ALTUS — Western Oklahoma State College will no longer offer a type of controversial online course reportedly favored by college athletes looking for quick credits, school officials announced Wednesday.
The college's announcement came hours after the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education released a report recommending the college immediately discontinue its 10-day online intersession courses.
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.
In a statement, Western Oklahoma State College President Phil Birdine said officials already were working with groups on campus to develop other options for accelerated online courses.
“I remain confident about the innovative work of our faculty and staff, the rigor of our courses, our standards of academic quality, and the efforts we take daily to advance higher education through the use of technology,” Birdine said.
College spokeswoman Judith Norton said officials would look at a range of options, including reviving the intersession courses.
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.
Representatives from the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the college's accrediting board, plan to visit the school to review the courses.
During Wednesday's meeting, Blake Sonobe, the system's vice chancellor for academic affairs, said it would be “extremely difficult” for a college to create a viable course using a 10-day online format.
About 150 hours
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.
In offering 10-day accelerated courses, the college was trying to increase its online audience, Sonobe said. In that regard, its actions weren't fundamentally different from what colleges nationwide are doing, he said. Higher education officials are only asking the college to stop offering a specific, narrowly defined type of course, he said.
According to the 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 enrolled in those courses. Sonobe said those students came from across the country.
Regent Stuart Price expressed concern about the courses at Wednesday's meeting. In particular, Price said he was concerned that the regents were only advised of the situation when it came to light in a national publication.
“How did this go on so long?” Price said. “Somewhere, it should have been caught.”
Sonobe said the Regents office typically oversees entire degree programs, leaving the supervision of individual courses up to colleges and universities.
The board of Regents is scheduled to vote to accept the report at a meeting Thursday. The board will meet at 9 a.m. Thursday at the State Regents office, 655 Research Parkway, Suite 200, in Oklahoma City.