Distance Learning: avoiding the scammers

By Shailen Lakhani - Last update


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Ever been tempted to take a dodgy short-cut to a degree If you’re applying for that job or promotion, your lack of a particular qualification could mean failure! The idea of calling a telephone number, submitting your credit card number and simply receiving your qualification in the post can be very appealing! Think about all the time you could save studying and doing exams, not to mention stress and worry of it all by trying Distance Learning.

The fact is, though, that education is supposed to increase your knowledge and range of skills – and this invariably means a lot of blood, sweat and tears. As appealing as it may seem, the “purchasing your degree” road can often be a hazardous one. There are many stories about unfortunate individuals who were “exposed” as being in this rather dubious club.

Think of the college principal from Michigan, USA, who was exposed as the holder of a “degree” purchased for $670 with no classwork It might have seemed like a small price to pay but she bought immense embarrassment and trouble along with the piece of paper!

An Austrian nutritionist who was advising two U. S. Olympic swimmers was shown, last month, to have a degree from LaSalle University. At the time, he allegedly did coursework to earn his “degree”. LaSalle’s courses consisted of nothing more than reading a book and writing a paper, and as few as five employees handled more than 6, 000 students! The College’s founder, Thomas Kirk, has pleaded guilty to fraud and tax evasion.

Many organisations actually buy lists of email addresses such as Hotmail addresses and bombard unfortunate account holders with information of their programmes. One such Brentwood-based organisation regularly sends bulk email telling of the opportunity to purchase degrees, diplomas and other qualifications. None of the emails have a reply address and you must phone a US number for details. You then receive repeated phone calls from London-based representatives who seem to be more interested in obtaining your credit-card information that giving any meaningful information about their organisation. Be wary!

There are times when you just want to say “it’s only a piece of paper” and take the fastest route to getting it! Why not

Well. . .

First, you could waste your money. Many of these organisations disappear after a few months!

Secondly, you’ll lose credibility. If you get found out, you can either admit that you’re devious or pretend you didn’t realise that the diploma you received for doing nothing but sending a cheque was worthless. Whichever of these you choose, you’re on a sticky wicket! You’re either sly or a fool!

Thirdly, if you can buy a qualification, anyone can. What happens when your employer discovers that he can buy the same qualification you purport to have over the Internet!

How can you find out whether an organisation and its degree programs are worthy of your investment, time and money

Here are a few tips:

No legitimate organisation bulk emails indiscriminately.

No legitimate organisation awards qualifications solely for life experience; many will award credit toward a degree, demonstrated through a variety of methods.

Any organisation that claims accreditation from an association not recognized by the Department of Education — indeed, not to be found anywhere other than in the school’s own promotional material — should be crossed off your list!

Schools not in Ireland should meet generally accepted accreditation principles. One good sign is a listing in the International Handbook of Universities (UNESCO), the Commonwealth Universities Yearbook, the World Education Series, published by PIER, or the Countries Series, published by NOOSR in Australia.

Generally, if it seems too good to be true, it usually is!


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Shailen Lakhani

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