(Yesterday, I published my first in a series regarding GCU. Here is a bit more. I will continue to inform you about GCU.)
Dont Blame Me for the Demise of Higher Education
I was fired from my job recently as an online college professor -- for awarding too many Fs to failing students. But thats not what they told me. Thats not the reason they ever really say.
I know that opening sentence might have taken you by surprise, so Ill restate it.
Put another way, I was fired recently for informing too many incompetent students that they had failed my courses. But thats not what they stated. Thats never what they would ever state.
The time has come when paying for a college degree entitles you to a college diplomaeven if you didnt learn anything--even if you couldnt pass the classes. And professors who grade otherwise are dinosaurs who are swiftly being eliminated. I was one of them.
I am reminded of the movie, Catch Me If You Can, that featured a young man who posed as a pilot, a medical doctor, assistant attorney general, and history professor, working each job without credentials.
Now, however, there is a way for the Frank Abagnales of society to perform as certified teachers, business experts, or even nursing professionals by simply attending an online university. The advertisements abound: Earn your masters degree in six months! Become a nursejust sign up today! Your future is herecounselors are standing by to speak with you!
Nowhere in the online advertisement does it state that you will be expected to write grammatically correct sentences, construct a well organized term paper, or even address the mandates of the assignments.
So, how is it that enrollees who oftentimes can barely spell, read, or write, are ending up with masters degrees--even Ph.D.s--and may be your daughter or sons next classroom teacher? How is it that the nurse with her online degree standing at your bedside may have less knowledge of post surgery protocol than Frank Abagnale?
It all starts with the hiring processhiring the right kinds of online instructors who will buy into the universitys culture. Online universities are always searching. And theres always a new batch of Ph.D.s ready to commence an internship to replace those who were weeded out for incorrect thinking, such as myself.
During the internship, faculty candidates are provided with very marginal papers from students Jane and John Doe who may or may not have even met the mandates of the stated assignment. Wading through the disjointed sentences and disconnected thoughts of Does papers, the faculty candidate is obviously motivated to help Doe improve by providing a plethora of constructive commentsand a failing grade.
Thats when the online faculty mentor, however, gently steps in to provide the faculty candidate with a new, correct way of thinking.
What are your comments going to do to Jane Doe? the candidate is asked. How will your comments make Jane Doe feel?
Now, theres a new thought. I had never considered a students feelings. I had always graded for content.
Well, I suppose she will feel either angryif she simply wants a college degree credentialor very gratefulif she truly wants to learn.
The faculty candidates thinking is further corrected at this point.
The mentor informs the candidate that online tone is much more important than a failing grade. You are told to encourage Jane Doe and focus on what she did right. You are provided with a rubric. And this is the key. The rubric, which becomes the focal point for online student success, is simply to be marked, along with the plethora of flowery comments embedded throughout the students paper, to indicate that Jane Doe received a passing grade.
There is a motto that goes along with this philosophyWe are here to help our students succeed. If Jane Doe is not passing your course,
you, as the facilitator, did something that caused Jane to fail.
Facilitator. Yes, you heard me correctly. You are stripped of your
title as college professor. You have been hired to facilitate classes.
The first time I suspected that my version of a passing paper was different from the online universitys version was when I discovered that one of my online students had plagiarized the entire 10-page paper. She had simply copied and pasted a concoction of disjointed sentences from a variety of websites into a hodgepodge of disconnected paragraphs.
I assumed the faculty specialist would be abhorred by my discovery but she stated, Oh, yes, students do that, in a most nonchalant tone. Write up a report and e-mail it to our ethics department.
After sending off the report to ethics, I went back and discovered that all of Jane Does papers had been copy/pasted from Googled websites. Now, the message, when I re-contacted the faculty specialist was quite different. I was told that since I had not caught the plagiarism in time, it was my fault and to simply leave the A grades on previous papers as is. As a result, Jane Doe passed the class and soon went on to earn her degree.
Soon, I heard from a faculty specialist again. This time, it was to inform me that my online tone was unacceptable. What had I said? I had asked a student--who had literally turned in three sentences as a term paper-- Have you ever written a college paper before? Apparently, such a question demonstrated improper online etiquette tone.
The next time I heard from faculty specialists when I was invited to take an online workshop to become a Ph.D. candidate supervisor. Again, the process that is used to determine who is suitable and who is not suitable as a Ph.D. candidate committee member depends on how the rubric is graded in the sample dissertation proposal.
I personally found Jane Does proposal to be so unbelievably atrocious that I informed my team members (Yes, you are placed in teams.) that I would not be able to award Jane Doe a passing grade on her marginal proposal. My online colleagues, however, suggested that we simply average out my zero on the rubrics with their fives and award Jane Doe a C. I replied that it was not a matter of averaging out a failing paper. It was a matter of principle. After all, I had worked for several years on my own dissertation. I assumed my colleagues had rigorously done the same. Now I was being asked to allow Jane Doe to simply move on and obtain the identical credential I had worked so diligently to achieve? I ethically could not comply.
I was never invited to accept a contract to facilitate any of the upper division courses. My online colleagues, however, went on to receive multiple contract offers.
I was given one more chance to amend my facilitation style and learn how to think correctly and improve my tone. The online university had just commenced a new program to award credit for lifelong learning. I received an invitation in my faculty e-mail to become certified as an LLA assessor. Three sample papers were to be evaluated according to the rubric.
As I read the rubric criteria and carefully critiqued the three sample papers, I could clearly see that none of the papers met the passing criteria. I deemed them all failing.
A few days later, however, I received a follow-up e-mail stating that two of the three papers met all the criteria of passing. I was dumbfounded. They truly had not.
But, alas, I saw the light. Alas, I understood what to do.
It was so simple!
Alas, I was ready to mark the appropriate boxes and be done with it!
Alas, I finally realized that I had actually been making my job far more difficult than it needed to be. The secret was to skim the paper, like a magazine, see if all the appropriate headings and subheadings are in place, and then mark the correct boxes on the rubric. How easy, indeed!
However, my reformation came just a tad too late. The very next day I received an e-mail stating that I had been terminated.
In most relevant part, the succinct e-mail stated, Weve tried to work with you, but your online tone is not acceptable.
The next time you are dealing with that nurse, that teacher, or that administrator who cant seem to even spell, at least check her tone.
Shes probably a very pleasant person.
P.S.--Not ALL online universities are like GCU. I now facilitate courses for two other online universities where the quality of the educational programs and the quality of the faculty are superb.
Real grades are earned so that employers can count on a graduate's competency.