Saturday, February 6, 2016

Memo to my online students

Memo to (about 10% of) my online students:

When I say "please post assignment x in place y," I really, really don't mean "post assignment x in place z and then email me to tell me that you couldn't find place y" or "email me assignments x, q, and r all in one email, with one of the promised attachments missing, because it's just too much trouble to find the designated places while trying to take the course – as you've been explicitly instructed not to do – on your phone." 

If I were bored and/or agitated and in need of a soothing sorting task, I'd fire up solitaire on my computer (which, yes, is still running Windows 7; I'll do something about that before July, but right now I'm really into familiar stuff that works without my having to think too much about it*).  I'm afraid trying to make head or tail out of which of your attempts to respond to my carefully-crafted directions for fairly complex tasks in <5 minutes based on reading the titles (at most) corresponds to which of the assignments you've had due over the past two weeks just doesn't qualify as soothing.
Besides, I'm not bored, or in the slightest danger of becoming bored anytime in the next 3.5 months or so  (though I seem to have become a bit agitated in the course of answering student emails; I wonder why). 

Contingent Cassandra

*I'd also, of course, like students who just do what they're instructed to do, when and where they're instructed to do it, but I wasn't really expecting that.  Genuine confusion, lack of understanding, even the all-too-common semi-paralyzing anxiety, I can handle; it's the drive-by throw-it-all-at-the-teacher-and-let-her-sort-it-out approach to which I object. 


  1. That's another bit of syllabus language I need to add:

    Work submitted by other routes than the LMS assignment dropboxes will be considered submitted for the purpose of being on time, but will not be graded until the work is submitted through the proper channel.

    Or something like that.

  2. Pennsylvania PennyFebruary 7, 2016 at 3:46 AM

    That's pretty much what I was thinking. I'm not a prof, as I've stated many a time on this site, but to my antiquated way of thinking, if the assignment isn't turned in at the time and place requested, and in the format requested, it isn't turned in. Am I just an old crank?

  3. Dear Students,

    You start at zero points and earn your way up from there. It takes effort for me to find all the points you've earned. When you submit your assignment incorrectly, I have to put effort into finding it, so that takes away from the effort that remains for me to find the points -- assuming there were points for me to find in the first place. Experience has shown that there aren't, so I needn't bother looking. In short, if the assignment is not where it should be when it should be, you get a zero.

  4. I do actually agree with all of the above (and have the syllabus language, which I've strictly enforced, with backup from my chair, on one occasion when a student failed to hand in a complete version of a crucial final assignment in the correct place, and wasn't reachable by email before the final grade deadline. He failed, and he still had a failing grade after making a considerable ruckus about the unfairness, etc. of it all). But it's early in the semester, and many of my students haven't taken an online class before (and may well not have wanted to take on this time), so I'm trying to be firm, but also gentle and encouraging (though one student did get a pretty blunt "you must be able to see the link to which you're supposed to turn in that assignment; it's where you downloaded the form you're supposed to fill out in the first place"). I will get stricter as the semester goes on, and we settle in a bit. In the meantime, I come on CM and vent, and then go back to patiently paraphrasing, one more time, the directions they already have.

    But I don't give credit for assignment x until it actually is in place y, not my email. I've gotta draw a line somewhere, and I can't spend the entire semester flipping between my email and the LMS (well, at least not for this purpose).

  5. I had a professor who would use a meme generator similar to the "Scumbag Professor" meme generator to make "Scumbag Student" memes whenever someone did this.

    One was "Complains that Professor is behind the times."

    Then at the bottom, "Can't figure out how to submit assignments electronically."