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Western Oklahoma State College Discontinues Quick-Credit Courses

Western Oklahoma State College, the small rural institution whose two-week online courses have shown up on the transcripts of thousands of college athletes across the country, will no longer offer the popular 10-day intersession courses, college officials announced on Wednesday. According to an article in The Oklahoman, the college’s announcement came hours after the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education met to discuss a “compliance review report” on the accelerated online courses and recommended that the college discontinue them immediately.

According to the report, the college offered 256 course sections through the 10-day online format during the 2011-12 academic year and enrolled 7,500 students from across the country in them. The report and higher-education officials at the meeting questioned whether such quick-credit courses were appropriate for a college-level curriculum. 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.

The courses came under scrutiny after a report in The Chronicle last year detailed how thousands of college athletes had used the 10-day classes to help maintain their eligibility to compete in NCAA sports. The college’s accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, announced in November that it would review the college and the courses. The review will cover “the institution’s provision of accelerated-format courses, its marketing of those courses to athletes and other students, and the institution’s reliance on these courses to complete its revenues,” according to a notice on the commission’s Web site.

Western Oklahoma officials have defended the academic quality of the courses. In a written statement on Wednesday, the college’s president, Phil Birdine, said officials were working 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,” he said.

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