Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Hazards of Online Exams

I've been very very busy the last few days. The start of any term is hassle enough, and I'm teaching an extra-full load for a 5-wk summer term: three classes, back-to-back-to-back. In addition to guiding the new padawans through the rigors of Blackboard Vista, I'm also cleaning up one of my more egregious SNAFUs.

At the end of the first summer term, finals ended July 3rd. Generally, grades are due the next day at my campus, but this term they were due later owing to the Independence Day Holiday. In my (misguided) generosity, I elected to allow my students to take their online finals as late as Saturday the 5th, secure in the knowledge that grades weren't due until Monday. Little did I know that the master enrollment program automatically cut off student access to first-term online courses at the end of the last day of finals --I thought it didn't do that until final grades were posted.

The emails began flooding in on Friday morning. "ACK! Professor Mojo, I can't even get online to your course, let alone take the exam! HELP!!!!" My inbox was stuffed with variations on a theme. And there was nothing that I could do about it until after the weekend (or, at least, nothing I felt comfortable doing without prior approval from my sysadmin; I've gotten old enough to realize that some things really should get approval before execution, lest Heads Roll and Voices Get Raised...)

So I've spent the last few days dealing with the clean-up, contacting students individually to reassure them that they weren't going to fail until they had a chance to take the final. And explaining to my chair what happened and why I assigned what was a record number of incompletes for one term (in terms of percentages of students enrolled). I'm preparing a statement of explanation to submit to my dean when the inevitable query comes down the pipeline. None of this is made any easier by having to submit all of the paperwork in actual paper and not electronically.

Moral: don't be kind to your students.

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