Thursday, October 27, 2011

New required equipment for proffies

It's my least favorite time of year: the start of the second accelerated term. In the course schedule, a note should be added which reads, "Abandon hope all ye who enter here." Students are allowed to start signing up for this term at the same time as the others, thus guaranteeing that at least a couple will forget they even registered. I email them upon registering to give them the start and end dates for the class. I email them two weeks before the class begins to remind them, tell them how the class works, and give them book info so they can get their texts as inexpensively as possible. I tell them that it's an accelerated term, so they don't have time to mess around. They also get all the requisite information about taking the college orientation ASAP, doing mine sometime between the day before classes start and the due date of the first assignment, and needing to attend class the first week (being online, this means actually doing some work) to stay in the class. The day the class orientation opens, they get a detailed message telling them exactly what to do, including what steps to take if technical issues arise. If the first assignment draws near and I've seen nary a peep, they get another warning. Then I follow through and do what my college requires of me. By the time someone is dropped, that person has heard from me at least four and perhaps as many as six times.

This term, I've learned none of it is enough. Not only am I supposed to tell them repeatedly what to do, but I'm also supposed to have a crystal ball to read their intentions. I'm even supposed to know what they've allegedly done so I can tell them I can't see they've done it in the course. In the past 24 hours, here's some of the flava from the emails I've received. Details are altered slightly to protect the stupid:

Clueless Clara: HOW COULD YOU DROP ME????? I couldn't figure out what I was supposed to do for the course. (See redundant detailed info above.) I need this course to graduate!!!!

Pissy Patrick: I don't understand why you dropped me cuz I did the orientation. (Student did no work at all after orientation and never even logged into the portion of the course that had the assignments in it.) I've been checking this course regularly since September (impossible since the materials weren't even posted until the beginning of October). This is your fault. You should have told me that my posts weren't showing up. (Course log says you did no work and didn't even check the work area.) I arranged my entire course schedule around this class. (It's an online class, and all your other classes are on campus. Not buying that one either.) Your a crappy teacher who doesn't care about students.

Transfer Tina: I am a full-time student at Sub-Par Private University. I need this class to graduate. I thought it didn't start till this week. (See all that crap I sent out above.) Could you please reinstate me?

Never Logged In Nathaniel: I see your class isn't on my list of courses anymore. I guess that means you dropped me. Why?

Perhaps this is all just a scheme to replace faculty with employees from the Psychic Friends Network. They would know the students meant to log in, they didn't read any of the course information, they meant to make posts, and above all, they MUST graduate in December. (I didn't even include several of those. I've always wondered how, if a student absolutely needed a course to graduate, that person wouldn't be extra conscientious about that class, contact the instructor before it began, and actually read the freakin' college calendar and course materials. Someone somewhere must be telling them that the magic G word is the ticket which gains re-entry to all courses.)

I'm teaching two of these accelerated classes. Following college policy and state law, I dropped 14 students to avoid being guilty of defrauding the great Southern State of Undervaluing Education's taxpayers (not to mention the rest of you Americans paying into the Pell program). These students have no comprehension of what it would mean to do one month's work on college-level material in one week while taking other classes, working, and doing whatever else is going on in their lives. On the plus side, at least my classes will be manageable and those who stayed have a decent chance of making it.


  1. Where's the outrage over EnglishDoc emailing his students, raising their expectations, ruining life for the rest of us? Seems like Will in Winston-Salem took a spanking for easing up on students and policies.

    I'd suggest that babying students into class, emailing them multiple times before the semester to REMIND THEM TO GO TO THEIR COLLEGE CLASS sets them up to be ruinous bothers in our own classes next term.

    Where's the cries of fuckwad? Just wondering.

    I don't have a problem with how EnglishDoc does it, but I gotta think - based on earlier shoutdowns - that someone will take great high-handed offense at this.

  2. @Reg: Actually, this kind of communication is standard procedure in online classes, and there's some justification for it, since many students are new to online classes, and since there isn't, you know, a class to go to. Most of us who teach online classes email the whole class at least weekly. When doing so, I try to avoid repeating instructions I've given elsewhere verbatim or issuing explicit reminders; instead, I'll offer advice about an upcoming assignment, on the theory that that will also serve as a reminder of the assignment. But issuing explicit reminders is probably the more-recommended practice.

    I can't drop students, so I don't get the outraged emails that EnglishDoc does, but, in both virtual and face to face classes, I am finding that, more and more, I have to explain that not doing the work = failing the class (also that doing about 1/3 of what I asked for results in a failing, though not zero, grade). I also get occasional messages, especially for my own intensive (summer) class, saying "you were right; this class moves really fast," sometimes followed by the news that the student is dropping. That's how the good students (the ones who actually read the emails, even if they don't entirely believe them at first) deal with the situation.

  3. Thanks CC; I know all that. Just tweaking someone. Not trying to confuse.

  4. Actually, Reg, I do hate myself a little for having to do it so much, but our administration requires it. If a student says, "But I didn't know!", I have to be able to document not just that it's on the syllabus but also that I attempted to contact the student multiple times. I do sometimes feel as if I'm babying them. It's one thing when they don't listen in a classroom setting. It's another when they have something in print in their email in both the school and LMS accounts multiple times and still don't do it. If I show I went above and beyond, admins will back me up. If I don't, then occasionally I get a fuckwit admin who tries to weasel for the student saying, "There must have been some misunderstanding."

    BTW, I've received three separate emails since this post in reply to the drop notification. All of them have said, in these exact words, "Thanks for nothing." (One even put it in three languages for me!) Is this the new student equivalent of "Fuck off"? All three received curt but civil responses about their responsibility in the matter and directions about how to contact my chairperson if they're displeased with my following the syllabus and college policy. Thank God we finally have a new chair who will not put up with any student crap. If it's in the syllabus or college policy, it's contract.

  5. If I may, the phrase in EnglishDoc's last comment points to a growing problem for all of us--weak or fierce: "our administration requires it." More and more, I have to state and explain and amplify and detail every freaking policy that I adopt and every policy the institution demands. Seriously, my academic policy statement begins with the phrase, "cheating is wrong."

  6. My hallway neighbor taught an accelerated blended course the first half of this semester, and she spent a lot of time shaking her head over her students incomprehension of the fact that it's 15 weeks' worth of work crammed into 7.5 weeks. Several of the students taking the class had failed the course when they took it "regular." The second time through, two passed (with a D and a C-, respectively), complaining all the while about the workload.

    I am basically the only person on my campus who doesn't teach a/b classes during the regular semester, because pedagogically, I think these classes are bullshit and one step away from a correspondence course--they're more work for the student, and more work for the instructor. But that's just me. Many of my colleagues like the fact that they can be done mid-semester with one course (never mind that they spend the first 8 weeks bitching about the pace and the grading while they're managing 3 other regular-semester courses--just like their students).

    Students don't want to do the work during regular semester courses. Why is it a shock that they have to be hounded into doing the accelerated work, and they still don't do it? They're used to passing without doing work. We're obviously totally unreasonable in our requirements.

  7. This: "The day the class orientation opens, they get a detailed message telling them exactly what to do, including what steps to take if technical issues arise."

    You know this, but they will never read that email...


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