Thursday, August 04, 2011

End of the Grading

Yesterday I was talking about the end of the summer semester, but was mostly focused on my concerns about what comes next. Today I'm just focused on grading and wrapping up this class.

Final essays were due yesterday. I thought I'd get a lot of them graded during the day while my sister watched Eleanor. I thought my students would be eager to finish the semester. Alas, I overestimated their eagerness to finish, and underestimated their procrastination tendencies. Out of the 10 essays I was expecting, only 4 were turned in early enough that I could grade them during my "work" hours. A student emailed me at 10:30pm, the night before essays were due, to ask some basic questions about essay content. The kind of questions that should have been asked long, long ago. I'm not looking forward to grading that essay.

Teaching online has been .... interesting. I have really enjoyed the shorter, weekly assignments, and having the opportunity to respond to their writing regularly throughout the semester, instead of on only a few bigger assignments. If it's a case of practice makes perfect, in some ways I think being in a 100% written environment, as opposed to verbal class discussions, is more effective than a traditional classroom. I also like that it's much easier and clearer to require the same participation of all students online. It doesn't matter if you're shy; everyone is required to make X number of original discussion posts and Y responses to your peers. End of story.

Online, it's also much easier to define "participation" in a clear way. If you are regularly signing into the course site, making your posts on time, and completing quizzes, you are participating. If you're not doing those things, then you're not! None of this showing up to class but not paying a lick of attention to the content. (Yes, I'm aware that using the phrase "lick of attention" makes me sound 80 years old, but oh well.) I also took the advice of a colleague and noted in my syllabus that, if a student hasn't logged into the course site in two weeks, I will block that student from accessing the site and will only allow access to the student if he or she contacts me directly and explains the absence. So much more straightforward than the ones who disappear from class and, just when you think they're gone for good, they show up again, expecting to get an A!

On the other hand, I don't feel like I really know my online students. It bothers me a bit that I could walk past them on campus and never know. Two students, maybe three, came to meet me in person this semester. Most of them declined that option. Sometimes I feel like I'm just sending information out into the void ... I don't get much feedback on what is working or not, so it's hard to believe that I'm teaching effectively.

Of course, every time I've taught a class for the first time, I end the semester feeling like I won't really have the hang of it until I teach at least one or two more times. I need to try out several different strategies before I have a good sense of what really works. At the end of a semester, I also immediately know that there's some parts I would want to change, and others I would keep. Then the majority of the class format, assignments, etc., could go either way.

I am glad that I've had the opportunity to teach online. I think that what I've learned about the benefit of short, weekly assignments will definitely affect my traditional classroom teaching strategies. I'm just sorry, from a pedagogical perspective, that there's going to be a break between teaching online and going back in the classroom. From a grading perspective, I'm ready for the break!


Joan said...

Speaking of absurdly late email questions, a woman who was a college classmate in 1974 (who I have not seen in years) called on 12/30 to ask if I would critique 4 of her daughter's college application essays that were due on 12/31. I have never met her daughter. I told my former classmate that it was absolutely impossible for me to do so w/o notice. Several hours later, I began to receive emails w/4 attached essays from the daughter (her mother gave her my email address). She wrote that her mother told her I didn't have time, but... I am no wordsmith, but this kid's writing was abysmal. I tried to edit one essay, but to be minimally acceptable, it would need to be completely rewritten and I am not interested in writing college application essays. Procrastination, lack of pride, no attention to detail, manipulation, no training, no ability & incredible chutzpah? Which of them possessed more of these attributes - mother or daughter?

M. Lubbers said...


That sounds so frustrating! And I know exactly what that's like. People do it all the time! Both asking for last-minute "editing" (when they really mean massive rewrites) with no hint of shame or responsibility AND parents trying to take care of things that their "adult" children should really be on the hook for. I'm glad you told the mom "no" ... even if she ignored it. Stand your ground!