Last month The Chronicle of Higher Education published a damninginvestigation of college athletes across the nation who were maintaining their eligibility by taking cheap, easy online courses from an obscure junior college.
In just 10 days, academically deficient players could earn three credits and an easy “A” from Western Oklahoma State College for courses like “Microcomputer Applications” (opening folders in Windows) or “Nutrition” (stating whether or not the students used vitamins). The Chronicle quoted one Big Ten academic adviser as saying, “You jump online, finish in a week and half, get your grade posted, and you’re bowl-eligible.”
On the face of it, this is another sad but familiar story of the big-money intercollegiate-athletics complex corrupting the ivory tower. But it also reveals a larger, more pervasive problem: there are no meaningful standards of academic quality in higher education. And the more colleges and universities move their courses online, the more severe the problem gets.