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Venting @ Online Graduate Education

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Venting @ Online Graduate Education

Old 04-30-08, 09:28 PM
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Venting @ Online Graduate Education

Okay, I need to vent for a second.........

I work in academia and I am far from an ivory tower person, but it is really pissing me off all of these people who are getting bull-sh*t degrees online, and then trying to say how they are equivalent to any other graduate degree. Most are bogus and it is cheapening higher education....yet everyone and their mom and doing it now. (My critique isn't on legit online programs that actually have standards....things like extension programs at universities, etc). My comments are on places that give credit for "life experience" and don't require actual work. I've seen a growing trend in Education Departments pushing online degrees (as they help teachers get a bump in pay for completing a degree).

I run into it far more than you'd think, and unfortunately most people don't realize the vast difference in a lot of the training. It seems that so many would rather take classes 'online' because they are easier and don't have time for classes....as if it is a hobby. An education doesn't have to be a huge sacrifice for everyone, but I am really pissed off at the box-top degrees out there. I'm not against online degrees if they actually require work, but I swear most of the stuff out there is junk.

I think 100-level undergrad courses matter less online, but with graduate work I think there need to be higher standards. Maybe I'm too close to this being in academia, so I figured I'd open it up to ya'll.

How does everyone view online work? Graduate online work? And for those who went through graduate training...have you seen a difference?
Old 04-30-08, 09:32 PM
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Please post some links to places where I can just buy a degree and do no work.

Thanks!
Old 04-30-08, 09:44 PM
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Calm down.

We did an interesting check one day. Go to those online universities with B.S. (bullshit, not bachelor of science) degrees and look at the faculty. They're people with "PhD"s from other B.S. online universities. These groups of people keep to themselves and generally circulate students / faculty, so they're not really impacting overall academia (just stealing money from students by providing subpar education).

Now, as for credentials, I agree that it's annoying when someone with a "doctorate" that he/she "earned" in 2 years online insists on being called "doctor". I agree that it does cheapen the title and the degree. But, at the end of the day, does it matter? If someone wants to stroke his ego a bit by paying for a bullshit degree, then let him. Employers understand the difference between real universities and diploma mills and no respectible person will ever hire him.

Trust me, I know first hand how much it sucks to spend 5 years of 100+ hour weeks researching in order to earn a doctorate, only to have a cousin earn a Ed.D. part time from home in under a year (starting without an M.S., no less), with no research. I'll never forget the comment "What do you mean you haven't graduated yet? Didn't you pass all your courses?" (of course, that goes right along with everyone and their brother who thinks they can teach college because they have 10 years of work experience -- it's just a totally different world out there)
Old 04-30-08, 10:09 PM
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In academia people know the difference, but out in the world....not so much. What you mentioned with your cousin is what I've seen a lot of actually.

"Yeah....I got me Ph.D. online. I did the classes and everything!"
"Oh, what did you do your research on?"
"Oh, our research class?'
"No, your research....you know, what you spend much of your time doing?"
"Oh, I had to look some stuff up for my class."
*grumbles*

I guess the treating an education like a hobby is annoying for me, since many of us have to put forth a substantial amount of time.
Old 04-30-08, 10:14 PM
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As a graduate with baccarat of science degree from MIT*, I don't know what you are talking about.



*Miami Institute of Technology
Old 04-30-08, 10:20 PM
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What happened to the grad school bitchslap thread?

Someone in a wheelchair will have a very hard time getting around on campus. I think online degrees work for some people, but I agree that too many do it out of laziness. I've never heard any claim that it was the equivalent of a degree from a B&M school.
Old 04-30-08, 10:23 PM
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Originally Posted by pedagogue
In academia people know the difference, but out in the world....not so much. What you mentioned with your cousin is what I've seen a lot of actually.

"Yeah....I got me Ph.D. online. I did the classes and everything!"
"Oh, what did you do your research on?"
"Oh, our research class?'
"No, your research....you know, what you spend much of your time doing?"
"Oh, I had to look some stuff up for my class."
*grumbles*

I guess the treating an education like a hobby is annoying for me, since many of us have to put forth a substantial amount of time.
People don't get the "classes" thing. Everytime I see someone, they ask how my classes are going. When I tell them that I don't take classes, they're amazed, like I'm somehow making it up. Then they ask about my grades.

For some reason, everyone thinks of college as sitting in a lecture hall and listening to someone speak. But at the doctoral level, you learn through seminars, reading papers, and building theory through research. But I guess it's something you just don't understand until you've been through it.

I don't understand how you're supposed to learn with a straight coursework doctorate. With professional degrees like J.D.'s, M.D.'s, etc., sure it makes sense. But research degrees? No way does it make sense past the first year methodology classes.
Old 04-30-08, 10:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Ranger
Someone in a wheelchair will have a very hard time getting around on campus.
What?
Old 04-30-08, 10:29 PM
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Agreed. My degree is blended because we need both a strong training in research and the applied work, but people do ask me, "Oh, how are you classes", and I might say I'm taking an elective, and then they are like, "So you probably have a ton of free time!1" Uhm....no. I actually took a break from my active researching, but I'm preparing submissions for 3 conferences, putting together a seminar, and trying to get something else published, classes would be easy!
Old 04-30-08, 10:30 PM
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Until colleges stop charging crazy tuition, online degrees will continue to gain in popularity.
Old 04-30-08, 10:39 PM
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Originally Posted by cpgator
Until colleges stop charging crazy tuition, online degrees will continue to gain in popularity.
The per credit charges seem MORE than most colleges/universities, yet you aren't supporting facilities, etc. In-state tuition would be a fraction of that.
Old 04-30-08, 10:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Ranger
Someone in a wheelchair will have a very hard time getting around on campus. I think online degrees work for some people, but I agree that too many do it out of laziness. I've never heard any claim that it was the equivalent of a degree from a B&M school.
I've seen plenty of people do that, but that's beside the point. The argument isn't that online degrees are worthless - some are well done and provide considerable education. The problem is specifically with doctoral degrees (I'll give a pass to master's programs, because it is possible to do a good master's program with coursework-only).

Research doctorates are 90% research-based, and about 1% course based. In fact, in my program you'll get reprimanded for having grades that are too high (because you're spending too much time on course work). One of our most recent graduates is now a professor at a major research university (Top 10 in the field, Top 15 overall US News) and he didn't even have a GPA high enough to get a degree from the university (it was something like a 1.9 - his advisor had to get special approval from the dean).

The problem with online research is 1) that many schools completely ignore it or only require the equivilent of a single paper proposal to pass as a dissertation and 2) that without constant contact and feedback from a faculty group, there's no way to actually learn the skills necessary to research. Instead, those schools provide "learning" through online courses, and sometimes provide credit for "life experiences" (e.g. someone who works as an accountant for 5 years gets credit for all accounting courses just by virtue of his title - of course, no one checks if he's a good accountant or if he actually understands the topics that are covered in the course).

The end result is a person who has a degree that's (at best) an advanced master's degree (or as MIT calls it, an Engineer's Degree). The person has the title of "doctor" but does not have the skill sets, knowledge, or proper education to actually learn, research, or teach in the way necessary to be an actual researcher. I'm not trying to be elitist here - there is simply no way that a person who learns solely through classes can have the skills to do the job. It's sort of like a person graduating medical school without ever actually touched a body, just heard about it from other people.

Bachelor's degrees and Master's degrees are different stories, though. The skills necessary for those degrees can be taught (and usually are taught) via lecture. This type of teaching lends itself more readily to internet learning than research. If the school designs the courses properly and the students are able to work/learn independently, this can be an effective tool.

Peddy's gripe is that people who buy degrees using life experience on course-based PhD's cheapen the field, degree, and academia in general. My point is that no one that matters (academics and employers) takes them seriously, so they pose no threat other than annoying people who worked their asses off for the degree.
Old 04-30-08, 10:44 PM
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I've always found these online education schools to be a fucking joke. All of them are for-profit and it's my understanding that nearly all of them are in it for a buck. People do it because they're either too lazy or just don't care.

Most employers want experience, and I'm guessing would be more apt to hire someone with a degree from say UCLA versus University of Walla Walla Online.
Old 04-30-08, 10:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Tracer Bullet
What?
Care to explain the laughter?

A lot of schools are historic sites that aren't wheelchair accessible, let alone wheelchair friendly. Plus, consider the trouble these people'd have to put up with to get to campus in the first place.
Old 04-30-08, 10:50 PM
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Originally Posted by cpgator
Until colleges stop charging crazy tuition, online degrees will continue to gain in popularity.
Do you know why college tuition is so high? 2-year schools and junior colleges.

For some reason, since about 1990, everyone feels that you need a college degree to do anything in life. There are college degrees in custodial services, construction work, animal husbandry, etc. Hell, you need a minimum of a B.B.A. just to work at BestBuy these days.

So all these people "need" degrees, but they don't want to have to pay for them (afterall, if college was only for the rich, it wouldn't be fair). So, community colleges charge something like $50 / credit hour. That's not enough to pay their bills, so the state increases tuition at other school (like state universities and research universities, which usually can sustain themselves just with endowment / research grants) and transfer the excess tuition to junior colleges. Then the junior college adds an autoshop program, and suddenly needs lots of equipment, so the tuition at good ol' State University goes up 10%. Then the community colleges expand into adult programs and satellite campuses, and the tuition at State University goes up another 20%. Then the governor votes to cut taxes and takes money out of the state university system (afterall, they charge so much for tuition that they have to be in good financial shape), forcing tuition up another 30%, etc.
Old 04-30-08, 10:54 PM
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Originally Posted by matta
I've seen plenty of people do that, but that's beside the point. The argument isn't that online degrees are worthless - some are well done and provide considerable education. The problem is specifically with doctoral degrees (I'll give a pass to master's programs, because it is possible to do a good master's program with coursework-only).

Research doctorates are 90% research-based, and about 1% course based. In fact, in my program you'll get reprimanded for having grades that are too high (because you're spending too much time on course work). One of our most recent graduates is now a professor at a major research university (Top 10 in the field, Top 15 overall US News) and he didn't even have a GPA high enough to get a degree from the university (it was something like a 1.9 - his advisor had to get special approval from the dean).

The problem with online research is 1) that many schools completely ignore it or only require the equivilent of a single paper proposal to pass as a dissertation and 2) that without constant contact and feedback from a faculty group, there's no way to actually learn the skills necessary to research. Instead, those schools provide "learning" through online courses, and sometimes provide credit for "life experiences" (e.g. someone who works as an accountant for 5 years gets credit for all accounting courses just by virtue of his title - of course, no one checks if he's a good accountant or if he actually understands the topics that are covered in the course).

The end result is a person who has a degree that's (at best) an advanced master's degree (or as MIT calls it, an Engineer's Degree). The person has the title of "doctor" but does not have the skill sets, knowledge, or proper education to actually learn, research, or teach in the way necessary to be an actual researcher. I'm not trying to be elitist here - there is simply no way that a person who learns solely through classes can have the skills to do the job. It's sort of like a person graduating medical school without ever actually touched a body, just heard about it from other people.

Bachelor's degrees and Master's degrees are different stories, though. The skills necessary for those degrees can be taught (and usually are taught) via lecture. This type of teaching lends itself more readily to internet learning than research. If the school designs the courses properly and the students are able to work/learn independently, this can be an effective tool.

Peddy's gripe is that people who buy degrees using life experience on course-based PhD's cheapen the field, degree, and academia in general. My point is that no one that matters (academics and employers) takes them seriously, so they pose no threat other than annoying people who worked their asses off for the degree.
My gripe with the research programs is that it's shameless how stupid and costly some research projects are. Will a healthy diet slow aging? Will human feces make grass greener? Will extra sleep improve heart conditions? Seriously, how can the government green-light grants for stuff like these?
Old 04-30-08, 10:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Ranger
Care to explain the laughter?

A lot of schools are historic sites that aren't wheelchair accessible, let alone wheelchair friendly. Plus, consider the trouble these people'd have to put up with to get to campus in the first place.
Have you ever been to a college campus? They're some of the most politically correct places in the world - of course there's all kinds of accessibility. I've never seen anyone ever have a problem, and I've had plenty of classes with disabled individuals.

Heck, when I lecture now I have to wear a microphone that transmits through some special wave speaker that interfaces with some earpiece for the deaf. I have to use if even if there's no deaf person in the room (in case one comes by). There is one seat without a chair for every 25 chairs in the room for wheelchair access, there's a "pet station" for seeing-eye dogs, oh, and the cross walks on one side of campus make a chirping noise when you can walk to assist the blind. There's an elevator in every building (even those with two floors) and the older buildings have chair lifts. And that's just off the top of my head.
Old 04-30-08, 11:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Ranger
My gripe with the research programs is that it's shameless how stupid and costly some research projects are. Will a healthy diet slow aging? Will human feces make grass greener? Will extra sleep improve heart conditions? Seriously, how can the government green-light grants for stuff like these?
One of the things about research is that it's incremental. You don't see punctuated equilibrium too often, it's evolved over time. So sometimes research says the obvious, but that obvious needs to be said so that others have a starting point for a future model, experiment, or empirical analysis (i.e. sometimes it's more about how they did it, rather than what they found).
Old 04-30-08, 11:07 PM
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Ranger, those things may seem obvious, but many things aren't. How about how the 'experts' thought about margerine. It was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Butter be damned. Then more research came out....oh crap.
Old 04-30-08, 11:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Ranger
Care to explain the laughter?

A lot of schools are historic sites that aren't wheelchair accessible, let alone wheelchair friendly. Plus, consider the trouble these people'd have to put up with to get to campus in the first place.
It just seemed like a non sequitur. I mean, what percentage of the students at these online "universities" are physically unable to matriculate at your standard school?
Old 04-30-08, 11:21 PM
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I understand not everyone can be near a school that meets their needs, but there is a large gap between those people are genuinely want to learn, and those who want to do little to no work and get a degree. Academia is about learning, not earning a degree.
Old 04-30-08, 11:32 PM
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Why does this matter to you? I'm a firm believer that anyone can get a Ph.D., whether online or not. Anyone willing to put in the time will get a Ph.D.*

* At least in my experience (my Ph.D. was from a top-5 science program)

In my view, a Ph.D. alone these days is worthless anyhow. It's the recommendations that count. And if someone sees an online Ph.D. and wants to hire them over me and my Ph.D., good for them. I wouldn't want to work there anyhow.
Old 04-30-08, 11:44 PM
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Originally Posted by mbs
Why does this matter to you? I'm a firm believer that anyone can get a Ph.D., whether online or not. Anyone willing to put in the time will get a Ph.D.*

* At least in my experience (my Ph.D. was from a top-5 science program)
Really?
Old 04-30-08, 11:46 PM
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Originally Posted by cpgator
Until colleges stop charging crazy tuition, online degrees will continue to gain in popularity.

Its cheaper for me to go to the University of Washington, than phoenix university.
Old 04-30-08, 11:48 PM
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Originally Posted by matta
Have you ever been to a college campus? They're some of the most politically correct places in the world - of course there's all kinds of accessibility. I've never seen anyone ever have a problem, and I've had plenty of classes with disabled individuals.

Heck, when I lecture now I have to wear a microphone that transmits through some special wave speaker that interfaces with some earpiece for the deaf. I have to use if even if there's no deaf person in the room (in case one comes by). There is one seat without a chair for every 25 chairs in the room for wheelchair access, there's a "pet station" for seeing-eye dogs, oh, and the cross walks on one side of campus make a chirping noise when you can walk to assist the blind. There's an elevator in every building (even those with two floors) and the older buildings have chair lifts. And that's just off the top of my head.
It has nothing to do with PC, because schools wouldn't provide such things if it weren't for the ADA strings with getting fed funds. I have no problem with the fed policy in that area.

Sure, been around a few campuses. My school would have disability awareness week every year, the main thing that event did was show students that it still was difficult for wheelchairs to get around campus. Sure, some buildings had sidewalk ramps, chair lifts, elevators, etc, these do make things easier for wheelchair users, but it's far from easy for them to get around.

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