Class Calls Online College Next to Useless

     WASHINGTON (CN) – George Washington University charged tens of thousands of dollars for an online master’s program that consisted mostly of “nonsensical” PowerPoint slides recycled from other classes and unreadable book scans, students claim in a class action.
     Brice Bradford et al. sued The George Washington University on April 7 in Superior Court. They say they enrolled in its online Master’s Program in Security and Safety Leadership based on ads touting it as “specifically designed and presented for the online environment.”
     The university’s website calls the SSL master’s program “a pioneering education on counter-terrorism, intelligence analysis” and other security issues, designed to be completed in “as little as 16 months.”
     Bradford and his co-plaintiffs say they paid $28,000 to $40,000 for the online program, more than they would have paid in traditional classes offered in Arlington and Newport News, Va. The students say the university fraudulently misrepresents its online program to enrich itself unjustly.
     “The two programs are marketed as substantially identical, and purport to offer identical educational experiences,” the complaint states. “But there remains one crucial difference between the two programs: the in-class program actually provides instruction, while the online version does not.”
     It took little time for them to realize that the courses were nothing more than recycled PowerPoint slides from professors’ lectures, with no video or instructions to supplement the typo-ridden presentations, the students say.
     A screen shot of one slide from the program, included in the complaint, is incoherent and grammatically disastrous.
     It states:”Implementing intelligence-led model
     “Conditions and requirements:
     “Law intelligence can be successful if they have a robust intelligence gathering capabilities.
     “If you they strong analytical capabilities.
     “If you they strong problem solving capabilities.”
     (Sic: from page 8 of the 18-page complaint.)
     An entire unit, which would have taken up two weeks of in-class instruction, was boiled down to four slides for the online students, according to the complaint.
     The students say the slides were not supplemented by any video or lecture instruction.
     “Plaintiffs enrolled in the online SSL program believing they would participate in online coursework specifically adapted to the online environment,” the students say. “Instead, they received no instruction to accompany the often nonsensical PowerPoint slides pilfered from other instructors’ in-class lessons in any of their 12 online courses.”
     The university told them a professor would be “actively involved,” in their program, but the professors did little more than moderate group chats and grade assignments, and some instructors would not log on to the course website for “several weeks at a time,” according to the complaint.
     “In these limited roles, the instructors were consistently unresponsive, and demonstrated an unfamiliarity with the subject matter and material,” the complaint states. “The feedback given to students consistently demonstrated a lack of attention and participation from the instructors.”
     The university said in a statement Friday that it could not comment because of privacy laws.
     “Overall, the program has been successful for many of our students,” the university said in the statement. “Since the Security and Safety Leadership program began in 2009, 341 students have graduated, and many have gone onto successful careers in the military, law enforcement and other government agencies.”
     But the plaintiffs say students began complaining to the university about its program in January 2012. They say the dean of the school’s of Professional Studies called and apologized to some of the plaintiffs, but the quality of the program never improved.
     Bradford and two other named plaintiffs say they graduated from the program in May 2012, and the fourth graduated a year later.
     “In sum, plaintiffs were deceived into spending tens of thousands on tuition alone for a program that functionally required them to teach themselves the material,” the students say. “They paid more than their peers who completed the same degree in a classroom, and yet received far less. That was not what GWU advertised and it is not what plaintiffs paid for.”
     They seek class certification and punitive damages for fraudulent misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment and consumer law violations.
     They are represented by Hassan Zavareei, with Tyco Zavareei, who did not respond to a request for comment.

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