Tuesday, September 9, 2008

To Students In My Online Course

Photo: marlandova

I did not send the following message:

Taking this course, or any course online, unless you are among a quite rare breed of self-motivators, will compromise your educational experience. But because you are enrolled (and I teach) at a third-tier university, hungry for your tuition dollars without especial concern for the quality of your education, we are embarking upon this experience together.

The hours that I have invested in designing this course to meet your online needs have earned me less than minimum wage, so you can surely imagine that I care about instructing you. If I did not, I would either do any number of less demanding jobs for much better pay or provide significantly less instruction in an effort to justify my salary.

You may be taking this course because of a rumor that online courses are easier. They are not. An online course requires that you spend three additional hours per week, hours that you would otherwise be engaged in real-time discussion with your peers and me, reading written instructions and following them. There's no getting around that self-evident reality.

Nevertheless, in the past two weeks, it has become apparent to me that many of you are quite resentful of the course requirement that you read assignments independently and complete them. I am baffled. Half of you, and you know who you are, seem to be mistaking this experience for WalMart shopping -- you feel entitled to a good grade for half the work, or even for no work at all.

I understand that the recent evacuation and the requisite post-traumatic stress are hard on all of us. I also realize that because I am not a familiar person to you but rather an email address and a set of instructions in cyberspace, I am an easy target upon which to vent frustration. Venting unwarranted frustration upon me, however, is extremely unwise since faculty have much more control over your comfort level than you seem to understand. We are not Walmart managers. You cannot demand that we exchange your faulty effort for a decent grade.

Rude emails informing me that assignments were due during evacuation and therefore must be rescheduled are bizarre. Had you taken the opportunity to read the current course announcement, posted since pre-evacuation, you would have noticed the clear message that the assignment schedule would likely fall a week behind and that the current assignment would be due Thursday, September 11. Rude demands that I explain how the schedule will be adjusted in the distant future are also out of line given that the University has not issued a clear statement on when or if the missed week will be made up. As soon as the University does so, I will present you with a thoroughly updated course schedule. This last point would not bother me nearly as much if many of you were not sending such demands in lieu of completing work that was due before evacuation.

Furthermore, only a 9th-grade reading level is necessary to understand the instructions that I have posted for you regarding immediate assignments and due dates. If you are senior in college and cannot understand them, then your prospects in the job market into which you will soon be thrust are quite bleak. I'll still work with you as best I can, but belated claims of confusion will not excuse missing work or lackluster performance.

Those of you who have exercised your critical thinking skill to ascertain that a week-long university closure necessitates a week-long postponement of assignments, and/or have addressed me in a polite tone with your questions and concerns, please excuse this truly unfortunate public down dressing of your peers.

Students attending on-site courses are doing just fine.


slag said...

I think you shoulda sent it.

A.F. said...

Thanks, Slag, for the support. It's now looking as though, thankfully, the problems were mostly evacuation-induced. I'm still concerned by the implications of online courses, though. I fear that they will soon be designed by corporations and managed by workers who are much more poorly compensated than I am. (Oh wait, that's already happening. Ugh.)