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Where Have All the Sane Teachers Gone??

by Penny Paper on 12/16/17

Madness has taken over the classrooms these days...I hope people realize that the schools now use "instructors" more than they use professors!  In this situation, the instructors are NOT half as qualified as you would like, and few of them have enough time or energy to spend teaching you to write.  This being said, isn't it time to do something about it?  

Ethics & the educational system

by Penny Paper on 08/29/14

I find that one of the questions that people occasionally ask me is the one on ethics.  Now, if you have been reading my posts, you have probably already drawn your own conclusions.  However, the answer to the problem of ethics in education on this point is that the schools do not treat the students correctly, but they expect everyone else to follow some special code defined by THEM.  Special honor codes designed for the lowly students but do not apply to the administration, the instructors, or the board of directors! 

I hate hypocrisy—so I help people who are caught in such a net without losing any sleep over it.  I really did try to do the right things in my path towards becoming super-educated, and at the end of it I found that there really is not an untainted apple in the barrel.  If one is rotten, you will find that they all are.  So, if you seek an ethical solution, look toward the top and start breaking it down until you get to the real cause of these problems.  It’s not me.  It’s not you either. 

NOW—who is asking questions?  (Do I hear crickets??)


by Penny Paper on 08/16/14

One of the things that has always disturbed me in my own process of education (and dis-education) is the fact that English instructors have generally refused to teach any other citation format except MLA. 

It seems weird that they don’t like to teach the other major formats—APA and Chicago.  Is this the same kind of stubbornness where a person will order Coke and get upset if there is only Pepsi?  Do they think MLA formatting is the only way in the universe??  Are they that narrow??  Yes. 

I think I will call this problem English-ism. 

English-ism is simply prejudiced against other writing formats.  English instructors won’t teach the non-majors the other forms because they are pissed off about people not becoming English majors.  Their classes are emptying out and they are losing their importance because they don’t think about really helping their students succeed as they go forward. Nobody likes them because they are selfish and it comes through.  People end up hating English, writing and literature.  Whose fault is that??

So, if you find that you passed Composition or English and never even heard of APA format, English-ism is to blame!  You obeyed the rules, researched and wrote the paper and did all the work, but it fails because of formatting.  That is just stupid ENGLISH-ISM at work.

Try this some time: ask an English instructor if he or she can write in APA format without looking it up. If they can't, ask them if they can at least look it up and get it right.... 

Forgive Yourself

by Penny Paper on 08/14/14

One of the things that does not surprise me is how people feel so bad about their situation with taking college classes and also having to deal with having jobs and sometimes family responsibilities.  Human beings naturally feel guilty because they can’t do it all!  And yet, nobody in the world isn’t tired after a day of work and then maybe a second job too!  On top of that, some people have children in the house who want attention, and it would be terrible to deny the kids when mom/dad has been at work all day. 

I just want you to know you are not alone.  I talk to at least 3 people every week who are going through exactly the same scenario.  They suffer in silence.  They often can’t tell their friends, they don’t dare explain their situation to instructors, and they can’t afford to drop the class either because their future is riding on academic success.

On the other hand, many working people enroll in school to get degrees so they can better themselves and NOT have to work two jobs at minimum wage.  Hope for a future is really important—it’s what keeps the human spirit going.  It keeps us alive….but it seems like no matter what choice you make, you feel guilty!  Forgive yourself.  

So they promised you the moon??

by Penny Paper on 10/05/13

One of the growing problems with Online Courses is that they all start out promising students that their lives can improve with a better education.  That might be true--but how online courses actually improve your life is really a good question!

In the beginning, we start with the idea that you do the SAME amount of work and/or studying through the online coursework as you would have done if you went to class in-person.  That was once the old story.  In fact, most schools are still selling that one.

But NOW, the classes have even MORE material covered in shorter periods of time.  These Accelerated Classes are a huge trap, as you may have learned by now.  How is anyone going to manage to read all of that material, manage all of those discussions and replies, take all of those quizzes and tests, AND write final papers, case studies, midterms, and capstones at the same time?

Plus, you're supposed to hold down a full time job (or two), perhaps raise a few kids, and live your life without having a nervous breakdown.  Good luck on that!!

What is worse--you might notice that you don't get that much feedback on your rough drafts, your instructor is slow to answer email, and you're not even sure what the requirements for your assignments really are!  Sometimes they are changed or added onto at the last minute, so planning ahead gets futile too.  Very discouraging. 

It's actually pretty irresponsible of the schools to do this.  They then increase your workload to PROVE that you're really learning something--this is called an upgrade on your assessment, but suddenly you're doing MORE work than when you went to class in-person, but you're getting less help.  Strangely, you're still paying about the same amount of money for your degree! 

Is anyone critical of this system?  Does anybody care about the students?  Who helps you when your teacher disappears?  Do you appeal to some committee or dean who never actually answers your questions or concerns? 

That's the problem.  The system is breaking down, but nobody is calling them on their bluff.  Meanwhile, what are YOU going to do if you don't get that piece of paper you need to keep your job or have a shot at getting one?  You're already paying for the class--but you're stuck!  And yet, so many people walk around feeling guilty.  That's a shame.

They go so fast--but they don't give much feedback on projects...

by Penny Paper on 03/01/13

One of the main concerns that most people have with their online classes that when they turn in their materials, nobody reads it or lets them know how well they did until the last minute!  This is very frustrating. 

What can a person do when they have done a paper proposal and they have no idea if it is good or bad?  That always spells trouble and doubt for the poor student who is trying to figure out how to succeed. 

The other problem is that it means you don't know if the next step is a step in the right direction.  This is very stressful. 

What do you do when you are totally unsure about what is going on in an online class?  You could email the instructor, but that's a problem if the instructor is already unhelpful or unresponsive. 

This isn't always the case though.  I am not saying that all online classes are bad--I am just saying that this is what a lot of students report back to me.  I think it's important to speak out and let people know that they are not alone.  It can help a person realize that there really is hope and that there really is a way to get help.  Sometimes, even if the instructor is not helpful, your own classmates can give you a clue.  If you are lucky enough to have a class contact list, you can email the other students and see if anyone gives you a shout back.  It's a shot in the dark, but sometimes it is amazing how helpful others who are in the same situation can be. 

Sometimes it's that ridiculous discussion board!

by Penny Paper on 01/19/13

Let's be honest--the discussion board can ruin your life!  How many postings per week?  How many replies? 

Sometimes a few lines from you are enough to get by--and then you just have to answer the questions

Sometimes you have to do a write-up based on some readings--so then you have to figure out how to handle the weekly/daily reading assignment and then write about it. 

I have to say that I cannot always help you with that--but a lot of times I can edit them so they sound good when you post them.  Of course, this does require some planning ahead. 

If you have a mini-case study or scenario where you have to post a page or two, I can help you out in those situations if you send the questions along. 

Discussion boards are tricky and they come in various forms.  Sometimes they are very consistent in certain schools like Walden or Phoenix where the coursework is  more controlled.  However, some online courses have a character of their own if they are managed by instructors with a little bit of individuality and the authority to design their own classes.  This can be a good thing or it can be a very bad thing.  Like any college class, it is truly "the luck of the draw," and it is a good idea to get a feel for the situation as soon as possible.  One way to find out is by emailing the instructor to see how fast they answer and to find out how flexible they are. 

If the instructor has the authority to make decisions, you can usually sense it through their friendliness and their interest in seeing what you need for support so you learn better.  If it's a cookie-cutter class where it's all about uploading and downloading according to a certain rubric, you might get a very short & unfriendly reply or you won't hear much back at all. 

It's a sad state of affairs. 

However, if you make a good assessment of the situation in the beginning, you'll have a better idea of what to do and how to deal with it as you go along.  Most folks have to "learn how to take an online class" so they can succeed at them.  It's a strange kind of skill, but it is becoming a more important skill as time goes on! 

Stay tuned for more if you want help with succeeding in attaining an "online education."  Sometimes the directions they give and the real truth are not exactly the same thing.... 

Sometimes the assignments just don't make sense...

by Penny Paper on 01/16/13

It does happen--more often than you would think!  Many of the papers that get assigned have strange procedures and weird deadlines.  For example, many writing projects require that the ABSTRACT or the INTRODUCTION should be turned in as the first part of a longer research project.  Here's the problem--how can you write a summary/abstract or introduce material that has not yet been thoroughly read and researched?  Really, it would make better sense (from a writer's point of view) to do an annotated bibliography or at least a literature review as the first assignment. 

This does not always happen.  Why not?  Well, that's usually because the instructor is not used to teaching writing and probably does not write very much.  They grade it according to the rubric, but they never tried actually doing one of these projects.  It's kind of like coaching football without ever having played the game!  Still, that makes the whole project a LOT harder on the students, and sometimes it causes so much frustration that people give up & fail the class even if their test scores and homework assignments are decent

After all, upside-down writing assignments make you feel just that way--upside down, disoriented, and out-of-sync.  It is also why what looks like a "little assignment" for the first or second week suddenly spirals violently out of control and leaves students wondering how they can possibly survive the class.

So you thought it would be easy & you could do it in your pajamas??

by Penny Paper on 01/14/13

So you thought you could do it in your pajamas--that's what Shannen Dougherty said!  She looked happy and relaxed.  Right.  But she was an actress.

The truth is that it seems like it will be cheaper and easier to get a degree this way.  But still, after going to work and taking care of the kids, this is more reading, writing and homework than you thought.  They grade tougher than they said they would too! 

So now you are behind.  Well, at least you are not alone.  I talk to people in this situation every day.  Maybe knowing that will make you feel a little better about yourself and a little less guilty about what you are going through. 

Help is on the way.  You do NOT have to fail this class!