Staff Editorial: Online courses gone rogue

It’s one thing to call a professor bad because he or she isn’t very good at sharing information.

It’s an altogether different experience if he or she doesn’t teach at all.

That’s why the case of former professor Venetia L. Orcutt is so shocking. The School of Medicine and Health Sciences department chair and physician-assistant-studies program director allegedly neglected to teach two semesters of her course and gave all “A” grades to the students who took them.

The University did the right thing by refunding the course’s cost to students and allowing them to get the credits because of its practical component.

But the issue still gives rise to many questions that accompany courses taught online.

When courses don’t require face to face interaction, there is more potential for a professor to neglect his or her responsibilities. Professors can use the Web to enhance their courses and make them more interactional, or they can take advantage of the decreased accountability and end up leaving their students to flounder. As such, the University should seek to ensure that the quality of education happening virtually is as good as or better than what happens in person.

Online courses will become more and more frequent in the future. The University should view this event as a warning of the dangers of online teaching and create a rigorous monitoring process.

Going forward, online courses need more oversight, as these classes should be used to further advance – not neglect – student learning. Online courses can provide valuable supplements to education, and they don’t require students to come and sit in lecture halls to hear from professors.

The University should be ready for the implications of that model.

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