I am a Permanent Resident living in the USA (CO) and studying part-time at a Christian distance-learning institution which is accredited in the USA and based in Missouri. The course is a BA in Bible & Theology. I read widely in law, history, and theology. I have physical and cognitive disabilities which severely affect my ability to perform well in timed exams, but am bright academically and consistently top-grade at coursework.
Each class/module has its own textbook written by the faculty member. I have signed up for two of these classes, got the two books, and both are consistently ignorant, partisan, and unprofessional. They do not cite any references within their text yet are happy to frequently contradict well-established scholarship – even other books set by the university! This question would be far too long if I gave detailed examples, so please just trust me when I say that these textbooks are bad.
A huge chunk of the class’s grade comes from a multiple-choice test at the end of each module. These are meant to be just like the practice tests in the textbooks – which are awful. Many answers are extremely subjective, often the correct answer is the author’s opinion. Sometimes none of them are really correct. Many times I have got a practice question “wrong”, even though I have good scholarship on my side (again, including other books set by the university). It’s all extremely unprofessional. Fact-checking the textbook constantly is also exhausting.
In other words, to pass the course, I will have to memorize and regurgitate answers that I know are disputable or even demonstrably wrong. I will have to un-learn the good scholarship I have read in my spare time (a lot), and replace it with junk from the textbooks I can parrot. In the exams, I will be trying to remember, “wait, is that the right answer? Or is that what the textbook said?”
The bottom line is: I do not wish to take multiple-choice exams based on these awful textbooks.
So, what are my options?
I see the possibilities as follows:
- Ask the university to completely re-write their dozens of textbooks and exams according to proper scholarship. (Unlikely to happen, I think…)
- Ask the university to allow me to write additional coursework essays instead of taking a multiple-choice exam. (This would be appropriate for my medical needs anyway. Perhaps I could try this without mentioning their bad textbooks?)
- Attempt the exams, writing a note explaining whenever question/answer premise is wrong, (e.g. “None of the above are correct answers. Markan chronology is based on Mark’s splitting the book in half between Galilee and Judea, whereas the other gospels explicitly describe a multitude of travels between these locations. See ‘Jesus The Messiah’ by Robert Stein“). However, I am sure this will be ignored; I think the marking is done by computers anyway; and that means I’ll take too long and may not finish the paper. Not good.
- Attempt the exams, keeping a copy of my answer sheet (this is allowed). If I get a bad grade, ask to see the mark scheme (not sure if this is allowed), and dispute any answers which contradict good scholarship, demanding those questions are removed from my mark and the percentage recalculated, and that the mark scheme is rewritten to remove the bad questions for future students. I think this would only happen with a 100% demonstrable case where there is no dispute outside of the textbook’s divergent opinion. (There are some of these, but mostly it’s just 90% demonstrable)…
- Report the university to their relevant accreditation authority and hope they force (1) or (2).
- Leave the university demanding a refund due to the bad scholarship in the textbooks. (Partial refunds are available in the early parts of a course, but I’m past those dates now). If no refund, go to the accreditation and see if they’ll force them to give refund. (It’s only triple figures, but that’s substantial in my financial situation).
I would like feedback on the feasibility of options 1-5. Has anyone had a similar experience? I think #2 is my best bet, probably – has anyone been granted this concession at degree level? (Is there even a legal precedent I can cite?) (I have, in lower education, in the UK). If it comes down to #6, what are my legal rights to a refund if the quality of the education is demonstrably bad?