May 28, 2008
Hint: the bookstore holds all necessary information for ordering your textbook. This includes ISBN numbers if you need them to order from somewhere other than the bookstore.
Not all professors have choice of textbooks, or their ISBN numbers.
Sending professors nasty emails after they inform you that a. they don’t have the ISBN number to give you and b. that information can be found in the bookstore, is simply rude. You are displaying your inability to competently complete research. Bad sign.
Sending said nasty emails after the semester has begun, when you should already have your textbook, is even ruder. Worse sign.
Sending nasty emails when you have already dropped the class because your professor told you to go to the bookstore to look up information you should have already have had, is just annoying.
May 27, 2008
I sat curled up the recliner, computer balanced upon my knees, clipboard with roster in hand. The time had come to grade participation.
I grade participation all at once, when the week is done. Partly, I do this so I don’t get overly concerned with the occasional blithering post. Partly I can see how a student’s work compares through the week, and if they actually learned anything. Partly I can check for wild swings and suspicious lucidity.
I pull up the posts of ESL Student, and start to look them over. “English as a Second Language” students only bother me if they don’t have enough control of the language for me to decipher their attempt. I get a few of those, and try to explain to them that online classes might not be the best option for them. In a classroom, I can ask for clarifications until I get some deciphering; online, all I have is what they write there. Even with clarifications through the week, you don’t have inflections and phonetics to help you. If a student is approximating a word in a classroom, you can often hear what they are attempting. If they have no idea how to spell it (and are trying to do so phonetically), you often have a huge problem. I don’t like grading students on their language abilities, I want to grade them on their art history abilities, their critical thinking skills, their ability to compose hypotheses and sustain an argument to support that hypothesis (or change their thinking). Yes English control is part of that, but it shouldn’t be the totality.
I read through ESL Student’s posts, and find something odd. Most of the posts are downright gibberish. Not ESL. Gibberish. I had noticed there was gibberish through the week, and had asked for clarification, but during the week I don’t pay much mind to who is posting what. I just respond like any other poster.
Then another oddity comes to light- the rest of the posts are not only not gibberish, they are in perfect English, with important points about the material in them, using key words from the questions I posted.
Oh yes. A quick Google search and it is clear. I didn’t even have to pop them through any of our fancy software. Google.
Sometimes when folks plagiarize, they are at least smart enough to shift some words or word order. They make it so at least I have to plunge into the world of plagiarism-seeking software. But no. This student had done exactly what I did- they Googled the topic, and then cut and pasted from those pages any paragraph that had the words they wanted in it.
So I stuck a big, fat “0” in the gradebook. Oh, and emailed our Dean about the problem.
I have three emails noting the plagiarism of ESL Student from students outraged that ESL Student might get credit for those posts. I make assurances that plagiarism is not tolerated. I send a warning email to ESL Student that I have contacted the Dean.
I get a plaintive reply:
“Prof. Art, Why get nu crdt 4 wrk? I wrk vry hard. Frgive plese English. Is second langage. Plse dont grad on English. Ms. Instruction Dean sayed u dont grad on English.”
No, sweetie, I sure don’t. But my syllabus is pretty clear on plagiarism.
May 25, 2008
Hint: if you email your professor each and every week complaining that the one question you got wrong on the weekly quiz was a “trick question” you are going to eventually start making your professor suspicious. If you then send rather nasty emails trying to refute the explanations the professor gives you as to why the correct answer is correct, she is going to get increasingly grumpy. If the main reason the answer is correct is because it is quoted from the textbook you are supposed to be reading, and your complaint is that you couldn’t find the answer in the chapter, she might get downright irritated, and start checking up on your essays and other work.
And if that work is plagiarized, you might find yourself failing the class.
Oh, and don’t have Daddy try to call and threaten the professor with lawsuits. Your grumpy, irritated professor probably carefully documented everything, and is just going to have a really good belly laugh over it all with the Dean.
May 24, 2008
It is one of those unwritten laws that students will work to whatever minimum you set, and then it’s a crap shoot if they will do any more. However, it is guaranteed that they will complain if you present them with a grade of “C” for meeting these minimum requirements.
I have minimum participation requirements in my online courses. I discovered that if I required at least one post early in the week (Ie, Wednesday or Thursday), then a second post by the week’s end (Sunday), I ended up with a lot more constructive discussion going on. However, I also encourage all of my students to participate as much as possible. To get things rolling, I post a few questions in each forum.
Hence the mountain of email this week that are some variation of “Do I have to post twice to each question? There are four!”
Now, I know math can be confusing to some folks. However, these emails are big red flags to me of students who are going to have difficulties with reading comprehension- a skill absolutely vital to successfully completing online courses. If I required two posts to each question, and there are four questions already posted, that would equal eight posts, not two. And my syllabus says “you are required to post at least twice per week, once by Thursday, and once again by Sunday. This is a minimum requirement; you are encouraged to participate as much as possible in all discussions.” Last I looked, “twice per week” means two, not eight.
I also explain this extensively in the orientation presentation Powerpoint. Two per forum, twice per week, one plus one.
Next week will be even better. I will have the mountain of email saying “Why did I get a C for participation? I posted twice!” Since when did minimal work earn an exceptional grade? Did I miss something here?
May 22, 2008
The students are busily bombarding me with emails that could be answered by reading the syllabus or attending a distance learning orientation session. Or asking me if they need the textbook yet. Yes, it is going to be a long, long summer. Here’s hoping there are lots of good students, ready to discuss, to make up for all the ones who are emailing me now.
May 16, 2008
Hint: classes begin with the first day of classes. That date is listed in the course schedule, on the college website (see the Academic Calendar), and in BlackBoard. I would think you would have checked that information when you registered to take a class so you could do appropriate time management planning. Online courses are no exception to this rule.
Emailing your professor asking when classes begin is a big red flag for high risk future FAIL.
May 15, 2008
Hint: if your professor takes your paper, covers it in red ink, gives it back to you and asks you to re-write it, it is not an opportunity to tell your professor how busy you are, and how unfair the assignment was, and how you wished the professor had lead you by the hand through the assignment.
Take the paper, say “thank you” and come back by whatever deadline is offered with the corrections made.
Bonus: do not tell the professor the correction they have asked for is incorrect, stupid, or impossible. Just do it.
May 13, 2008
Summer semester is about to begin. I teach a lot of online courses, and students seem confused with the concept that online courses begin the same day regular courses do. In a live class, you get your books from the bookstore before class begins, and get the syllabus the first day of class. In an online course- believe it or not- you get your books from the bookstore before class begins, and get the syllabus the first day of class! Isn’t that amazing?
There are some red flags I get the first week or two of a semester that tend to signal an upcoming EPIC FAIL at the end. One is a student who doesn’t know to go to the bookstore and get their books. I’m not talking about students who cannot do this for various financial reasons- I’m talking about the ones who email asking about books because they don’t know to go to the bookstore. It’s a bad sign.
Another flag are kids who try to add in after the add deadline. Its always a sign of trouble. Having the backing of the dean makes no difference. Without exception, students who “need” or want to add after the add deadline are T-R-O-U-B-L-E. It’s a bad sign.
Students who email me that they can’t do the first week (“I’ll be out of town”, “I won’t have internet access”, “I’m on vacation”, etc.) are equally Trouble. The attitude this betrays is one that all professors dread: something else is more important than your education. Other variations on the theme are “I’m going to have a medical procedure and will need to miss week x” and “I’m getting married an will be going on honeymoon for week x”. Sorry, guys, but these invariable mean EPIC FAIL is on its way. I’m happy to work with students to make up work and complete assignments. Nothing I do seems to make any difference. I can lead the student to the assignment, but I can’t make them turn it in.* It’s a bad sign, especially in summer session.
This is also the season of “do we really have to complete a assignment every week/post online twice a week/complete two exams?” The idea of having to complete the minimum requirements to get a passing grade seems a foreign concept to some students (I actually had one email me complaining they failed when they only completed half the work. I gave the person a score of 50. The complaint? “I thought I’d get credit for the work I did do!” You did, sweetie. You got a 50. That’s an F.) It’s a bad sign.
I hate it when students fail. It’s bad on my nerves. It’s never good. But some of them leave me no choice. I can’t grade what isn’t turned in. So a word to the wise: don’t make your professors grumpy. Do your work. On time.
*One exception to this theme is “I’m nine months pregnant and expect the baby during week x.” Only about half of the folks who need accommodation for pregnancy are using it as an excuse. The other half make up the work with no problems.
Once upon a time, about nine years ago, an eager young grad student walked into her very first solo classroom at her local community college. Almost everyone in the room was older than her, because it was a night class favored by working adults. She projected the Mona Lisa up on the screen, and asked the room if anyone knew what it was.
And no one answered. It was a room full of blank faces.
Since that fateful night, I have come across a wide array of students, talents, and excuses. I have had a roller-coaster of emails, phone calls, lectures, field trips, meetings with deans, department chairs, papers, exams, online classes, live classes, and student evaluations. I’ve been praised as the greatest teacher on earth. I have been cussed out as the biggest bitch on earth. I’ve been threatened by students and parents. I have been given presents of gratitude. I have had my share of brilliant academic hopefuls and EPIC FAILs.
And I am here to share them with you.
Just to be clear, anything I say here is FERPA compliant. I have saved up material over the years so I can mix it up and make it generalized, rather than relating specific cases. Any names used will not be real names. No grades for specific students will be discussed. I have also collected things from my friends to effectively spice everything up. Anything that seems to resemble you or any situation you were in is purely coincidental. Professor Art is a purely fictitious character made up by a ghost writer to protect all identities.
That said, students are funny creatures. When I was a student, I was a funny creature, too. Never fear- I use my own student experience for good material, too.