Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Teaching Tuesday: Students, Technology, and Being a Nice Person

Oh, internets, help me with a Teaching Tuesday quandary.

I'm teaching a large intro-level course, mostly to non-majors, and mostly to freshmen. They recently had an assignment due. The directions were given on Blackboard, and they were supposed to submit their work on Blackboard. The nature of the assignment was conducive to submitting digitally, plus I didn't want forests clear-cut unecessarily.

Recognizing that some students come to university decidedly un-tech -savvy, I repeatedly told them that they need to make sure they can access Blackboard. I referred to the university tech support line numerous times. I told students having difficulty that they need to call the tech support people or try a different (campus) computer. Any student that emailed me prior to the night before the assignment was due was also given step-by-step directions from me or other help in getting their assignment properly submitted. (Usually it's just been a matter of them not figuring out the blackboard interface.)

So, why am I not surprised that the morning the assignment was due, my in-box was clogged with submissions and a few people tried to turn in a paper copy in class. Freshmen, sigh, they just can't seem to follow directions.

So, my question is whether and how much I should penalize students who turned in the assignment to my email or on paper. I didn't specifically say that I *would* penalize them, but I also did say (in bold on the syllabus) that the assignment needed to be turned in on Blackboard.


Amy said...

They should be penalized. Freshmen in college ought to be able to follow directions, one would think. For this first assignment, accept the submissions that came on paper or in your email, but deduct X number of points. Then reiterate in class the directions for using Blackboard, and say that next time assignments will only be accepted through Blackboard.

my two cents...

Michael said...

With 7 or 8 classes, each with their own deadlines, different online tools (blackboard, webassign, ...), clickers, and disparate grading rules I think it's perfectly understandable that many people are confused for a while. Which is more important to you, that the students found a way to turn in the assignment on time, or that they learn to precisely follow instructions?

Sara said...

i think i would give them a one time free pass, they are so young and just learning, and since you didn't specifically say you would penalize them. im sure many of them figured that it wouldnt be hard and they would be able to submit it online and then found out otherwise. stupid? yes, but they are 18. use this as the chance to give them the warning, tell them they now know how to do it, or that it is hard and they have to figure it out, and say you wont accept non blackboard submissions anymore, and there will be a penalty of x.

an aside, does everyone have their own computers these days? i know when i was in school it was mixed, and while there were computers in the labs that all students could use, it was still much easier for the ones who had their own in their dorm room.

but maybe im too nice.

hypatia said...

Do you have a standard late penalty? If so, I would make them turn it in the 'right' way and apply whatever is your standing late penalty (or half if you feel like being generous).

My late penalty is 10% off per business day late. In this case I'd probably email or announce in class that the assignment MUST be turned in via blackboard by X new date (less than 24 hours away). The penalty for not having turned it in right the first time would be 5% off. The penalty for missing the next deadline would be per usual.

B said...

I would warn them this time and on the next assignment doc them X number of points. The first mistake you can forgive but time number two must be right. Otherwise they will consistently get it wrong. Good luck! I had freshmen cite journals from "science direct" 20 times and not use the actual name of the journal!

EcoGeoFemme said...

If you're too nice at first, you'll get a reputation as a pushover. If you're mean at first and then get nicer, the students will be surprised by the niceness.

Still, I would give a bitchy warning this time, make all the non-blackboarders resubmit with blackboard so they for sure know how to use it, and just not accept any other way on future assignments.

ScienceMama said...

As a computer loser, I would have a little bit of pity on them. It IS only their second week of college ever... I agree with ecogeofemme, bitchy warning with a clear statement that future assignments will not be accepted in anything other than the designated format. Warn them they won't just be penalized next time, they'll get ZERO credit...

Anonymous said...

I agree with ecogeofemme. MAKE those who turned it in by email or paper turn it in by blackboard (or they don't get credit) and tell the whole class that that was the last time you will give credit for an assignment not submitted via blackboard.

Anonymous said...

Give them a second chance to resubmit online within 24 hours (with no penalty) or x penalty for each day it is late. No need for any bitchy or non-bitchy warnings. Incorporate it into the syllabus and tell them you are doing it.


phd me said...

Freshman or not, they should be able to follow directions, especially when those directions are accompanied by explanations, suggestions and warnings. They may be young but they aren't helpless - however much they act that way.

I agree with others: If you have a policy on late work, apply that but also have them submit the assignment via Blackboard immediately. I know students have varying levels of technological expertise and many of them don't have computers at home (I was one of those students until grad school, in fact) but the tech support is available, so they can manage. Sometimes, it's legitimate confusion but, in my experience, it's usually just laziness.

ScienceWoman said...

Thanks for all of your advice. I decided to penalize them by 10% (1/2 of my day late penalty) and require them to submit on Blackboard by the end of the week or their score goes to zero.

Jane said...

I'm late to the party here, but I'll give my 2 cents anyway. My first assignment in my intro course is similar, in that the students have to hand in something electronically by a certain time. Invariably, some of them don't follow directions, either because they forgot or got confused or whatever. I tell them that this is their "mulligan" for the class and have them hand it in correctly, with no penalty this time (and with full understanding that penalties will be applied in the future, as per the syllabus). I have not found that this hurts my credibility in the classroom *at all*; no one thinks I'm a pushover, and in fact I think the students are relieved that I'm reasonable and tend to trust me more as a result.

Jenn said...

I'm also getting in a bit late, but I think you picked a reasonable method of handling the situation sciencewoman. Just be firm in the future to show you really mean it... I'm no tech junkie, but learning the software associated with a class is a requirement like any other!

MommyProf said...

They could have used Blackboard to submit it to you through the e-mail your professor feature...

Andrea Ann said...

I am also chiming in late - I think your solution was a good one. I would penalize them the first time - so many students (people) only learn that way. If you let them off then many think they do not have to pay attention and you have the same problem the next assignment. (or thier next prof does) BUT they are brand new so I would then give them a little xtracredit assignment so thier grad doesn't have to suffer because of thier lerning curve - if they are willing to do a little work.

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