ALTUS — Just days after announcing plans to discontinue them, Western Oklahoma State College officials said they plan to resume offering a type of controversial online course reportedly favored by college athletes looking for quick credits.
College officials announced Wednesday they had stopped offering 10-day online intersession courses after the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education released a report recommending the college immediately discontinue the courses.
Judith Norton, a spokeswoman for the college, said college officials hope to reinstate the courses — albeit with major changes — by the end of the summer term.
Higher education officials have said it would be difficult, but not impossible, for a college to create a credible course using the 10-day online format.
But in an email Friday, college President Phil Birdine said he didn't expect the format of the courses to change.
“Western, like so many other colleges and universities that offer such instructional formats, constantly seeks to meet student demand through the use of technology,” he said. “Philosophical debates on the issue of compressed course formats will likely continue, but students in today's global environment will continue to drive demand for this type of online instruction.”
Representatives from the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the college's accrediting board, plan to visit the embattled school later this month to review the courses.
During a state regents meeting Wednesday, Blake Sonobe, the system's vice chancellor for academic affairs, said it would be difficult for a college to include the amount of engagement time a three-hour course generally requires.
Generally, when a student takes a three-credit course, that student is expected to be in class for about three hours a week and studying outside of class for about six hours a week. Over the course of the semester, he said, most schools expect about 150 hours of engagement, either in class or out of class, each semester for a three-credit-hour class, Sonobe said.
For a two-week class, that would require an average 10 hours of in-class and out-of-class engagement per day, Sonobe said.
“It would be extremely difficult,” Sonobe said.
Ben Hardcastle, a spokesman for the state regents, said the agency would work with the college if officials still hope to reinstate the courses after the college's accreditation visit.
The courses came under fire late last year when a story in the Chronicle of Higher Education claimed they offer dubious college credit with minimal time and effort. According to the report, major college athletics programs use the courses to keep their athletes eligible to play.
College officials have denied those criticisms, but others are calling the allegations against the Altus community college troubling.
The state regents office released a compliance report Wednesday on those courses. According to the report, the office didn't find sufficient evidence that the so-called quick-credit courses are appropriate for a college-level curriculum.
The report notes the courses have raised concerns about a lack of academic oversight and recommends college officials discontinue them immediately.
According to the regents' report, the college offered 256 course sections via 10-day online courses during the 2011-12 academic year. During the spring, summer and fall semesters, a combined total of 7,501 students from across the nation enrolled in those courses.
The courses netted the college $2.8 million in revenue during the 2011-12 fiscal year. That figure represented 18 percent of the college's total education and general revenue, which includes money the college receives through tuition and fees.