Report calls into question short classes used by college athletes to stay eligible
A report from The Chronicle of Higher Education looks at schools around the country that are offering quick classes many athletes use to maintain their academic eligibility. In one course at Western Oklahoma State College, students can take a 3-credit class, in 10 days, where they learn about making computer folders and minimizing and maximizing computer windows.
A small community college in Oklahoma offers quick online courses, some as short as 10 days, which some athletes are turning to when they need credits to stay eligible.
The Chronicle of Higher Education put Western Oklahoma State College and other schools under the microscope for their practice of making it fast for students to pick up needed credits. Western Oklahoma State College president Phil Birdine has defended the courses, in a letter posted on the school’s website.
“Every academic course is vetted through an established institutional process incorporating national ‘best practices’ for course rigor and academic standards,” Birdine wrote.
But the organization that accredits the school is now looking into the courses. According to Birdine's own letter, as many as 50 percent of the students who took his college's "winter intersession" 10-day courses, since 2008, have been athletes.
There's lots of reasons these classes draw athletes. They cost just $400. They last just 10 days. And the university mails out transcripts the day after classes conclude, enough time to boost the GPA of an athlete who's in danger of being declared academically ineligible.
Brad Wolverton, a senior writer for The Chronicle of Higher Education, said the classes seem to be way too easy in most cases.
"They say that what happens in this two-week period is the same that happens over 16 weeks in a traditional semester. But once you peel that back a bit and look at the classes, there are really some that the only pre-requisite is a little bit of common sense," he said. "In one of the classes that I found, it's called micro-computer applications, you're taught to do things like create a new folder in a program like Microsoft Word, maximize and minimize and close windows. Create a slide in Power Point."
Another example he cited was a modern American history course, basically from 1865 to the present, with 150 years of history crammed into nine days, with a final on day 10.
"Basically, you're covering a decade-and-a-half per day," he pointed out.
Typically, the NCAA doesn't concern itself with the academic rigor of accredited college classes. But this time, Wolverton said, they're considering revising their academic fraud policies.
Eric Liles, a linebacker at NAIA Dakota State University, aced a course where he didn't even have to buy a book, he told Wolverton. He learned about the class from a coach, who encouraged his athletes to take these courses to boost their GPAs.
"A lot of these classes allow you to retake the test if you're not happy with your score," Wolverton added. "There's no monitoring of any of the tests or any of the finals, so, basically, anyone can take the test and you'd never know who it was."
To be sure, some of these courses do carry more complex assignments. An introduction to sociology class, for example, had an exam that 60 questions, at least a few of which would require actual learning.
For his part, WOSC president Birdine says the article was negatively skewed, and doesn't incldue any differing opinions of the courses his school offers.
"I feel very good about the innovative work of our faculty and staff, about the rigor of our courses, about the standards our instructors hold our students to and about the efforts we take day in and day out in advancing higher education through the use of technology," he wrote.
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