An Argument Against (purely) Testing out of Undergraduate Education

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by CavTrooper, Jun 21, 2013.

  1. CavTrooper

    CavTrooper New Member

    I've been doing some thinking lately, and I am now somewhat biased against undergrad programs completed purely through testing (e.g. CLEP/DSST/etc..,). I know the "Big 3," until recently, allowed students to complete an entire degree through just testing, and I see the virtue in this approach for adult learners who need to complete a degree mid-career. However, after having completed countless research papers, I can't imagine a proper college education that doesn't involve a significant amount of research & writing. I think degree programs completed solely through testing bypass key components of education, which include research, writing, and critical thinking.

    If I ever land in a hiring/executive role within a private company, I will welcome Big 3 grads will open arms, but will require them (and probably any applicant, really) to submit a comprehensive research/writing sample prior to any offer - I think it would be far too easy to sail through a BA program at one of these schools and never learn to research, write, or effectively communicate.


    (And for the record, I'm a big proponent of online education and CLEP/DSST exams - and thanks to TESC I was able join the BA ranks; just can't imagine a purely "test out" degree plan)
  2. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    It's a fair question, but you might also want to require that writing sample from those who did a Bachelor's degree more traditionally. I suspect you're overestimating their writing ability.
  3. CavTrooper

    CavTrooper New Member

    Yah you're probably right - but even basic written communications skills aside, I'm fairly confident that most graduates of a traditional or online undergrad program have learned the basics of research writing and critical thinking. These are invaluable skills in almost any vocation - I can't imagine not possessing them, yet still having a BA on your resume. Folks who completely test out of a degree never acquire those skills, unless they do so through extracurricular learning.
  4. novadar

    novadar Member

    I attended a very large State University for my undergrad (Virginia Tech). We had MASSIVE class sizes. One could easily pick course sections which filled 500 seat auditoriums, in those classes there were none, zero, nada, nunca, nai writing assignments --- all scantron tests. I suspect if a student managed it perfectly they could graduate without doing very much writing.

    Also there are many majors, particularly health science related, where the writing is at a pure minimum. There are many very technically oriented fields. I know for a fact at at BSN is that type of degree.

    Your assumption that even a Bachelor's degree from a "real" school will absolutely reflect a certain baseline of any skills is a bit of a stretch.

    I have absolutely no facts to base my next position but I would suspect that the majority of individuals who test their way out of a degree are actually more adept when it comes to certain skills simply from the fact that they were able to pass the needed tests and meet the degree requirements essentially on their own. It is a very impressive feat to me.
  5. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    I understand your concern and have seen the poor writing skills of those who tested out, but I also think you're overestimating the writing skills of traditional college students. In the first two years my sister was at a traditional university, I don't think she had to write one paper. On another forum, someone complained that business graduates these days can't even draft a simple memo. When I attended Western International University and Colorado Technical University, almost every assignment was an essay. My classmates were near illiterate and they still managed to pass. My community college classmates were almost as bad. I didn't completely test out of my degree, but I tested out of the last half. I did well in graduate school.
  6. JBjunior

    JBjunior Active Member

    Which is why the undergrad degree is simply a check in the box. If you aren't evaluating communication and critical thinking skills based on resume (past experience) and what you see in front of you, regardless of how a degree was completed, you are putting too much faith in the system.
  7. CavTrooper

    CavTrooper New Member

    Wow - well I guess I've been fairly naive about traditional undergrad programs; I assumed ALL undergrad education required copious amounts of research assignments. Well, in that regard at least, online education is far superior (unless you guys come back and tell me there are a ton of online programs that ALSO don't require any research. In that case I'll give up and just say yeah, let's not trust the BA anymore).

    I want to say Regis University is one school where they explicitly require you to be proficient in written communication - I think you have to pass an assessment just to complete the program. I think more schools should incorporate this approach - has anyone else heard anything along those lines for other undergrad programs?
  8. AV8R

    AV8R Active Member

    My writing skills improved by leaps and bounds while going through the Regis MBA program for the simple reason that I was constantly writing about something. And I'm not talking about little two-page reports, either. I'm talking about 10+ page research papers on a weekly basis. The occasional 20-pager was not uncommon, either. Looking back, I now realize that if I could string together all of the writing I did in the program, it would easily be the equivalent of several books. *shew* It exhausts me just thinking about it.
  9. Ian Anderson

    Ian Anderson Active Member

    At CSUDH I was required to take a post graduate writing test - I scored 11.5 out of 12.
    My dept head initially thought there was an error because my score was so high.
  10. CavTrooper

    CavTrooper New Member

    Good to hear about the writing assessments at the two colleges mentioned above - I wonder if that's what TESC is trying to accomplish with their new capstone requirement. I had no idea how to write a research paper until I started taking classes through Ashford - and lucked out with some decent instructors. During English Comp II (I CLEP'd English I) my research writing was really fine tuned - we had a good teacher and a GREAT TA. I had always planned to CLEP completely out of my undergrad but I'm super glad I ended up taking a bunch of full classes. I would have been lost in my current Master's program otherwise.

    More colleges should implement the writing assessment.
  11. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    I'm a graduate of one of the "Big 3." I did the Regents program when it was still part of the USNY state system. I graduated with a B.S. in Business and a B.A. with a concentration in Sociology.

    I finished both before I turned 21. Oh, and I was on active duty in the Air Force the whole time.

    I took a few courses at night school, but of the 120 credits required for the B.S. in Business, 115 came from testing. For the B.A., all of it was from testing. (Some of those exams required essays.) So....I'm someone the OP is talking about.

    I went into the AF Reserve, went to work for Xerox, did my MBA, took a commission in the AF, and did my AF career. (I retired 17 years ago at 36 and entered the private sector, finishing a Ph.D. a few years later.)

    A college degree was mandatory for all of that. Performing as a college graduate was, too. And that included a great deal of writing and speaking, especially in my MBA and during Officers Training School (which was particularly demanding and precise).

    I'd like to see evidence that shows graduates of these programs are not comparably prepared. Certainly there is a certain amount of protection....they seldom graduate people like me (and our colleague, Tom Head). Instead, their typical students are mid-career folks with some college behind them who are looking to finish their degrees. It's hard to do one from scratch, especially at a young age. But if someone does, wouldn't you expect them to be able to overcome other obstacles and challenges in the workplace, too?
  12. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    Excelsior and Charter Oak have capstones for every degree program. Charter Oak also has the cornerstone which is writing intensive. Charter Oak is also making students prove that they can write at the college level before enrolling. I think they require some kind of online assessment like WGU. You can skip it if you already have credit in English Comp I think. I think TESC implemented its capstone requirements for the liberal arts programs because they wanted to assess their students before they graduate. About 95% of their programs now require some kind of capstone.
  13. NMTTD

    NMTTD Member

    I can say that having had experiences at both for profits and non profits, you write a LOT more at for profits. If I learned nothing else at Ashford, I learned APA format writing. lol My papers were never graded on content, only on proper APA format. Here at ASU, I've had a few classes that required a paper here and there, and not one cared about APA format. They cared about the content. But Ashford usually had at least 2 papers due in every class, and so far I've only had to write 3 papers at ASU. So I don't think it's a testing vs not testing debate really. I think it really depends on where you go to school and what the instructors expect. I agree that in traditional schools and non profits, you can get away with little to no MAJOR writing, but at for profits? NOPE. Not gonna happen.
  14. ryoder

    ryoder New Member

    NCU for what it is worth is a trial by fire in scholarly writing. Many of the students coming into the school are from other countries and their writing skills are put to the test early and often.
    Also, I have taken my share of online courses and I have determined that online courses require much more reading and writing than in-person courses. From my experience many students don't read their primary text. They simply use it to for examples of how to do homework problems. They rely on in-class notes and past quizzes to prepare for tests.
  15. Randell1234

    Randell1234 Moderator Staff Member

    The English CLEP required an essay and the final COSC requirement was an essay so it is not without "any" writing. I would assume that the minority of the student test out of everything for any of the degrees. I tested out of about 50% and the rest were from the military and traditional classes.

    With that said, I was not as prepared as I thought I was when I went into a masters program. I look back at some of the earlierr papers I had written and think, "Who wrote that crap!?"
  16. suelaine

    suelaine Member

    I did my AA and BS at Empire State College and had to write at least one significant paper in just about every ESC class. I wrongly assumed that most traditional BS programs would require a similar amount of writing, especially for those in education/teaching programs. I have been teaching in an online Master's program for teachers for over 11 years now. The overall writing skills seem to be going down every single year I teach this, and many of these students appear to have never written a paper before that required citations and references.
  17. Maniac Craniac

    Maniac Craniac Moderator Staff Member

    I'm confident that your confidence is overly optimistic. Students aren't taught to think critically- they are taught to believe that they are thinking critically. If you could only witness the profoundly unprofound dialogue that my ears fall victim to while at work in traditional college classrooms, you might conclude as I have that the whole experience is overrated. I've seen senior undergrads with straight A's on their transcripts unable to draw a logical conclusion that someone else hadn't already made for them and printed on page 243 in bold letters.

    I'll agree with you that test-out degrees do not do much for one's writing abilities. I'd go further and say that I'm nearly done with my BA and don't feel like I've learned much of anything nor had any real challenge along the way. I've come to realize that those are not things that I can expect from a school. They are things I must expect from myself.
  18. cookderosa

    cookderosa Resident Chef

    I've said numerous times that I think those testing out of their degrees should consider completing a few courses in their major at a minimum. Like you, I believe there should be some writing that goes into any degree, and if you use classes in your major, you'll learn (maybe) to write in the style of your field. (APA, MLA, Chicago) That said, I don't think this is an absolute. If you're a mid-career adult, and your degree is checking the box, you're a different type of student than a young person just starting out in their career. In addition, if you're planning on grad school (which, I don't think most people plan on until they realize that testing allowed them to maintain stamina, little to no debt, and accelerate the process to such a degree that grad school becomes an option) you need to be able to pull together an academic paper.
    Interestingly, I didn't write a proper academic paper until my first class at Harvard Extension. Despite taking classes in my major at TESC, the required writing (except for 1 class) was minimal and unevaluated by my mentors. I've never taken classes at EC or COSC, so I can't speak to their rigor, but TESC required more busy work than writing development in my experience.
  19. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    I never took a course at the Big 3, but I did take several courses at public colleges and for-profit universities. My experience at the two for-profit universities I attended is that they required a lot of busy work. I did a lot of writing at Colorado Technical University and Western International University (UoP's sister school). Similar to your experience at Ashford, WIU only graded for length and APA format. They did not grade on content. You could write a paper on the boogie monster and still get an A. I learned nothing at that school. At CTU, they required so much writing in their 5.5 week courses, that I didn't even have time to read the e-books. So, while I was writing a bunch of pointless memos and papers on very narrow subjects in my criminal justice courses, I never really got a chance to learn much about the criminal justice system.

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