Saturday, April 24, 2010

This Just In: Students have excuses!

I'm having a different, but related, problem to the one Steve just posted.

Every week or so, my students have 2-part (posting/ reading + commenting) assignments like:

a) post your blog by Sat. at Midnight;
b) respond to your group of 3-4 'partner' peers' blogs by Monday night.

However,students often fail to meet deadlines like these (for all their long-standing and variously weak reasons plus new technology-based excuses such as "my computer exploded" or "I can only use a computer once a week"). Once this hits critical mass, as it has in some groups where one very diligent student is entirely abandoned by his/her 3-4 tardy-to-noncompliant peers, this basically ruins the system. Since it no longer rewards those who do follow the rules (they get no feedback from peers and feel anxious that their peers have no work for them to comment on), its kind of demoralizing.

I have lost control of the system for several reasons:

1) I am too preoccupied with having a private life over the weekend (albeit one filled with paper grading) to monitor each of the students blogs and posts.
2) I have been too anxious to harshly penalize those who may truly have technology-access or technology-knowledge issues that keep them from satisfying these assignments. This was especially true in the first weeks, and I feel this initial leniency 'set the stage' for wiggly deadlines and a less-than-effective reward/penalty system.

I have just announced new stricter grading, but I'm afraid it will result in a bloodshed of lowered grades rather than improved results.


1 comment:

  1. Comments are ALWAYS a pain. This is where having a computer lab is useful, 'cause you have them comment at the beginning of class.

    One easy solution: reassign "response groups"; put all non-responding students in one/two groups and let them get a couple of bad grades (do you grade the blogs in batches?). That takes the pressure off the hardworking students, who now can get the grades they deserve, and the couple of bad grades will motivate those that have calendar issues.

    The students have tech access: the library, the open labs, a huge study lab in B333, very old laptops from the Media Center that they can borrow and use in places with hotspots like Starbucks, and cybercafes. And quite a number of them have I-phones--so don't fall for that one (I mean, once or twice it could happen to anyone, but if they cannot connect the whole semester, they are not really trying).

    If you are worried about grades and want to be a hero, announce later that you will drop the two (three?) lowest blog entries so that everyone can have a day when her computer explodes.