Cheating at Online For-Profit Schools? Shocking.

Coggno Inc.

OK, I’d be lying if I said I never “cheated” in some capacity, but honestly, never in school. Education is too important, and these days, too hard to  come by with exorbitant tuition costs and shrinking government funding. Even so, I’m not at all surprised that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently uncovered some dubious activity at some of the most popular online and bricks-and-mortar for-profit schools.

It’s Just Me and My Computer. Who Cares?

Sure, the temptation to tap dance around a few rules and regulations is greater when there isn’t an actual teacher standing in front of you, but I’d love for some of these for-profit institutions to explain how 12 of 15 students managed to be granted enrollment to some of these schools (the report did not name names) with fictitious diplomas from home-school programs that did not exist, and from high schools that had been shuttered.

In addition to enrollment inconsistencies, instructors were found to be turning “blind” eyes to repeated acts of plagiarism as well as not adhering to grading policies. More than one instructor at four different schools was guilty of this, and still another allowed a failing student to take advantage of a glitch in testing software that allowed students to find the correct answers while taking quizzes.

Despite these embarrassments, instructors at six institutions did do the right thing by correctly following procedures and offering help to students outside the classroom.

Senate Education Committee Chair Requested Investigation

Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the chairman of the Senate Education Committee, requested the GOA investigation due to growing concern about the for-profit schools that have become so popular. The biggest ones, the University of Phoenix, Kaplan University and Education Management Corporation (EDMC) were not mentioned specifically, but all it takes is a few moments of online surfing to get deluged with ads for these schools.

“The findings of this report underscore the need for stronger oversight of the for-profit education industry in order to ensure that students and taxpayers are getting a good value for their investment in these schools,” Sen. Harkin said.

This report comes just one year after the GOA targeted 15 online schools for deceptive marketing practices. The agency used undercover “shoppers” posing as prospective applicants both online and in person.

The lesson we learn? Cheating is never worth it; eventually, you will get caught.

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