Devry University / unethical business practices
Today I withdrew from DeVry University Online classes. I'm sad to have had to do that because I had great hopes for my education, but a series of issues arose that convinced me DeVry is not as concerned about their students' education as they are about their cash flow.
The first issue concerns their transfer scholarship. I began talking to DeVry in earnest Dec '08 and was told I was eligible for the scholarship ; the requirements are 1 year since graduation and 3.20 or higher GPA. I graduated in June '08 with a 3.92 GPA. I started classes in March '09, and by May I still hadn't heard if I was going to get the scholarship even though I had asked about it every few weeks since January. Each time I was told no word yet. I began to suspect the scholarship was merely a carrot on a stick and they were running out the clock until I was no longer eligible for it, and I told them that's what I had begun to think.
A short time later one of the academic advisors called and told me I had been awarded the scholarship. Then he informed me I would need to take some placement exams for math by the end of the semester. These were 3 remedial math courses that began with an introduction to fractions up through graphing quadratic equations. Nothing had been said about placement exams for math classes until that day, just one breath away from congratulating me on my scholarship. I had been given full credit for the algebra and physics classes I had taken previously, so I was a little surprised to hear I would need to be tested on addition and subtraction of fractions.
I asked why I needed to take the tests, and the advisor said it was because my upcoming computer programming courses required a lot of math. I checked the text books and discovered that wasn't true - there's no real math requirement for learning C++ or Java. Later, when I told him this, he suddenly changed the reason and said it was because some of my credits didn't transfer. His explanation was that the screen I was looking at didn't show the same information as the screen he was looking at, although we were looking at the same screen. If I didn't take the placement exams within two weeks all 3 classes would be required. If I scored high enough I wouldn't need to take that particular class, and I would be allowed to retake the test one time if I failed an exam.
When the results came back he told me I had scored so low I would have to take all 3 classes. I wasn't allowed to know the test score, or which problems were missed. Now anyone who has bought a car from a shady dealer will instantly recognize this trick: they'll tell the customer they'll agree to throw in a free high-powered stereo if he'll buy the car, then they'll jack up the interest rate on the loan a few points.
I told my advisor I thought this was what they were doing and would retake the test, only this time I would be recording every question and answer by screen capture. The next results showed I needed to take only the last class. I didn't contest this because it seemed like a good idea for a review anyway, as I had missed 3 questions.
The next issue was my instructor in Comp 122. He was AWOL most of the course in the discussion area until students began pleading with him to answer their questions. And if you asked him a question he would never answer it directly - he'd give you an answer that has nothing to do with the question. For example: I asked about question 3 in Chapter 6, and he responded with the answer to question 1 in Chapter 5, with no explanation. There didn't seem to be any connection between the two questions, and when I realized the problem it had nothing to do with the procedure I was using - I had made a syntax error.
The third issue is what I consider the most egregious, and ultimately the one that convinced me DeVry has little concern for the education of their students as opposed to their great concern for a steady cash flow from student loans. Two computer programming classes, Comp 122 and Comp 220, use the same book: C++ Programming - From Problem Analysis to Programming Design, 4th edition, by D.S. Malik. At the end of each chapter are several pages of exercises, including programming exercises that require the student to put to practice the programming principles taught in that chapter. The book instructs students to ask their instructor for the source code solutions to the problems if they wish to use it. I asked for the code from the instructor in Comp 122 and was given a list of answers to true/false, fill in the blank, and multiple choice questions that are already given in the back of the book. After repeated requests, the instructor eventually posted a few solutions in the discussion are.
At the beginning of Comp 220 I emailed the new instructor and again asked for the source code. Here's the text of the actual email:
"Hello Mr. ******, nice to see you have practical experience using programming in real world applications. I'm continuing from Comp 122 and would like to know your position on use of the programming exercises at the end of each chapter. The previous instructor would not release the code, but later after discussions with the staff of DVUO he began to post some in the discussion areas. I hope you recognize the value of using programming exercises such as the ones in the back of the chapters, whether they're the exact problems or equivalent problems generated from scratch. I would like access to some of the code whether they're from the book or another source to practice using the theory taught in the class. I will, of course, respect and abide by your decision, but I'd like to know in advance so I can make arrangements if necessary to ensure I'm understanding the material sufficiently to work any of the problems in the programming exercises."
His reply: "Its (sic) a great idea to work through the exercises at the end of (a) chapter. I'll be posting the exercise solutions for the chapters we will be studying in the next day or two. Good to hear from you...Let me know if you have any other questions!"
What he posted was another set of answers to true/false, fill in the blank, multiple choice questions whose answers are already in the back of the book. Notice I asked for source code and he replied with answers that we already have to true/false, fill in the blank, and multiple choice questions. Could it be that an instructor in a computer programming class doesn't know the difference between source code and answers to true/false questions?
After several exchanges back and forth pretending he didn't know what I was asking for, he admitted the following:
"I was in on the conversation about this last term and it came down to a question of copyright infringement. The acceptable use policy for the instructor materials prohibits electronically posting of answer keys to a publicly accessible location; which make sense because the book company does not want the answers freely given out because it spoils the value of the book for instructors that assign and grade exercises from the book. In the case of DeVry, they decided that we could post the answer keys, in part, because we are not 'publicly accessible.'
I have no problem providing the solutions...the best way to learn this material is to study and copy programs that work...
I've checked out the webpage for our book and they do have a link for instructor materials but I need to call and create an account. Its (sic) a tad late so I'll call in the morning.
I'll keep you posted..."
So he had been in the meeting the previous session where, according to him, the publisher decided DeVry could post the source code, and then he states he supports letting students use the source code- even though he'd been refusing to provide it for 6 weeks, and then only after repeated requests on my part to have access to it. And according to the book, the source code is on the Teaching Tools CD-ROM that the instructor has.
August 19th I complained to a faculty staff member about the situation who then researched this issue and was told yesterday or today the following by a member of the online training faculty office:
"Programming exercise solutions and source code are only for the instructors, not for the students. We are not able to distribute any instructor information to the students. DeVry is not the only institution that uses this text, and we would be compromising the use of any quizzes or exams if we were to give this information out. "
Here's the gist of this whole sordid mess: the solutions to the programming exercises that the publisher says are available to the students through the instructor are off limits to DeVry students because DeVry says they're only for instructors' use. The stated reason is that students might send the source code to students of other schools that use the programming examples for homework (DeVry does not use the programming examples for homework or tests). So DeVry is more worried about other schools' homework than they are about their own students (who are paying $550/credit hr, over $60, 000 for a bachelor degree), even though there's nothing preventing students in other schools giving out the very same source code.
I don't believe that explanation. It makes more sense that they don't want students doing too well because then the number of students having to repeat a class would drop off, and so would their income from student loans.
If you want to go to the website for the book I'm talking about and see the notice to students to get the source code from the instructor, go here:
To be fair, most of the people I have come into contact with at DeVry are conscientious, considerate, friendly and professional. I don't have a problem with the people, it's the culture and/or the business ethic that allows a company such as DeVry to put revenue above all else. I'm not going to suggest you do or do not hire DeVry to educate you, but if you do there are some things you should be aware of.
When I withdrew today I had a 4.0 GPA, so my dissatisfaction is not because of grades - it's because I could not justify putting all the time and money ahead of me into an organization that refuses to give their students basic tools that the author of the book has spent considerable time creating. And because they refuse to be forthcoming and honest until forced to do so. Every time I was on the phone about that source code issue it made me feel like I would feel if I was on a sidewalk standing still as a pickpocket went through my pants.
I can be reached at phillip.[protected]@yahoo.com
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