Benefits and Pitfalls of the Internet Age

I remember when I was in college and professors would post your grades after the midterm and final (if you were lucky).  This isn’t to say we didn’t fret about our grades, we obsessed about them, but we also knew exactly how they were calculated (from the syllabus) and were expected to figure them out if we wanted an up to the minute detailed grade.  Yes, even I think that is a little extreme, but at the same time I think we have gone the other direction too far, people get obsessed now with knowing every grade at every minute, and having the “what do I need to pass” number calculated for them.

When I construct my classes I have a few choices on how to calculate and to record grades.  Obviously many of you would love me to use the JetNet system so you can just pull up everything on a moment’s notice, but that isn’t going to happen and here is why.  JetNet is feature poor, the system has very rudimentary grading system that are not that well geared towards classes that use numerous types of assessments, weight them differently, and account for drops.  I’ve extensively trained on the system, and as the platform stands now, I do not think it is that good.  Sure, if I graded you like many of my college classes were (60% for the final, 40% for the midterm) I could make it work, but I don’t think you guys would like that.

A few semesters ago I took the time to reformat my system to a total points system (not a trivial endeavor) rather than the previous weighted average system I used.  I did this to make total calculations easier for the students, you take the sum of your points divide it by the total number possible and get your percentile grade.  This also makes calculating “what do I need to get” totals easier too.  All of my grading is transparent, you get back everything I assess, and nothing is set into the JC system till the end (in fact 48 hours after I post the final grades on my own site).

The downside to all this, from your perspective, is that you have to wait for me to post the grades, and doubly so on the first one since you don’t know your student number.  I make every effort to get major assignments (exams and such) and most minor assignments back by the next time we have that type of class (lecture to lecture, lab to lab), but it is not always possible.  After you have the student number from the first exam you can freely check the website for the grades as often as you want, but I will not rush grading (free response answers are not trivial to assess) simply to meet an arbitrary deadline.  I also don’t post grade updates (with exceptions for egregious errors) except after every exam (when the numbers are most likely to significantly change).

I hope you all enjoy the first round of exams and that they are not too stressful.  Now, just go have a beverage of your choice and forget about it till next week because you won’t know anything till then.