Perhaps Richard A. DeMillo was too hasty when he said that the legitimacy of grading systems used in traditional college courses didn’t present much of an advantage for brick & mortar approaches to teaching compared to the online education paradigm. In his speech at IdeaFestival held in Louisville, Kentucky last week, he pointed out that traditional college transcripts have long been losing credibility, which is probably true. What is also true, however, is that if websites like the recently launched WeTakeYourClass.com become successful, graded online courses will have some substantial credibility problems of their own.
WeTakeYourClass.com advertises its services thusly:
“WeTakeYourClass.com is a site dedicated to helping students with online classes. I’m sure you are here because you are wondering “how will I have time to take my online class?” It may be that one class such as statistics or accounting. We know some people have trouble with numbers. We get that. We are here to help. We offer an affordable solution, which includes having a tutor take your class for you. Whether it’s one test, homework, project, or whole class we are there for you when you need us.”
They go on to say that 99% of the time they end up earning an A in the course, and promise to only agree to take over the course if it falls within their “range of ability.” The website lists its specializations as mathematics, business and science, but offers help to students in many other subject areas.
One doesn’t have to have a very good imagination to understand that business success for sites like WTYC would be a serious embarrassment to online educators — and could even check the recently-accelerated growth of this particular teaching approach. There’s certainly a market out there for these kinds of services if the number of the sites recently launched is any indication.
In addition to WTYC, there’s also noneedtostudy.com and Boostmygrades.com, although, according to InsideHigherEd, some of these appear to be owned and operated by the same group of people. NoNeedtoStudy claims that it is made up of a group of graduate and undergraduate students who attend “some of the most prestigious academic institutions on the world,” and go on to provide a very brief curriculum vitae of its three founders.
In online education, the main anti-cheating efforts are currently directed at the issue of identity checks. In order to be eligible to receive federal financial aid funding, schools are required to make sure that there’s a real person behind the keyboard registering for courses and taking them. Therefore, the kinds of checks designed to suss out fictional students aren’t a good solution for the problem presented by sites like WeTakeYourClass.
It isn’t clear how schools could go about making sure that the course work being submitted in an online class is done by the student actually registered for it, but this is definitely a nut that will have to be cracked before online education proves DeMillo right and fulfills the promise of leading a true higher education revolution.