Toward a Virtual Degree

It hardly comes as a surprise that some enterprising former college student, hungry for a slice of the e-commerce pie, came up with the idea of a Web site to dispense lecture notes. It must have seemed a perfect fit: Using the ever-more-popular Internet to avoid hours of professorial droning.

But what's commercially awesome could prove educationally awful. Remember the term-paper services that caused a stir a few years ago? Those Web sites, of course, launched a more direct assault on honest scholarship. Fortunately, such dishonesty is often obvious to the teacher or professor reading a page that has little relationship to a student's past efforts.

A clever student with a knack for editing may conceal the ruse, however, and thus make the purloined letters appear more his own. But thinking and learning are shortchanged nonetheless. That applies, as well, to grabbing lecture notes off the Web. The crucial work of thinking through a professor's words - and perhaps taking issue with them in the process - isn't being done.

The net result could be a virtual education instead of a real one. Students who know why they're at college are smart enough to know the difference.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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