Friday, April 29, 2011

My students are doing better than I am.

I took this online course deal for just one extra class this term.   And it's killing me.  My traditional students can basically piss up a rope, because they're a perfectly standard distribution of talent, responsibility, and entitlement issues.  But the online group?  They're better than me.  They get it all done before I can think of more.  Sometimes I cue up what I want to be work for the MONTH, and in a few days I start getting "Is there anything else we should be doing?" e-mails.  I can't keep up.  And sometimes I get side tracked by the idea that maybe there are only four of them using multiple names. 


  1. My online classes are nothing like that. Nothing.

  2. That doesn't match my experience, either, but I'm sure online classes, like other classes, vary according to the students enrolled. It sounds like, in this case, there may be a mismatch between the intended/planned audience and who is actually taking the class.

    Or, yes, maybe the Miami OH 4 have tracked you down via your IP address and are harassing you in the guise of online students. You never know; they/we are a pretty odd bunch.

  3. Your online connection has opened a portal to an alternate universe.

    Mine, sadly, opens to some sort of singularity, where time and deadlines have no meaning, where density is infinite, where souls are crushed.

    No, seriously, I have lovely and responsible online students, but also high attrition, failure to follow beautifully crafted directions (complete with examples), and failure to submit assignments despite repeated emails on my part.

  4. Ditto Slaughter. I am currently battling an online student who's outraged that he received a zero on an exam for plagiarizing two of his answers from Wikipedia. He says he "only cheated on PART of the test" and so doesn't deserve a zero for the whole test.

    The relentless onslaught of laziness, lies, and sloppy, sloppy logic from my "students" is just so disheartening. I'm even taking the summer off from teaching for the first time in 15 years just to get these lazy, sociopathic narcissists out of my life for three glorious months.

  5. Good point. I'll have to think about how to control that better in the future.

  6. Bubba might have a point, especially if the work you're assigning comes from a standard source such as a textbook and its ancillary materials (the model my university's online program seems to expect; I had a bit of trouble filling out a form for them because I create my course materials pretty much from scratch). If the solutions are available somewhere, the students may just be copying and pasting them. But you'd expect that to apply to only some of the students, and you wouldn't expect them to call attention to their speed (which is one of the ways, if I'm remembering correctly, that one MIT online homework program caught cheating; students were answering in less time that it would take to read the question, suggesting cutting and pasting -- in this case, I think, from each other).

  7. If they're cheating, it's in the form of "working together" (in sarcastic quotes). I let them work together, but you know the difference. I haven't inspected the homework with a fine tooth comb, but I didn't notice any oddly similar answers. On an exam, I did catch two students cheating (by finding matching illogical strategies and alternating work in one, and the same wrong answer with no work on the others, then the second showed work, and the first had the same wrong answer). Our policy is that the first time you're caught you "fail the assignment", and since, despite their union of effort, and despite the fact that the difficulty of the exam resulted in a class average of B+, they failed miserably, so I warned them and let the grades stand.

    I didn't check homeworks as closely as exams, but there were no redflags. It could be that because I let them work together, the smart kids might have been willing to work with the dead wood on homework. But on the exams, they only had each other, which was like a lead life vest.

    I don't use those supplementary things. I'm a curmudgeon before my time. I'm usually underwhelmed by them. And with the cost of books so high, I like to save my students the money. I never order them, but whenever the book store "accidentally" orders them after getting jerked off by the book reps, I make sure my students know they buy them only if they want them because I'm not going to use them. Some students get them anyway and love them, which is great for them, but I shy away from that stuff.

    In fact, my curmudgeoness goes to the point where I write a lot of my own questions anyway because I know what's best. But when I get stuff from books, they're old. Like Pauling old. I check the conventions and update them if I have to, and I change the numbers, but I use unpopular text and stuff you can't find easily online and I mix it up.

  8. Yeah, I'm generally also too much of a curmudgeon, weirdo, or whatever you call it to like a whole textbook well enough to use it, let alone the exercises that come with (this is easier to do when one teaches comp, mind you). It sounds like they are actually doing the work, after a fashion. And if the class average is a B+, then the problem isn't that the material is too easy for this particular group of students. Maybe you just need to break it up into smaller chunks, or, if you ever do this class again, suggest that it be taught in a shorter period of time (that seems to work better for many online classes)? In any case, if you're taking them through the same material, with approximately the same amount of information transfer and hands-on practice, as in a regular class on the same subject, you're doing your job.


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