Sciences, Performing Arts Rejecting Online Courses
Students considering all-online programs in some sciences and performing arts may want to check professional requirements and doctoral programs first. More graduate programs are establishing policies that limit or exclude online coursework.
Syracuse University responds: “Will any psychology course transfer?: No. We do not accept online courses or courses in which you view videotapes and then take a test.” The George Washington University program for a Doctor of Medicine bluntly states: “No, we do not accept online coursework.” The University of Colorado Denver School of Pharmacy declares: “We do not accept any pre-pharmacy math, science or public speaking courses taken online.”
With the first generation of undergraduates from online programs now applying to professional and doctoral programs, faculty can now make decisions on the adequacy of students who have taken online courses. Their rationale is explained in the restrictions established less than two years ago by the University of California system: “Online lab science courses will not be approved unless they include a supervised wet lab component. Since UC has not seen computer software that adequately replicates the laboratory experience, computer simulated labs and lab kits will not be acceptable. UC faculty considers the experimentation process a critical component of any laboratory science course because it brings the scientific process to life. Although online labs have been created by several online providers, UC faculty is not convinced that they adequately replicate the wet lab experience....”
While questioning online science labs is obvious, similar concerns are mounting for performance classes. The U.C. policy continues: “Online visual and performing arts (VPA) courses will not be approved because it is difficult for students taking online courses to experience the required performance component of performance arts courses and/or replicate the expected portfolio component of visual arts courses. UC faculty believes that performance is a necessary component of any performance arts course. Whether it is a course in band, choir, drama, dance, or painting/drawing the immediate feedback and coaching of an instructor (e.g., adjusting the toe point of a dancer, correcting the musical intonation of a student musician, advising greater voice projection for a student actor, or demonstrating correct technique for a student artist) is a critical and necessary component of any course.”
Heaviest exclusion of online coursework currently is for science courses. The University of Southern California School of Pharmacy declares: “We do not accept on-line classes for math and science pre-pharmacy courses.” University of Wisconsin Pharmacy School concurs: “All prerequisite science courses must be taken in a classroom setting.” Texas Tech University Physicians Assistant program states: “online science courses will not be accepted.” And some programs now exclude online courses completely: “Currently at USD [San Diego], the College of Arts and Sciences and School of Business do not accept online courses at the undergraduate level.”
A tension exists between administrators who want to compete with the online for-profit schools, and faculty who are far less enamored. A survey “The Paradox of Faculty Voices: Views and Experiences With Online Learning” released last August by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities found 70 percent of faculty members believe online courses are either inferior or somewhat inferior in learning outcomes when compared with face-to-face instruction. Even narrowing to just those faculty who teach online, nearly half gave it an inferior or somewhat inferior ranking.
Just across the Kansas border, there is a non-thesis Master of Science in Biology offered completely online and designed for “...high school and middle school teachers, scientists, researchers, or anyone who could benefit from an advanced education in biology.” Yet when I ask biology colleagues from Kansas doctoral programs whether they would accept such a student into their advanced graduate program, a decision that rests in the hands of the major professors alone, their response has been a uniform “No!” But there is not yet any “no online degrees” statement in their catalogs. The number of no-online-courses/degrees statements in catalogs is likely the tip of the iceberg as more faculty are confronted by this truth-in-labeling problem. Young students face a dilemma. Without up-front labeling, students are investing time and money in online courses or degrees that will not gain them access to the profession.