Friday, June 25, 2010

Bloom off the online rose?

As I sit, slogging through another week of inane, staggeringly repetitive, marginally coherent (forget cogent), factual regurgitation answers to discussion questions, I am left wondering if anyone else has come to the conclusion that the supposed "benefit" from the all-written, all-the-time format of online course delivery has devolved to its least common denominator?

Despite overflowing reminders/rejoinders/rants that discussion questions should be considered a term-long, open-book, essay exam, the standard response seems to have come to be: cut and paste pseudo-relevant paragraph from text, massage a couple of nouns and verbs to fake out plagiarism detectors, click submit.

[Oh, and than have your classmates expand the discussion by adding multiple "Good post!" "responses."]

When I first ventured into this modality, nearly 10 years ago now, I truly had an enthusiasm for the interesting information and probing questions that were posted. Today, I find myself postponing visits to the discussion boards until just before reaching the point students will unleash the cyber hounds in search of my presumably decomposing corpse.

Sadly, it seems the online class has come to prompt the same sort of mechanistic engagement of that famous educational exemplar ... Bueller? Bueller? Anybody?


  1. copyright infringement. expect your site to be pulled within the hour.

  2. Ben Stein called and wants 40% of your profits!

  3. Uh...ever hear of fair use, anon?

  4. uh, that's not fair use, you fucking moron!

  5. Do I think that "the supposed 'benefit' from the all-written, all-the-time format of online course delivery has devolved to its least common denominator?" No. Just when you believe that it can't get any worse, it usually does.

    While there will always be "inane, staggeringly repetitive, marginally coherent" posts, I've found that they can be reduced significantly. I teach blended courses by design. None of the discussion board questions that I post have answers that can be found in a text. They require actual critical thinking (gasp!). While students may post crappy answers, they get very few points for doing so, and responses, such as "Good post!" earn them zero points. Period.

  6. I am embarking on teaching a new blended course in the fall. Can I get back to you? Unless I slit my wrists first, of course.



    "The 1961 Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S. Copyright Law cites examples of activities that courts have regarded as fair use: “quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment; quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, for illustration or clarification of the author’s observations; use in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied; summary of an address or article, with brief quotations, in a news report; reproduction by a library of a portion of a work to replace part of a damaged copy; reproduction by a teacher or student of a small part of a work to illustrate a lesson; reproduction of a work in legislative or judicial proceedings or reports; incidental and fortuitous reproduction, in a newsreel or broadcast, of a work located in the scene of an event being reported.” "

    Although Blogger might cave and just delete the blog to avoid any ill-will, several of those defined uses of fair use apply here, and could be argued in court, specifically 1,3,and 6.

    In the future, everyone, just scramble the image somehow to appease the self-proclaimed copyright police.

  8. There is soooo much potential for student feedback to put pressure on other students and enhance the overall material. But with the existing culture of putting classes 4th and social life / drinking / television 1,2&3, this isn't happening. "Good Post" counts as a reply, so that 2 seconds feels good enough to my students.

    I have a stock answer for those responses. I cut and paste my stock answer, which asserts that a) this does not count as critical engagement with the original poster's "ideas" (forget the issue that the original post is bull shit) and that b) I will need another post to replace it within 24 hours that is at least 150 words long and engages thoroughly with the ideas behind the discussion questions.

    I grade really hard those first 2 weeks, then ignore the rest after I've seen a slight bump in the quality. Oh, it never gets perfect, but it moves up a little and they start to talk to each other.

  9. Sorry, not planning to cave to the self appointed copyright police.

    Fair use is a well established and respected aspect of copyright law and certainly in play in this venue as the one photograph included is relevant to the material posted and not inconsistent with the original context nor defamatory toward the subject.

    (I doubt Blogger, a Google company, is going to cave, being they just won an infringement case against Viacom related to another one of their subsidiaries, YouTube. But if they want to add a layer of protection, Blogger might want to add a captioning feature to the image import as it would be no big deal to add some source/copyright information to an image. But thanks, anon #1 for totally ignoring the CONTENT of the post to ignite your self-important flame thrower!)

  10. RadFem,

    I agree with you wholeheartedly your standards SHOULD be the final arbiter.

    However, I've already had an experience where a student whose writing should have qualified her for special services in GRAMMAR school won a grade appeal against me. Apparently because, during that particular term, I had some significant life issues of my own and wasnt't able to provide the most timely of feedback, this student's utter lack of demonstrable skill was ignored.

    I could have predicted, that just by appealing, the student probably would have gotten a 1/2 grade bump. But, adding insult to injury, the program includes a narrative grade as well. The student got raised a full grade level and got a (administrator) narrative overflowing with praise for the superlative analytical and wonderful writing skills the student demonstrated.

  11. There's something better than fair use - Creative Commons. Mosey on over to Flickr and check the "Search for Creative Commons Licensed pictures only" box. Or visit Or wander around Wikimedia Commons. There are gems to be had, gems.,_Gerichshain,_Blick_in_den_Dorfklub.jpg

    Knowing German search words will help you find 50s pictures from the German Federal Archives. All you need is a caption with the attribution:

    Attribution: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-87002-0002 / Schaar, Helmut / CC-BY-SA

    That's all! And then others can nick the pix for their PowerPoints. Check out the category "Professor"!


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