Sunday, January 4, 2009

My Online World.....

In addition to returning to my "regular" teaching job tomorrow, it is also the first day of the semester in my virtual school job. I have 7 students this time compared to 33 this time last year. Since I get paid per student, maybe I should be disappointed, but I'm not. I'm teaching Contemporary Literature now, which I not only enjoy more than early English literature, but because it's an elective course, the students tend to be more serious and attentive to their studies. When I was teaching English literature, I typically had about a 50% failure rate. It was mainly because schools signed their seniors up to take English Lit (required for graduation) out of desperation, and typically those students were the very ones who should NOT take an online course. I think the perception for many of them was that it would be "easy" to take a course online. All you have to do is log onto the computer, right? Wrong! Imagine how shocked -- SHOCKED!! -- some of them were to learn that they actually had to READ and WRITE ESSAYS and TAKE TESTS.

I think some of them also think that we don't actually grade their work. I had two students from the same high school once (our students come from all over the state), and I received a homework assignment from one of them, some questions over a reading selection. I was reading along in her answers, thinking to myself, "I've read this somewhere before." Then I came to a part where it said, "Good answer. Your answer clearly shows that you....." The little imp had used her fellow student's file and DIDN'T BOTHER TO REMOVE MY COMMENTS FROM IT.

Another time, in summer session, a student had fallen behind, and she was really facing the wrath of her mother as the semester drew to a close. She was only receiving partial credit for the assignments she turned in late, and they were pretty crappy to boot. Then on the essay portion of her final exam -- HER FINAL EXAM -- she copied and pasted huge chunks of text from Wikipedia. Not only would I have noticed because she left the FOOTNOTE NUMBERS in her answers, but she also "discussed" at great length The Great Gatsby. Which was A) not a novel we read that semester; and B) an AMERICAN novel, not a BRITISH one.

Once a student called me at the beginning of the semester, in a real tizzy. She was upset because she was not supposed to be in my course; her school had signed her up for the wrong one. Seems she was supposed to take British Lit because she needed it for graduation, and the dummies at her school had signed her up for ENGLISH Lit.

It felt strange the first few days after fall semester ended, because I wasn't tethered to the computer for an hour or so in the morning and a couple of hours in the evening. I sort of felt lost, like I did when I finished my dissertation. "What do I do with all my time?" Naturally I found a way to fritter away many hours. And then it felt NORMAL not to have to log on every day and grade assignments and check email and all that jazz. But now it's time to get back into the groove and train some new babies about the online world. Four out of seven of my students were the same ones I had last semester, so it won't be exactly starting from scratch. I'll just have to stay ahead of them in the reading and assignments.

And I actually do better with a routine. I'll just keep telling myself that.

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