I've been working for a while as a teacher for an online university. Here to answer any questions about its academic credibility, shady recruitment tactics, pathetic standards, etc.

*Now verified: http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/slnne/i_teach_for_a_diploma_mill_er_i_mean_online/c4f9oyg?context=3

Comments: 3488 • Responses: 67  • Date: 

ElephantScone661 karma

I used to work as an "admissions counselor" for an online university. They paid us $18 an hour to cold-call potential recruits. Every morning, our team/pep-rally leader would talk about how to use various psychological tricks to convince the target to go to school. We were specifically instructed to find "the pain" in the target's life - a failure of some sort - and present our university as a kind of personal empowerment. We would end each meeting, and I shit you not, by chanting our team's slogan: "show us the pain, bring in the rain!" I think I lasted a couple of weeks before I decided that I didn't care how badly I needed the money. Fuck those guys.

onlineteacher364 karma

You should do an AMA on this!

odeebee506 karma

If you take anything from this thread people: the for-profit vs. non-profit distinction in MUCH more important than online vs. offline distinction when it comes to choosing an educational institution. The proliferation of these scam schools is due to the reduction of start-up costs and the ease with which the Internet allows you to connect cheap labor with marks flush with Federal $$$. You always need to examine the interests and motives of anyone you're about to hand thousands of dollars to with great skepticism.

onlineteacher179 karma

Listen to this man.

worker32417 karma

How often do you have to employ corporal punishment on your students?

onlineteacher906 karma

There have been times when I really wished this was possible. The amount of caps-locked "WHY U MARK MY PAPER DOWN IT WAS PERFECT MY HUSBAND DID PROOFREAD IT NOTHING IS RIGHT ON UR EYES!" emails I get a week is astonishing.

worker32268 karma

So I guess this is where the mentality of "the students are amazing regardless" wedges into their brains, right?

On the level, how much common sense do your students have?

Do they read instructions? Be quite serious with this question.

And just to quell some curiosity, can you give an example of the work you get that you have to mark down?

onlineteacher875 karma

Though I'm not a psychologist, I do feel that quite a lot of my students suffer from some form of mental retardation. It could be just plain ol' illiteracy, though.

I would say about half read the instructions and half don't. Of the half that do read the instructions, only about 20% comprehend them.

Here are some writing samples from students:

‎"I am going to research childhood fatness reason,working at the school broad children mention why being obesity affection there life emotion and physical."

‎"The solitary cause for the success of America becoming the universal nation is the outstanding and unparalleled capability for incorporation of migrants, which has been a routine element of absorption of culture, is acquirement of English."

""I enjoy wrighting papers. Thats one of the things that i have going for me is the fact that i enjoy wrighting and poetry. When you wright it makes you think and you have to be creative to pull the reader in. I think now knowing that there is alot of resources out there that can help you makes me a little more at ease. I am always worried about what i wright about because some of the things that excite me, alot of people will not like. And as much as i dont like the negative comments that i get back i no that i have to take it all in to become a better wrighter."

Hi_Kate1386 karma

Has any student really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like?

onlineteacher1441 karma

Dear Kate,

Great attempt at a complete sentence there! It seems like you have an important idea that you really want to express! Try reading your sentence out loud and see how it sounds. If it's a bit weird, maybe you can reword it in a more natural manner? Keep up the good work!

That is the type of comment I'm required to leave on sentences like that.

vearson26308 karma

It sounds to me like you are teaching at a college for stroke victims.

onlineteacher525 karma

Wow. Can I steal that line? Next time I'm chatting up a girl, I want to throw in, "Yeah, I help rehabilitate stroke victims" for some extra chivalry points.

worker32308 karma

So many people were killed in the writing of those examples, because each of those samples are nothing more than train wrecks.

onlineteacher408 karma

Now, imagine whole 10 page essays written like that!

headfullofuselessnes215 karma

My sympathies. Writing isn't that hard. And spell check takes care of the rest. I had to write all my papers in high school in long hand cursive. I am old.

onlineteacher347 karma

It's really not. It's something we humans, educated and uneducated, rich and poor alike have done fairly well for centuries. Some of the most beautiful prose I've ever read has been written by 18 year old farm boy soldiers in the Civil War.

I don't know how or why or when people lost this most primitive skill.

rocksolid142107 karma

The second sample at least sounds like just an ESL student. Number one... I don't even been so far even as decided.

onlineteacher149 karma

They all had very Anglo names. That's the scary part.

Palmsiepoo97 karma

So do you fail those students? What do you (or are you) allowed to do with this shit?

onlineteacher278 karma

I do fail them. But they will typically appeal their grades and get passed by the higher-ups.

almondj226 karma

That's just sad, it depletes the value of not only the school, but negatively affects the student as well. Tricking the student into thinking that they're actually smarter than the professor.

onlineteacher349 karma

I occasionally browse the school's Facebook page. It's littered with students ranting about their grades and proclaiming how much smarter they are than the professor. You're right. That's the exact effect it has.

professor_ex394 karma


onlineteacher200 karma

Wow. What did you teach?

professor_ex780 karma


onlineteacher326 karma

Beautifully written. This is what happens when we turn education into a corporate industry.

mizphill365 karma

Reading this makes me sick, and feel really stupid! I am enrolled in an online university!

onlineteacher247 karma

Which one?

mizphill202 karma

Devry. I am getting a bachelors in Computer Engineering and a second one in Electronic Engineering.

onlineteacher180 karma

I've heard good things about Devry, actually. I mean, they do have many physical campuses around the country. That counts for something.

glitcher21243 karma

Can you get financial aid at an diploma mill online university? Do the diplomas actually count for anything?

onlineteacher445 karma

Yes. I believe around 80% of our students receive "financial aid". But that's misleading. Stafford loans are considered financial aid. But they're still loans. You have to pay them back.

The diplomas generally aren't worth the paper they're printed on. The only people I've seen benefit from them were teachers who wanted an easy, convenient MA to qualify for a pay raise. School districts tend not to be very discerning when it comes to additional degrees.

eziam260 karma

I agree with that. I am a teacher and my county paid for me to get my masters. The online course work was extremely easy. I graded my students harder than I was graded. I would intentionally make errors in grammar and still get A's. I am not complaining since I didn't have to pay put of my pocket and I knew the material being taught.

onlineteacher331 karma

The education world is such a Kafka-esque place!

glitcher2197 karma

Okay, what advise would you give someone who wants to attend college/university, but really needs to take online classes? Are there any legit online universities?

onlineteacher341 karma

Online universities should be avoided at all costs. Instead, like Worker32 suggested, you should enroll at a normal, brick and mortar university and take their online courses.

headfullofuselessnes166 karma

Online universities and other brick and mortar diploma mills that charge outrageous prices are nothing more than fraudulent schemes to make money off of student loans. They'd be out of business over nite if the funding ever dried up.

onlineteacher238 karma

You just hit the nail on the head. They're just scams to funnel federal student loan money into their coffers.

headfullofuselessnes70 karma

Well I wasn't trying to make any comment towards you. I have no doubt you earn your money the hard way. I just think selling people this stuff at the prices they do is predatory.

onlineteacher279 karma

It is 100% predatory. But most students wouldn't even understand that if I tried to explain it. One of the biggest problems is, many of them think they have received federal grants and are going to school for free. The telemarketers are trained to used obfuscatory language to mislead the student into thinking a FASFA form is an application for free money. It's not until after they've graduated they realize they're saddled with $100,000+ debt.

I really try to do the best job I can, and give these students the education they paid for. But there is only so much I can do for a student who doesn't even speak English or is certifiably illiterate that the school has foisted upon me.

PoseidonsDick193 karma

This is chilling. These people think they're going to school for free? Fuck, if there's a part of the American culture that needs checks and balances, it's for-profit online schools.

onlineteacher195 karma

It's coming. It's taking a while, but it's coming.

Essay_Mill_Writer135 karma

That's where I come in! The number of University of Phoenix and Devry essays I write is enormous. And they're all the same, year after year! Your shady business helps to support an even shadier industry, and both of generate billions of dollars a year!

onlineteacher31 karma

I wonder how many of your papers I've graded!

m0ngrel112 karma

Just to anecdotally reinforce this point here, one of my acquaintances is a paranoid schizophrenic that has been taking "online courses" off and on for years. Every time I try to explain to him that he's wasting his time and money, he disagrees with me vigorously. You also have to understand that he's borderline mentally challenged, and takes new ideas very poorly, and yet it didn't set any alarm bells off when he made the "dean's list" repeatedly.

onlineteacher263 karma

These students are the worst. I always get emails from them to the effect of, "why ur saying i get a D??? i have 4.0 gpa until YOU! im not stupid becuz the dean puts me on his list EVERY YEAR!!!"

headfullofuselessnes106 karma

I had a friend who worked in the sales department for one of those places. He could qualify anyone. Even the homeless, drug addicts, all kinds of people. He didn't care. He had to make his numbers.

onlineteacher177 karma

All of which I have had as students. I've even had students that didn't even own nor know how to use a computer! Their admissions advisor told them it would be no problem -- they could just use the computer at the library and the staff there would teach them how to use it.

worker32191 karma

I suggest just going to a regular University, and taking an online class from them. You can take it while you do regular classes or whatever (most online classes at my university, tests were online).

onlineteacher196 karma

Great advice. There have been so many times when I wished I could have told my students exactly this. Unfortunately, we're heavily monitored at for-profit online universities.

worker3273 karma

Why not just use your own laptop and your own email and email them a message saying this?

Or are they techno Nazi over at the paper mill?

onlineteacher228 karma

The brilliance of their scheme is, they've gotten most of these students to pledge unwavering loyalty to the school. It's almost cult-like. The student would probably report it.

worker32228 karma

I find the lack of common sense in these students... Disturbing.

onlineteacher310 karma

The school actively preys on students with no common sense, lows IQs, and nonexistent English skills.

hellowren234 karma

My mother recently "graduated" from Kaplan with a Bachelor's degree in Substance Abuse and Addiction Counseling, after previously getting her AS in Psychology from our local community college. I tried to tell her how those places aren't*** well accredited and that she should get her money back and go somewhere else, but she wouldn't listen to me (she is more naive and gullible than she thinks she is). Before I knew it she had got her degree, and actually has a mental health tech job now at a local detox facility where they are helping her train to get her counselor licensing.

As her daughter, and knowing about all the bs of these places, I was very worried that she would go through all that work and money and end up getting laughed at when she presented her "credentials", but this actually turned out okay and she has a great job that she loves and is excelling after years of unemployment and getting turned down for job after job.

Thank goodness.

onlineteacher185 karma

Yeah, it's not impossible. If a person is reasonably intelligent and capable on their own, to the employer, the degree is kind of just an after thought, a required formality.

nunoyo217 karma

What do you teach? What does teaching for this involve, as opposed to teaching at a traditional college? What are grading standards like? How long have you done it, and how many students have you had?

onlineteacher380 karma

I teach writing-based subjects.

Teaching in this medium involves responding to discussion board posts and grading papers and, as mandated by the institution, consistently telling the student how "amazing" they are.

I've done it for about a year now.

Grading standards are abysmally low. The school rigs the rubric so it's damn near impossible to fail. Basically, 3rd grade level work will get you a C at least. 5th grade level will get you an A+.

I've had a few hundred students.

ihaveacalculator198 karma

Have you read any papers that were actually... good?

onlineteacher581 karma

One. In my entire time there, there was one exceptional paper written by a student aspiring to be a historian. I desperately wanted to tell him he was in the wrong place.

inebriated_me217 karma

So, you didn't?

onlineteacher361 karma

No, but something tells me he'll figure it out on his own sooner or later. At least I hope so.

logarythm246 karma

Not to call you out, but could you have told him, without losing your job?

onlineteacher492 karma

It's rather risky. The school makes it very hard for students to drop-out. And when they attempt to do so, the school will always attempt to ascertain why. If the student says, "Well, my English teacher said I'd be better off in a real school," I'm pretty sure I'd be immediately fired.

velkyr100 karma

Find them on facebook, make a dummy account, send him a friend request and a message.

Sign it as a concerned ex-faculty member or something.

onlineteacher180 karma

I actually did try to find him on Facebook. No luck though.

Ruckus4454 karma

Why couldn't you, I mean I would get it if you can't tell him using any account of yours related to the school, but couldn't you've emailed him from a different account?

onlineteacher103 karma

It's rather risky. The school makes it very hard for students to drop-out. And when they attempt to do so, the school will always attempt to ascertain why. If the student says, "Well, my English teacher said I'd be better off in a real school," I'm pretty sure I'd be immediately fired.

worker3280 karma

I know University work can be brutal at times, but setting standards this low?

You might as well be asking Beavis and Butthead to write a report on Shakespeare's Hamlet.

onlineteacher85 karma


horizontalmyth173 karma

Have you ever failed a student? (You mentioned it's near impossible to fail.) If not, what's the closest a student has come to failing?

What are some of the "shady recruitment tactics" you refer to?

onlineteacher348 karma

Yes, I have. It's quite difficult, but I feel if a student cannot spell their own name, I have an ethical duty not to pass them along.

The school hires telemarketers who pretend to be "admissions counselors" and call people who've signed up on job search websites. They tell them they can get them the job of their dreams after they've finished their degree with us. You'd be surprised how effective this is.

iflyaeroplanes112 karma

Do you really get students that misspell their own name? How often does that happen?

onlineteacher277 karma

Once or twice a course. I really think some of the single moms in the course have their 9 year old kids write their papers. That might be how it happens.

brainpower4266 karma

...Now that would be an interesting parent teacher conference.

"Ms. Smith, I'm concerned about little Bobby. He does so well in class, but the essay he turned in last week was atrocious. If his work continues at this level, I have concerns he won't move onto 6th grade next year."

"What teacher lady mean? Me help Bobby on he homework, and it always one hundred president right."

onlineteacher154 karma

When I taught high school, this happened to me once! Exact scenario!

geoper119 karma

I just got a letter from Western Illinois University about a "Bachelor of Arts in General Studies Degree Program". It is all online. I went to Western for two and a half years, so this is not out of no where. Would this be considered legit, or a lot like what you do?

onlineteacher205 karma

Yeah, if it's through a state university, it's all good.

mikeroon115 karma

It's phoenix, isn't it?

onlineteacher237 karma

Nah, but from Phoenix employees I've spoken to, it's about the same.

AvantGuard60 karma

Is it Ashford?

onlineteacher172 karma

Let's put it this way -- the top 3 are all identical.

dqsg22106 karma

Do you work completely from home?

onlineteacher135 karma


Essay_Mill_Writer43 karma

Seriously, what's your salary like? Any benefits? If you can handle the bullshit on your end, you might be able to make more doing what I do...or maybe I could make more doing what you do...

onlineteacher87 karma

I'm ashamed to admit this, but salary is about $8500 a year, no benefits, no holidays. It's ok if you live overseas in a low-cost country, I suppose.

Essay_Mill_Writer91 karma

$8500 a year

Just to be sure, you didn't mean $85,000 a year or maybe $8500/mo?

If you actually make this little from something clearly ethically compromised, complete the transition and start doing it in a way that doesn't require you to pretend to be doing something useful. I've made 1.5 times your annual salary this month (I've probably worked longer hours, too--it is the busy season).

onlineteacher61 karma

Show me the way!

popsoda1105 karma

Why do you choose to work for that school?

Do you try to improve the student's work through feedback when grading, even though the grade they receive is skewed too high?

onlineteacher296 karma

It was basically the only job I could find at the time. And considering my circumstances at the moment, the only job I'm able to work.

I really do try to improve their work. I give them very intensive feedback on every aspect of their essays. But it's a bit disheartening when only about 5% actually integrate your feedback into their re-writes and the rest just hand in the same exact essay, except with their name spelled correctly this time.

[deleted]89 karma

Is your school accredited by one of the major accreditation bodies (which one?) do you find other local schools to be hostile towards the competition? if you are accredited, how did the school achieve this if you're only a diploma mill? you said its mostly foreigners, from where and why do they end up at your school!

onlineteacher175 karma

Yes, it is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association. How it acquired accreditation is an odd story, but it will probably be revoked soon. Let's just say, it bought it.

When I say people with limited English skills, I don't mean foreigners. I mean recent immigrants from Latin America, or just plain illiterate folk. You have to be a US citizen to enroll in the school.

Swaaat86 karma

Ever heard of that "parasailing" or whatever online university? The name alone to me just scream "ROFL SCAM!" I've seen advertisements for that around lately.

And also, I feel sort of bad for those people who were duped into enrolling into an online university and print out...a diploma. Thank you for doing this AMA and telling the truth.

A lot of those people could have just saved money, went to a community college, get an associates or whatever, transfer over to a real university and do well there.

onlineteacher123 karma

Hahahah! I haven't heard of that one yet. I'll have to check it out.

Yeah, I really do feel bad for a lot of my students. For the most part, they're honest, hardworking people, but not cut-out for college--even one with academic standards on a 6th grade level. They've been duped by a cunning telemarketer into thinking they'll be a millionaire once they've finished their bachelors degree.

[deleted]86 karma

Is there a way to buy a diploma instead of working for it ?

onlineteacher153 karma

Yes, I hear it's a common practice in Ukraine.

JK1464173 karma

Can't tell joking or not. Cave man scratch head, think. Pound fist on wall. Confused. Beat pet stegosaurus. Jump off cliff.

onlineteacher185 karma

I'm serious. When I was there this summer, I kept asking why there were so many rich foreign students running around L'viv. The unanimous response I received was, "If you have the money, you get the PhD. No work, no questions".

Deathbybunnies75 karma

Can you get expelled or something like that at an online university? What's the highest disciplinary action that can be taken?

onlineteacher289 karma

A strongly worded letter telling you not to copy and paste your essays from the internet anymore.

mugs7973 karma

How did you get stared doing it? Your qualifications?

onlineteacher103 karma

MA in English.

thepulloutmethod100 karma

From an online university?

onlineteacher88 karma


[deleted]63 karma


onlineteacher120 karma

I think I mentioned this earlier, but the only time it's worthwhile to pursue an online MA is if you're a teacher looking for a pay raise. Face it: You've been teaching for a while. There's nothing some ivory-tower dickhead (who has never even stepped inside a schoolroom) can teach about teaching/classroom management/etc. You just want the diploma and subsequent raise. Walden will give you the diploma, and no doubt your district will give you the raise. Go for it.

[deleted]20 karma


onlineteacher42 karma

As I'm not an Ed-tech employer, it's really hard for me to say. Though, I'm sure it probably wouldn't land you a job with Google.

[deleted]20 karma


onlineteacher25 karma

Ah, yeah, something like that I'm sure you'd have no problem landing.

SpaceGhostDerrp62 karma

  1. What sets the education price? Is it just how much the institution can get away with charging? Does enrolling in one of these programs cost them anything?

  2. What did you teach at this school? Is there any subject that would be worthwhile to learn online?

onlineteacher84 karma

  1. Yes. The institution is heavily dependent upon Stafford loans. The more money the government is willing to lend in the form of Stafford loans, the more the tuition rises.

  2. I teach writing-based subjects. I'm sure there are indeed subjects that are capable of being taught online, such as programming and IT systems. But these programs are rarely (if at all) taught at online universities, which generally only offer degrees in sociology, psychology, education, and business.

areyouready58 karma

I'd be interested in all the dirty and shady goings-on at the 'university' that you can get away with spilling without risking your job.

onlineteacher153 karma

This is probably true of all online universities, but basically it's a genius scam. They're setup exclusively to funnel federal student loan/grant money into their coffers. A student need be enrolled only four weeks and the school is entitled to 100% of the loan. Meaning, if the student drops out after Day 1, Week 4 -- which a lot do -- there is no refund. The school actively preys on people that will be most likely to receive federal assistance -- poor people, single mothers, military personnel, etc.

The "Admissions Advisor" (see: telemarketer) who recruited the student will hold them by the hand up until week 4, in order to get his commission, then promptly ditch him.

jiml78147 karma

This has become a HUGE problem with the Post 9/11 GI Bill for veterans. We have veterans coming home after serving using their benefits at these schools. They are essentially flushing their education benefits down the toilet.

Really sad and disgusting that these schools continue to exist.....

onlineteacher115 karma

Yeah, I particularly feel bad for my military students. They don't know how badly they're being duped.

mustang_sal54 karma

What qualifications are there to be a teacher if you dont mind me asking?

onlineteacher84 karma

MA degree.

Damocles2010149 karma

Will they accept an MA from their own University as qualification?

onlineteacher218 karma


Actually, they prefer to hire their own graduates.

mylife2249 karma

How would you justify your participation in this scam, which you yourself hold to be unethical? I am just wondering out of curiosity, not trying to claim that you are morally abhorrent.

onlineteacher97 karma

Well, I don't really make much money off it. Depending on the course load, some weeks I'm actually making below minimum wage when everything is averaged out. It's basically a temporary job to keep me above water.

And I really do try to give the students a decent education. Where the school would like me to just leave niceties and encouraging platitudes on their papers, I try to leave constructive criticism.

So I feel like I'm doing some good considering the circumstances.

drucey40 karma

Which "online university"? and depending on the answer, how credible is an online university compared to a brick and mortar university? Is it really worth doing?

*Corrected spelling, I'll blame it on the phone's autocorrect!

onlineteacher99 karma

I won't mention the specific university, but it's one of the top 3.

It's not credible at all. You might get a pay raise at Walmart with a degree from one, but no serious employer would assign it any worth. It's not worth doing. Especially considering how much it cost.

drucey31 karma

What sort of prices are we looking at? (I'm UK based)

Do you learn a lot from doing the course? Is it people pursuing a general interest in a subject, or do they take it for another reason?

onlineteacher102 karma

Around 30-40 grand a year.

It's impossible to learn anything of any real worth in an accelerated online setting. The vast majority of students are attending because they've been conned by their "admissions advisor" (telemarketer). They truly believe they'll be making millions owning their own business once they've completed their online BA in business administration.

smart_mass65 karma

Whoa! I am at one of the most expensive "tier-one" universities and we have evening courses for people who work. They have to pay almost the same amount and the academic standards are same as the regular courses. They can get college credits or degrees that have real value.

onlineteacher96 karma

Exactly. The only difference is, they don't have aggressive telemarketers and a flashy, customer-friendly website.

Bonestown30 karma

How much money do you make? How did you get the job?

onlineteacher60 karma

After taxes, I make about $850 per course.

I applied for it.

mahaugher23 karma


onlineteacher35 karma

Possibly, but not by for-profit corporations. The last thing they're concerned about is 'education'.

I might get one well-written paper per course.

sk_leb14 karma

I am currently enrolled in an online MSIA program at an "accredited" online university. My coursework requires me to get 6 qualified and important industry certifications - what do you think of that? Does that make it any better when they use actual industry coursework to help teach? The tuition is outrageously low, (5k per 6 month semester). It's just enough that my employer is paying 100%. Can't really go wrong with a free Master's Degree. Thoughts?

Edit: It's $2800 per semester. My mistake. I should have known that, since my bill is due on 4/30.

onlineteacher16 karma

If it's free, and you're actually getting certifications, then you have nothing to worry about.