May 24, 2008
Law of Minimums
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?