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Only One?

There’s a student in one of my classes who got herself an unofficial final grade of 115.7% in one of the classes she took with me. The deal is that there’s a class blog, and students who post constantly during semester can do so at an unlimited amount, provided it’s quality stuff. They get one point per post, and one point per comment on others’ posts, or in response to comments made on their own posts.

This one student posted fifteen times during the semester — a little more than once a week — and she left nearly thirty comments on others’ posts… and not, you know, like, yesterday night. She already had a good mark before all those bonus marks from the blog — and some bonus marks she scored on the midterm exam — kicked in. The result was a final score well over 100%. Sure, she’ll only get an A+ — in the university’s computer system, it’s indistinguishable from the grade gotten by the guy who got a 98.9% and didn’t quite knock himself out to the degree she did, though he did work hard.

But then, a student who applies herself in that way knows that one is in school to get more out of classes than mere grades. She understands that the reason my letter of recommendation for her this semester was so very positive had a lot to do with how hard she had applied herself. Indeed, she knows that unless she applies herself much harder than any of her classmates routinely do, she won’t make it in the exchange program she’s entering in England next semester. (I think she’s going to do just fine, myself; she’s proven to me she can work hard, and work smart, and has interesting things to say.)

Now, the amazing thing is not that a final (unofficial) score of 115.7% is possible in one of my courses: it’s really possiblein a number of my courses. The amazing thing is that, despite it being quite achievable, only a few people ever actually get there. The openness of the blog component is not such that, say, someone could just blog constantly and skip all other coursework, mind you, but as long as one has attempted everything else, one can use the blog to bring one’s grade up at least as much as a single letter-grade.That would take as little as ten extra posts during a semester, or thirty comments on others’ posts. That little. But instead, there are a surprising number of students who either didn’t even register for the blog, oronly posted once or twice– despite my warnings in the early weeks of semester, and very occasional reminders along the way — and as a result are failing the course or threw away a whole potential letter-grade from their mark. (ie. are getting Ds when they could have had Cs, or are getting Cs when, had they blogged, they would have had Bs.

This reminds me of the difference between people who say that they want to do XYZ (write a novel, make a film, lose weight) and the people who really want to to XYZ is one simply thing: action, and a strong enough desire to drive into action.

Anyway, I’m still in the thick of grading until sometime tomorrow. I forgot to look under my office door today — I’m grading at home — and there’s always some stuff tucked under there by people who didn’t catch me saying, for the Nth time, “DON’T PUT ANYTHING UNDER MY OFFICE DOOR! PUT IT IN MY MAILBOX IN THE DEPARTMENT OFFICE!” Lime’s kindly pitched in and loaned me her eyes and ears and hands for a few hours today, and will again tomorrow. There’s just so much paper to deal with.

Next semester, I swear, I’m going to automate peer evaluations, come hell or high water. Even if “automate” just means forcing students or the department secretary to tabulate stuff for me. I’m hoping to get an online peer-evaluation system running, though, because next semester will involve a lot of creative teamwork and I want to be able to ding the slackers based on their groupmates’ negative feedback.

Anyway, midnight tomorrow is my grade-entry deadline, and I suppose soon after that someone’s going to start asking me for next semesters’ syllabi. But I can’t complain: the end of all that is in sight, and I’ll be back to write-a-thonning, textbook writing, and exercising.

But for now? I need sleep… tomorrow’s a long last day of gradesheet adjusting, I expect.

(UPDATE:  Now that I’ve finished, I can say with authority: I was wrong. It wasn’t just one student, it was two. Meanwhile, a whole class, despite occasional reminders and a stern discussion of responsibility and autonomy at the beginning of the semester, shot themselves in the foot by ardently not blogging when they were supposed to be. The expected number was about 13-14 posts for the semester: the highest number of posts was, in fact, 8, plus 6 comments on others’ posts. How… apathetic. And I’m sure it’ll do my reputation no end of good to point out that almost everyone could have gotten an A or A+ just by posting weekly practice essays once or twice a week all semester…)

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