Your Class seem designed more for an individual student trying to pass a course, and that raises new challenges.

Charter Oak is a fully online institution, and relies on a three-step process to try to ensure that the person who registers for a class is, in fact, the person who completes that class, according to Zematis.

First, there is an initial identity check. Charter Oak, like many other online education providers, uses Acxiom, a service that pulls from a large database of information to generate questions about a person’s history that only that person should know. For example, Acxiom might use address records to determine who you lived with five years ago and ask you to pick that person’s name from a list. It’s the same service used by a number of online banks, and Zematis said most of the time it works well.

If a prospective Charter Oak student cannot answer the questions generated by Acxiom, the student can call the registrar, who will look at the information in Acxiom and ask different questions. If the student still cannot pass, Charter Oak will accept a notarized copy of a passport or other government-issued ID.

Charter Oak also uses the Acxiom system whenever it administers a “high-stakes” exam, according to Zematis. A student logging on to take a test has to answer a few personal history questions before accessing the exam; a wrong answer to an Acxiom question won’t lock a student out from taking the test, but that student will get a call from Charter Oak later to try to sort of the issue. Zematis admits this system is not foolproof, but says it helps spot potential cheating.

The last step in Charter Oak’s identity verification plan involves pedagogy, not technology.

“If we just had a course that was just a multiple-choice final at the end there’d be a high chance of cheating,” Zematis said. “When we design courses we try to look at having more interaction to try to discourage cheating.”

In the case of a site like We Take Your Class, Zematis surmised, the amount a student would have to pay would probably increase based on the number of assignments. If there were enough assignments, tests, or required discussions, then, using an online class-taking service could become prohibitively expensive.

Designing a course that precludes cheating might require thinking creatively and breaking away from simply uploading lecture videos and administering quizzes, said Kyle Johnson, an independent higher ed consultant.

“What kind of experience are we providing for students if someone is able to take an entire class for a student and we never figure it out from the interaction? At a pedagogical level, that’s my concern,” he said. “Are we really just dumping information at them so someone can come in and take a couple of quizzes and they’re done?”

Interaction, Johnson said, is crucial, whether that interaction is through online discussion or one-on-one interactions via Skype or a similar service.

“If we just make it enough extra work, it becomes too expensive for services like this to make any sense,” Johnson said.

Some institutions do require students to video conference in to a class, which presumably would make hiring a surrogate to take the class more difficult. Others use two-factor authentication systems, which might require a student to know something and to have something in order to log on. For example, some online courses send students devices that generate a random string of characters, and to log on the student must enter their password and the characters. This method can be expensive, though Zematis suggested it might become more common as the same technology becomes available as a smart phone application.

Though preventing cheating and fraud has been an ongoing conversation in online higher ed, Kelton said sites like We Take Your Class change the game slightly.

“This is the first time I’ve seen a company that will take an entire class for you,” he said. “To me that says this is just the tip of an iceberg.”

What worries Kelton and others the most is the scale of online higher ed and, by extension, of the new online higher ed black market.

“The difference with something like wetakeyourclass.com is that if you’re going to pay someone to go to your 300-person psych 101 class, that person can only go to one exam at a time. That same expert, however, could take six, eight, 10, 12, online classes simultaneously,” Kelton said.

With the sheer number of students taking online classes, too, Johnson notes that if even one percent of students cheat, it is a significant number.

Zematis notes, however, that cheating can happen in face-to-face classes, too. Though he believes online classes need to be held to the same standard as in-person classes, he hopes the threat of sites like We Take Your Class will lead to innovation within online higher ed, not to over-regulation.

“We serve an adult population – our students just can’t afford to spend two evenings a week out taking a class, but they can take courses at 4 in the morning or after the kids go to bed. The biggest threat for us would be that there are laws passed that make it harder for those students to learn that way,” Zematis said. “We need to be taking a leadership role as far as making sure the students taking the courses are the students who registered and the students we are credentialing.”
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#3
That's tripe.
I was personally asked to sit an UG exam on someone else's behalf using a forged ID (his ID doctored to include my pic had been arranged) at a WELL KNOWN B&M university. That was 24 or 25 years ago I think, well before the internet came into being. I refused, but who knows whether the person did find a more suitable helper.
The examiner or some invigilator might -or might not- check for IDs...and at such a big university there was no way they could remember each of the thousands upon thousands of students.
A.A Mole University
B.A London Institute of Applied Research
B.Sc Millard Fillmore
M.A International Institute for Advanced Studies
Ph.D London Institute of Applied Research
Ph.D Millard Fillmore
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#4
(09-22-2012, 06:55 PM)ham Wrote: That's tripe.

Agree that it's absurd to pretend that online formats are any more prone to the predations of cheaters than F2F. There is at least one well-known B&M school where having 15 of your buddies write your dissertation for you is said to be a "tradition."

Although paying someone to do your coursework is probably good preparation for employment as a professor, so you can master the important skills necessary to have grad assistants with marginal English skills doing all your donkey work.
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#5
Quote:A handful of websites have sprung up recently offering to take a student’s entire online class for them, handling assignments, quizzes, and tests, for a fee.

The rotten bastards! What kind of slimy, sleazy scumbags would stoop so low??? Oh, yeah, I should have guessed...... Rolleyes

Quote:Unemployed professors write students’ essays
Postmedia News 23 September 2012 Issue No:240

As an associate dean of academic services, Catherine Bolton spends a lot of time studying, lamenting and worrying about cheating in universities. But a Montreal-based online service that propels the activity to a new level made even her wince. The website http://unemployedprofessors.com has teachers writing papers for students, writes Karen Seidman for Postmedia News.

“So you can play while we make your papers go away” is the website’s tag line. Organisers say education has already become a commodity and with tenure harder to get, teachers need work.

“The idea that it could be legitimate for any professor to sell their brain, when they know better than anyone that papers are assigned for students to learn,” said Bolton of the faculty of arts and sciences at Concordia University. “There are for sure teaching assistants and graduate students who do this, but professors?”
Full report on the National Post site

Providing more context to the practice of commissioning and selling student papers, the website of CBC Radio carries a recording of an interview with an unnamed woman who used to write term papers for students to earn extra money.
Full audio report on the CBC Radio site
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#6
Yeah sure...
[Image: blue_tower_bowtie.jpg]

Hi...this is doctor Brown, Ph.D...he'll write the paper for you if you shop at our site

[Image: Rajasthan_TurbanGuy.jpg]

Ops...dr. Brown fell ill and your paper was due, so we asked Rajeev to help out...

PFFT!
These term paper mills look more and more like junk dating sites...according to which you are guaranteed to meet only nymphomaniac Playboy centerfolds aged 18-23...while usually you end up finding sperm-whales and nutcases close to fifty...
A.A Mole University
B.A London Institute of Applied Research
B.Sc Millard Fillmore
M.A International Institute for Advanced Studies
Ph.D London Institute of Applied Research
Ph.D Millard Fillmore
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#7
(09-23-2012, 11:42 PM)ham Wrote: Oops...dr. Brown fell ill and your paper was due, so we asked Rajeev to help out...

If I get an "A" with Rajeev who cares? Judging by the dubious quality of some of the "real" profs I've had lately, I think I might even prefer Rajeev. Odds are the prof teaching your course doesn't speak English either, so you might do better with a guy who can fracture syntax just like the hindu homeboys.
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#8
(09-24-2012, 04:35 PM)Albert Hidel Wrote:
(09-23-2012, 11:42 PM)ham Wrote: Oops...dr. Brown fell ill and your paper was due, so we asked Rajeev to help out...

If I get an "A" with Rajeev who cares? Judging by the dubious quality of some of the "real" profs I've had lately, I think I might even prefer Rajeev. Odds are the prof teaching your course doesn't speak English either, so you might do better with a guy who can fracture syntax just like the hindu homeboys.

to be honest, to date I had no exotic teacher in DL. I did meet quite a few jackasses, incompetents and political freaks, however...
DL proves to have an edge over B&M whichever way you spin it, however...
Quote:I don't see that my learning experience would be improved at all if I first had to fight traffic, try to find a parking place, wonder if thieves or vandals will select my vehicle for their attention today, dodge proselytes and perverts on the way to class, involuntarily listen to some deviant's political indoctrination disguised as part of the class, sit at a desk designed for a midget, rub elbows and make small talk with people to whom I wouldn't give the time of day otherwise, etc. etc.
A.A Mole University
B.A London Institute of Applied Research
B.Sc Millard Fillmore
M.A International Institute for Advanced Studies
Ph.D London Institute of Applied Research
Ph.D Millard Fillmore
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#9
(09-24-2012, 06:27 PM)ham Wrote:
Quote:I don't see that my learning experience would be improved at all if I first had to fight traffic, try to find a parking place, wonder if thieves or vandals will select my vehicle for their attention today, dodge proselytes and perverts on the way to class, involuntarily listen to some deviant's political indoctrination disguised as part of the class, sit at a desk designed for a midget, rub elbows and make small talk with people to whom I wouldn't give the time of day otherwise, etc. etc.

Clearly, whoever wrote that is a genius. Big Grin
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#10
Your post is very exciting and informative. I am planning to decide on a career move and this has helped me with one aspect. Thanks man!
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