For five years, I was employed as an online college professor with Grand Canyon University Online. I considered myself "a cut above," and also a caring and competent professor. I took my job seriously and the students -- with a few exceptions -- wrote me tremendous evaluations. I was the kind of professor to follow up with personal phone calls to my students. I even spent hours every semester with one or two of them that needed tutoring in organizational skills and writing skills. I was told repeatedly by multiple students over the years that I was the first professor to actually award them a "real" grade and to actually teach them how to format, organize, and structure a research paper. GCU itself wrote me glowing reports as well. I was happy with my little internet teaching job and all was well.
Then something happened. The first unusual event (there were many, but I'll just name this one) involved a student who had plagiarized all of her papers. I contacted faculty services when I discovered that the Week Seven paper had been plagizerized. The student's paper was simply a hodgepodge of copy/pasted sentences from various websites. I filled out the plagiarism form and followed the protocol for reporting the plagiarism that Faculty Services instructed me to do.
I then went back and checked the first six week's of papers and discovered that ALL of this student's papers had been plagiarized. I again contacted faculty services regarding how to proceed. I was told by a faculty specialist, E.L., that since I had not caught it in tmie and the weekly grades had already been posted that I should leave it that way and go ahead and award the student an "A" for her semester's worth of plagiarized papers! I found this rather shocking, but I complied.
Shortly therefore, faculty specialists began showing up in my classroom. I was removed from three contracts (classes that were about to commence). My "crime?" I was told that I (a) hadn't posted my telephone number (it was not even a requirement at that time), that I was not writing enough commentary on "A" papers, and that I had been "rude" to a student who had literally sent me THREE sentences as her paper. My "rudeness?" Here's what faculty services stated: I had asked the student in an e-mail--"Do you know how to write an APA style paper?"
After losing these three contracts, things got even worse. A member of faculty services then put me on "probation" and assigned me a sociology class with two students in it. This greatly affected my ability to support myself, needless to say. The faculty specialist then said she would provide weekly feedback to me in the form of a rubric. During Weeks Two and Three M.M. filled out the rubric indicating that I had complied with everything that an online faculty member needs to do.
Following the end of the course (with two students), I then asked if I could have back my three classes, whereby I was told that I had been fired for having a bad "online tone."
I have since found employment with two other online universities who seem to have no problem with my online tone or anything else that I do. Additionally, the rules at these other two online universities are clear. When a student plagiarizes, there are no exceptions. When a student does not meet a deadline on an assignment, it's too bad for that student (which actually makes students more secure and responsible) At GCU, on the other hand, a student could appear in the last week of the course and claim he or she had had life crises and could they now make up all eight weeks of course work. It was sort of an "anything goes" at GCU with polices made and policies broken in favor of irresponsible students. Whimsical policies.
I complained about the whimsical policies to GCU when I was on "probation." I really felt that a "Christian" university would want to hear from me, since I had always done such an outstanding job. But my pointing out policies that are made and broken, contracts whimsically taken away, etc., complaints by other faculty members, only got me on the termination list.
It is a pity that GCU let me go. I believe that students appreciate professors who give real grades for real work. By allowing so many of their professors to simply pass failing students so that enrollment stays up (i.e., profits), there is a disservice to all. First of all, to receive a passing grade without knowing how to properly write or spell, is a disservice to the student. When that student enters the workforce and has to write a report but can't write coherently, how will that GCU degree help? It won't. Second of all, GCU is hurting itself by terminating conscientious professors who grade fairly and accurately. After awhile, everyone will know that a GCU degree is not up to par. And students looking to enroll in online education will be inclined to go elsewhere.
In short, I am very disappointed that GCU used the ruse of "tone" to get rid of one of their best professors.
Just the other day, one of my former GCU students contacted me. She was hoping I would write her a letter for graduate school entry. "Every time I write a paper, I think of you. I feel like I am writing for you," she stated.
P.S.--After being "fired," the Lifelong Learning Assessment department at GCU contracted with me to assess one paper. I ask "T" if I had graded the paper to GCU's satisfaction. "This is exactly the type of positive feedback our students need," "T" stated. I still have a copy of this glowing commentary. I was then told that it had been a "mistake" that "T" had contracted with me on this LLA paper. "He was unaware that you had been fired."
PPSS--I plan to write all about all of the other discrepancies that happened to me during the final six months of my employment with GCU, so watch for a series of articles that I plan to publish here.