The Columns

Garcia: Online Courses and Crediting

— by on June 8th, 2015

by Riley Garcia

Today, college students have more learning methods available than ever before. Students can learn face to face, a hybrid method between online courses and face to face, a flipped classroom where they learn content outside of class and solve problems in class, or learn everything online (Wubah). Although the classic learning style is face to face, hybrid learning and online learning are becoming much more popular. Critics and advocates are both speaking out loudly about online learning. Schools such as the University of Florida are beginning to require students to take a certain amount of credits online before being allowed to enroll into a face to face course. Other schools do not give any credit to students taking online courses. Big name universities like Harvard have begun offering online courses however they do not allow their own students to take these courses for credit. This discrepancy in crediting students is not only confusing to students but also unjust.

Another controversial issue with online courses is cheating. Hopefully, cheating would not occur, but truthfully, some students will fall to temptation. One reason students do not cheat is the loyalty they have not only to the teacher but to other students as well. If a student does not interact with peers and works completely alone 24/7, what loyalty would they have? Temptation is hard and taking a course online, with the answers easy in reach, can definitely taint some students. I know at the University of Florida pre-med students take Intro to Biology online. I’ve also heard stories of rampant cheating in said biology classes. These students are training to be doctors, training to save peoples’ lives, and they’ve never even taken a basic level of biology.

Crediting some students and not others raises issues in quality. Harvard offers online courses to the public, but their own students cannot get any credit. Does Harvard expect other schools to allow their own students to take Harvard courses for credit? Why are Harvard online courses good enough for other students but not for actual Harvard students? If Harvard produces these courses and takes the time to actually create them, then they should make them a high enough standard of quality that should allow Harvard students to take these courses for credit. A school should only be allowed to release online courses if their primary objective is to use it to further the education of their own students. Yes, a school can advertise these courses to other universities as well and allow other students to take them as well, but a school’s own students should be their focus, as it always should be.

Washington and Lee University, a liberal arts college in Virginia, has just this past year begun to let students take online courses for credit. The department must approve these courses and students are only allowed to take a certain amount of credits online. The university puts an emphasis on lateral learning, the idea that students learn best from their peer interactions, so the limit placed is very understandable. An upperclassman student at Washington and Lee that is planning on graduating early described his experience with an online course as surprisingly well run. Although I do not know many students who took an online course this past year, I feel the popularity of them will only increase, as they become better known. I was not aware of the availability to take online courses for credit until the end of winter term, even as a Washington and Lee student. Online courses are definitely something that I will look into in the future. On a campus that strictly adheres to an honor system, I feel the cheating controversy would be nonexistent here.

Crediting for online courses needs to become clearer to all college students because not only will more students take advantage of it but it may even allow driven students to take more courses and to graduate earlier. Universities could offer online courses for credit to their own students to allow advanced students to take an easy class at a faster pace than a semester or a student that struggles with a certain class to take it at their own pace. This method could be used as a way for students to overload and universities could still require students to take the normal required course load. If a university offers its own online courses then it should be trustworthy enough for their own students to take it as credit.

Riley Garcia, of the Class of 2018, is from Manhasset, N.Y.