Home Campus The Counter Opinion: Is Ohio U the best online college and excellent in diversity?

The Counter Opinion: Is Ohio U the best online college and excellent in diversity?

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In August, Ohio U received the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine for the third consecutive year and was named Ohio’s best online college by OnlineColleges.com

We asked our opinion writers if they think Ohio U deserves these awards, and if it doesn’t, what the university could do to live up to these expectations. Contributing are Bryce Hoehn, a senior political science major and Zach Richards, a junior education major.

Please note that these views and opinions do not reflect those of The New Political.

Has Ohio U earned the HEED Award, either this year and/or in previous years?

Bryce: Personally, I do not utilize Ohio U’s diversity resources, so it is hard for me to speak of their quality. However, this year’s cuts to the English Language Improvement Program (ELIP) and early reports of professors in the African American Studies (AAS) and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) programs being laid off seem to me as disqualifiers for this award. Professors from these departments reported that they had received non-renewal notices in the spring, but over the summer Ohio U spokesperson Carly Leatherwood stated that no official notices had been sent. It seems that the university changed its decision following the Black Lives Matter protests over the summer. While Ohio U recently announced the George Floyd Memorial Scholarship and offers many other diversity scholarships, these seem somewhat performative when cuts to academic programs with a focus on diversity have been under consideration. It’s possible that the university has earned it in previous years, and if these rumors of non-renewal notices are false, then perhaps we’ve earned it this year as well. It seems to me, however, that these cuts have at least been considered, which would indicate that we have not earned it.

Zach: As a white man, it’s not really my place to say definitively whether or not the university’s diversity resources are top-notch as I don’t have any personal experience with them. I especially have no experience with the diversity resources at other universities to compare them to. Anecdotally, I’ve heard many complaints about how the university handles diversity, especially in regards to recent controversies regarding plans to move the LGBT Center and how they dismissed the director of the LGBT Center. With these experiences in mind, it doesn’t feel right that Ohio U received this award.

Has Ohio U earned the ranking of “Ohio’s best online college?”

Bryce: I will be the first to admit that I do not like online classes. It’s always been hard for me to focus on schoolwork without the structure of in-person classes and losing the social aspect of meeting other classmates has been rough. All things considered, I have had a fairly positive experience with online classes at Ohio U. I took one over the summer a few years ago where the professor was very clear about expectations and deadlines and kept the Blackboard page organized and easy for students to navigate. With the sudden transition to all online classes, I think professors who do not usually teach in this format have had a hard time adjusting, and this shows in some of my current classes. Having also taken online classes through a few community colleges in the past, I can safely say that Ohio U is at least the best online college I’ve attended so far.

I would say Ohio U probably earned this award. The adjustment to all online classes, however, suddenly shook things up and the university’s online resources (looking at you, Blackboard) could still use a lot of work.

Zach: I vastly prefer in-person classes to online ones, but overall the quality of online classes at Ohio U has been a mixed bag. It varies very much from professor to professor, as different professors will have different challenges for different classes. In addition, some professors just have less experience with the technology necessary for the transition to online learning. My experience with online learning has been poor, but I cannot say it would have been any better at any other university, so it is hard for me to say whether or not Ohio U has the best online classes. That said, the people who make this award probably know more than me, so I’ll trust them on this.

If you said “no” for either question above, what could Ohio U do to improve?

Bryce: It is great that students have several diversity resources available on campus, however, it is just as important to integrate diversity into the classroom. Even if students do not major in these programs, it is still extremely important that students take classes like these for their general requirements so they can have a better understanding of the struggles of marginalized groups. It seems that Ohio U has reversed the rumored layoffs, so they have already done everything I could suggest.

I have also found Blackboard to be extremely frustrating, especially on my phone and iPad. I understand that those apps are out of the university’s control but I would greatly appreciate switching to a more functional learning management system in the future or for the Blackboard developers to take care of the bugs in their mobile apps.

Zach: The nation is still feeling the effects of the virus and it would be helpful if the university continues the satisfactory-no credit grading system, similar to spring semester, throughout the pandemic.

*Editor’s Note: A previous version of this opinion piece incorrectly equated the pass-fail grading system, which has always existed, to the satisfactory-no credit grading system, which the university created in the spring. The piece has since been updated to better reflect the different systems.

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