Tuesday, June 29, 2010

That thing with squares and dates on it

I teach online. I love it 90% of the time, but the other 10% makes me feel as if I'm the captain of the Voyage of the Damned. My latest snowflake passenger, Chronologically Challenged Carla, sent me this email three weeks into my course:

I don't understand where the readings are coming from. Is there a link or page that shows the author, name of the work and page number for the readings in the unit? It is very difficult finding them an I'm not sure what exactly we have to read.

The readings are listed on the front page of the class. Not only are they prominent, but I also tell students where to find them on a web page they have to read the first week about taking online courses. I politely explained this to Carla. Her reply?

yes i can see that , but is there a syllabus or something else that shows what we need to read on which day and where, it's just too confusing for me.

In my courses, just as in everyone else's, I use this wonderful tool called the calendar. It lists the name of each unit, when to start it, and when the assignments are due. Making the connection between the reading list for a unit (clearly labeled Unit X Reading Assignments) and the posting and quiz assignments within the unit was just too big of a leap for poor Carla. I again politely explained the connection in detail and even reviewed the way the schedule works for my classes. In terms of when units start/end and when assignments are due, it's more regular than a senior citizen taking Metamucil every day.

After barely passing the first couple of posts and failing her first quiz, Carla missed the second quiz, again because she didn't understand that when the to-do list says a quiz is due, the professor puts up a banner on the front page reminding students that the quiz is due, and the calendar lists not only the first date the quiz is available but also when it is due, it is, well...DUE on that date and that one should in fact go to the quiz section of the class to complete said assignment.

Carla emailed me tonight to drop the class since she thinks she is "failing" (with only 15% of the class grades in to date) and recently discovered that in fact she doesn't need another English class. So at least I know her lack of comprehension also extends to numeracy and reading of degree plans. But according to my college's new accountability program, I am responsible for Carla's issues. When I get my "productivity statistics" at the end of the term (Doesn't that sound like I'm on the assembly line making widgets?), Carla's dropping will be held against me as a student I lost. So now I get to explain how I could have better helped this student succeed. Right now, I have no words to help me do that. Maybe I'll join my colleague in the post below for that scotch.

1 comment:

  1. My god, I know. I teach online and I too love it 90% of the time. But when I receive an entire essay writtenwithoutanyspacesorpunctuation I just want to scream. Their surprise to discover that an online course requires regular online access or that I cannot accept hand-written papers sent to me via post just blows my mind. Over and over again.

    Fortunately, these students only bother me once a week and usually get lost in a sea of 24 other wonderful students, who are all tickled pink to be "going back to school" as though it's a real college experience and feel all empowered. Mostly much better than the front row slack-jaws or the back row stoners.


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