An Online Education is like No Education at all Online tests are worthless exercises in how good your search engine skills are.

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Jul 29, 2019 1 Comment ›› admin

by Lynn Woolley

Hurricanes. Rockslides. Famine. Drought. These are few things I can think of that are worse than taking classes online. However, we live in an online age, and it is possible to go to college virtually – therefore, we MUST do it.

No we shouldn’t. Online classes are not college at all; they are nothing more than sitting in front of a computer, playing a video game in which you can cheat at will, enlist other people to help you win, and then be given a lousy grade by a professor you’ve never met and who often refuses to answer his/her email.

Photo: Lynn Woolley

I’ve written about education issues many times. I’ve researched and published columns about bad professors. But the more I come in contact with online college courses, the more I realize what they really are: a scam.

Let’s begin with the current academic obsession: diversity.

We have been told for years now that a college student – in order for true learning to take place – must be surrounded by people of different cultures, genders, orientations, skin colors, languages, upbringings, and other fixations of the Left. Obviously, they don’t mean it. In an online history or government class, all that “richness of diversity” is lost. In effect, if you’re the student, you’re sitting on your tookus on a couch or at the living room table.

There’s nobody to bounce ideas off of and certainly no one to help you explore the wonders of every other culture except Western Civilization. (Which may be the very course you’re taking, assuming colleges still offer it.*)

*Sentence fragment. Deduct ten points.

You can’t raise your hand in an online class.

Try it. Your professor can’t see you. He or she may be kayaking on the lake or sleeping late or painting houses for extra cash during the summer. Chances are, your professor is avoiding email because, based on my experience, online students have a lot of pesky questions about the class.

Note that I have been involved in helping three family members with online classes over the past few years. The frustration factor is such that I’m surprised more laptops have not been thrown with maximum force against a brick wall. So stay after class and ask your professor a question. Oh wait! There’s no physical professor to ask. He’s kayaking. Or something.

Online tests are worthless exercises in how good your search engine skills are.

Let’s say the test is in a government class and you’ve got a set number of multiple choice questions and one hour to complete the test.

Start with this: the odds that your professor has actually taught you anything is close to nil in my experience. I’ve never taken a class online, but I’ve gotten anxious phone calls in a pleading voice to the effect of, “I have this online test, and it’s hard, and can you please help me?” Once I agree, and we’re into the test, here’s what I’ve found:

• With no real-time classes, the student hasn’t heard any lectures and therefore does not know the subject matter that appears on the test.
• Rarely does a straightforward answer to a test question appear in the textbook, assuming anyone in an online class actually reads a textbook.
• The questions are multiple-choice in most cases and are written to be so confusing that it seems as if the professor is laying a cruel trap.
• In some classes (government comes to mind), the test questions often seem irrelevant to the real world, testing students on antiquated terms that are not in current use.
• It has been my experience that professors are sloppy when they create the tests: commas in the wrong places when the choices are numbers; questions that seem to be answered by more than one choice but “all of the above” or “two of the above” is not a choice; bad punctuation; and too many misspelled words.

So a student is left to figure out what the teacher wants, and what he really means by a question that is too poorly worded to make sense. So if you’re a student, you Google and Bing and DuckDuckGo and call your friends and family for a lifeline. If you’re really good at Google, you may do all right. But if the professor is lazy, and you can’t figure out the question (much less the answer), you may have to settle for a poor grade.

So many ways to cheat.

I’ve come to the conclusion that cheating is the only way to win when taking an online class. Your essentially have no professor. There are no actual classes with eye-to-eye contact. Online students seem to have an aversion to studying the textbook, especially during the summer. So what you do is take the test and use any means to pass it.

My guess is that most students enlist help from anyone they think know anything about the subject. Granddad, ex-boyfriend, tramp-on-the street, anyone at all. Everybody involved has a laptop and everybody is using Google or Wikipedia or whatever.

Then there’s Quizlet.

From Wikipedia:

Quizlet is a mobile and web-based study application that allows students to study information via learning tools and games. It is currently used by two-thirds of high school students and half of university students in the United States.

I’ll bet they do. If they can find a quick answer to questions that often seem to show up in online tests – why not? This is not about learning anything; it’s about passing an online test without having been taught anything.


Online classes should be reserved for a select few.

We live in a strange dystopian world now where, instead of driving ten blocks to a retail store, we’d rather order online and let a drone drop off a package on the stoop. Some of us would rather go to the trouble of sending a pair of pants back rather than getting off our butts and going to the store so we can try it on.

By the same reasoning, online classes seem to be a way to take the classes without taking them. All that is necessary is to have adequate computer skills to look up answers to tests, or to find 5 or 6 articles (online) to serve as references. No need to go to a brick-and-mortar library with books printed on real paper. That would be too much effort.

It also seems – in my experience – that far too many professors are slackers when they teach online. They don’t do much actual teaching, they too frequently ignore emailed questions, their tests are sloppy and hard to understand, and (if I’m right), they likely use the same tests over and over. It’s an easy way for a teacher to make a buck without having to be anywhere. It’s a lousy way to teach and a worse way to learn.

On the other hand, online classes are a salvation for many older people who work fulltime and need flexibility to go back to college. If the problems associated with online classes could be addressed, this type of education could be useful. I wouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, but colleges and universities need to reform the online system.

For college-aged students who should be concentrating on classes (and yes I know that they often have to work due to ungodly tuition costs), physically attending a class, knowing the professor, being able to interact in a classroom and staying late if necessary, the old way is far better.

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  1. jdr3469 says:

    Lynn, you’ve probably never taken an online course to wit you then have no real authority to address the situation other than through anecdotal evidence provided as hearsay from either disgruntled or apathetic students or former online students who never put forth the required effort to make the grade!

    In my two years of post-baccalaureate study at, I had to spend hours upon hours of study online and in situ. I could and did borrow books from brick-and-mortar institutions that mailed the books to my home on loan through an inter-library loan system and mailed them back upon completion of my reading and research. This all occurred during 2005 through 2007!

    I don’t know with whom you’ve spoken, but they were biased against the online modality because of one-off bad personal experiences. I would gladly provide you my graduate work final documentation from the 16-week practicum/course I had to complete in lieu of a thesis in order to graduate and earn my M.Ed. Your viewpoint is slanted and tainted. Please be careful how to downplay an entire modality of education that has served the public well globally. It makes you sound more like a liberal.

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