More evidence of problems with distance education at Harvard

distance education at Harvard Extension
Distance education marketing material from Harvard Extension School

It’s so disappointing to hear about experiences like the one described below, but at the same time, I am not at all surprised. It’s the story of yet another earnest student signing up for distance education at Harvard Extension School, hoping to get access to “Harvard faculty and rigorous academics” and “engaging online classes” (as the ad above describes) and instead being treated to this:

Last term was my first semester at HES and I was surprised at the lack of assignment and test feedback that I received in the courses.

In my first course, I didn’t receive a grade or comments back on a ten page essay that was worth 15% of my final grade or on my final exam that was worth 25% of my final grade.

In my second course, I never received any feedback or grade on a book review that was submitted in mid-November, on 50 page group project, or on the final exam. In the aggregate, these three items represented 55% of my final grade.

My third course consisted of a series of smaller assignments worth either 5% or 10% of my final grade each. The instructors provided grades and comments for most of these assignments, but at the end of the course, feedback and grades for the final couple of assignments wasn’t provided.

The responses to “DesertDog” are telling. “Unfortunately your experiences are not foreign to me,” said one person, who has been taking distance education courses for years at the Extension School. Another Extension School student said, “Last semester, I took a course and did not receive notification of any grades until the final grade was posted at the end of the semester. I got no feedback at all. It was quite frustrating,” A third online education student reported that “Some of my professors didn’t give me any feedback on my final projects and essays even when all the final grades were posted and even while I asked them several times.”

Defenders of distance education at Harvard fight back

I’ve written about distance students being given a watered-down distance educational experience by the Harvard Extension School in the past (see “A sad day for the Harvard Extension School” to read yet another case). The usual responses? “You don’t know what you are talking about!” (even though I have taken distance education for credit) and “how dare you belittle distance education students!” (even though I am criticizing the Extension School and its policies, as opposed to students who try hard to get a good education).

Of course, not all faculty teaching distance education at Harvard Extension School are unresponsive. But regular reports like the ones above are a sign that many students feel misled about the Extension School’s promise of access to Harvard faculty and a true Harvard experience.

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One thought on “More evidence of problems with distance education at Harvard

  1. I just finished my 1st course I was pleased with the instructor. I am currently enrolled in my 2nd course for the spring with the same instructor. I had not been in college since the 80’s. He was always ready to help me and answer any and all questions that I might had.

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