Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A concluding rant... about one of my classes.. of course

I have officially finished my HR class.  I've submitted my weekly forum post, responded to enough people, and turned in my final project.  YAY!

Except that I still have 8 more pages to write for my intel class and I'm angry and my writing this post is to vent those frustrations so I can hopefully move past them and get to doing the actual assignment, which I did actually start, but anger distracted me.

So much anger, in fact, I did the dishes.

My intel class has been a HUGE disappointment.  As this was my first class I wanted to learn all the exciting things I didn't already know.  I wanted the non-military perspective.  I got over 300-500 pages of reading per week, in addition to hours of research and reading journal articles to help clarify the things I wasn't understand from the readings.  I understand that by taking online classes, I'm pretty much "self-teaching" all the things.  I get that.  What I don't get is how cookie cutter classes are difficult for instructors.  I don't understand why its so hard to review the syllabus, assignments, and weekly lessons and forums before they are posted, ensuring accuracy and that they reflect the desires of the instructor.

For instance (because you knew that was coming)...
My intel class is INTL 501 Strategic Intelligence.  The syllabus contained the title INTL 305 as the class.  The syllabus also stated that we had a weekly forum post to do except for during week 7, which was inaccurate, as we did have a forum post required that week.  During week 1, the instructor posted an extra forum that wasn't listed on the syllabus that contained a link to a video and asked if we had any comments.  I didn't have any comments after watching the hour long video, so I was not given full credit (at first) that week because I did not complete all the assignments.  I messaged the (Nobel Prize winning) instructor and explained that the video forum wasn't listed as required on the syllabus and it also didn't state it was required.  The instructor "gave [me] an extension" so I could do the assignment.  I later found that particular forum listed under the week one lesson as an assignment.. and by later I mean, several weeks later when looking for a reading that had been assigned.

Additionally, grades were received at least 2 weeks after the week had ended.  Example:  Week 2's grades were finally posted during week 5.  While week 6 grades haven't been posted yet, and we are in the final week of the class.  The first assignment that was due was a research proposal.  The syllabus stated it was due on 19OCT, his assignment page listed it as due on 26OCT.  It was finally returned with comments 6/7/8NOV (I don't remember the actual date, but around those days).  Originally, the research paper was due 16NOV, but on the 14th, the instructor sent out an email telling the class that the research paper due date was pushed back a week, which I had already assumed since that was the due date on the assignments area, ya know, since I'd already deduced that the syllabus was a waste of my time.

The real issue with this massive delay in grading of assignments is that the syllabus stated the papers for the class were to be done in Turabian format... except that the instructor wanted in-text citations.  It took me 5 weeks to figure out that he didn't actually want Turabian format in the paper (or forums, which I was being deducted points for, and the feedback was coming so late that the feedback was useless because new forums postings had already been done), only the references, because Turabian format doesn't use in-text citations, it uses footnotes/end notes, which I can totally do.

Additionally, feedback on the forum posts was originally done by editing the original post and later it was by responding to the post.  The responses and feedback didn't take into account the replies to the original posting, replying to other's posts was only a check in the box.  This guy should definitely win the "most involved professor of the year" award. /eyeroll

Often in the lessons, links were incorrect and it was difficult to get to the readings or videos that were required, which directly correlates with an issue I'm currently having doing the final project (which by the way, wasn't opened up until 17NOV and it's due 01DEC).  For the final paper, you are only allowed to use required readings that were used throughout the course.  When I go back through the lessons, some of the reading files are no longer available, which makes doing this final assignment even more difficult than it needs to be.  Additionally, rather that using bibliographies to assign readings (which would only make sense to me so students can actually go and fetch these readings that were assigned that are no longer linked) only web addresses were given for some items.  Those readings often are missing vital information that is needed to do a required reference page for the final project.

The final assignment reads like this: "This assignment is a Take Home Essay assignment to test knowledge and assimilation of the course learning objectives."  I'm just going to state that almost all online class requirements are "take home"...  /facepalm
And my favorite part of the final assignment: "The assignment should be no more and no fewer than eight pages."  Because you know, that's not very specific or anything.  What happens if its over (which I have a tendency to do)?

Grading for the class is.. on another realm of education.  90+ grades (A- to A+) are only given if you are performing "above class standards", while a B+ is above standards.  Why would I be taking the class if I could perform above class standards?  What would be the point, since I obviously already know the material.  Teh Bear and I have often discussed this class because it frustrates me so, and he claimed that the instructor was trying to challenge the students.  Ok, fine.  I've been academically challenged, but when your feedback is consistently too late to be applicable, your comments include "errors" that can be considered preferences and the rest of the feedback is mostly the same as from previous weeks (a copy/paste portion of the grading rubric for A standards, as well as a disclaimer explaining that he writes/speaks in short clipped sentences due to "an old military habit"), I have fierce struggles.

A final stressor of this class for me is that due to late feedback, I know that I won't receive my research paper comments or grade from the professor before the final project is due (ya know, 7 days after the research paper was due).  The research paper was 35% of our final grade while the final project is 30% (forums were 20% and the research proposal is 15%).  Not having feedback is especially scary since I know that this instructor is extremely particular about all the things and I'll have no idea what I've done wrong, so I'm sure to repeat all my mistakes in the final project, which I'm sure to be marked down for.

The first week of the class, there were 21 people enrolled.  At week 8, there are 10 students left.  I struggle to comprehend why with such few students, grades are returned so late.

One of the feedback items that I gave to my INTL 500 instructor was that I didn't feel like grading was strict enough because I would later find errors in my papers that the instructor didn't catch or didn't care.  Well, that might have bit me in the ass.

Is it December yet?

PS.  I'm taking an education break for at least one month (if not two) after this semester.  I feel like I've been through the ringer, for sure.  I'm tired of only ever talking about homework.  I feel like I mommy-jack conversations, except that its not mom or baby things, it's homework related issues and no one like a conversation-jacker.


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