“Every castle built by human hands can be conquered by human hands” (Anonymous)

This quote is a great representation of how I see the relationship between a Professor and students in an online class. Professors do everything they can to build a course that is engaging and insightful and students do everything they can to avoid the reading material while earning the highest grade.

When I develop courses, I always refer back to my experience as a Professor. If there is something I have learned in my years of teaching is that students will take full advantage of any oversight in the course design process and exploit it for their benefits. Vague assignments descriptions, general lesson objectives, lack of direction or due dates all lead to minimal work.

The most time-consuming thing for me as an online Professor is dealing with students who do everything they can to cut corners and cheat the system. What I mean by cheating the system is some students want to get a full return on a very small investment. I believe the course design carries a lot of the responsibility to make sure students stay focused and engaged. I also believe in the course design process we have to be creative and diversify our study assignments and assessments in order to capture different learning styles and not put students in a position to resort to other means of passing the course.

In my courses, I go out of my way to make sure students can’t avoid the reading material and they know what they have to do with what they read. I sometimes insert various keywords in the course textbooks and create quizzes asking for those keywords, in that way students are forced to read the course material.

Cutting corners when studying online is like cheating on weight watchers, you lose but not weight. If a book or an article was put in the course, it is there for a reason, read it. I can not tell you how many times I caught students participating in the discussion forums or writing assignments without ever reading the material. In one of my online classes, students were required to read “The World is Flat” by Thomas Friedman. It is a book on globalization and its effects on leveling the marketplace. One of my students wrote a three-page paper trying to refute the fact that the world is flat. It was painful for me to read page after page of the fact that the world is not flat. At least you would have thought the student knew not to judge a book by the cover (or the title). Maybe Wikipedia could have saved the day, read a little bit about the book, that’s still something.

In another instance, one student emailed me to complain about the fact that they got a lower grade than they expected on a particular assignment. I explained the assignment asked for five pages and they provided me with three pages. The student responded and I quote “I wrote three pages, which is almost four, which I considered five”. To this day I am disappointed my response was not “I gave you three points, which is almost four which I consider five”.

Who are you really cheating when you cut corners, when you don’t read the content, you plagiarize or when you actually cheat on an exam? In an online class, you cheat yourself. If you ever find yourself thinking you should cut corners or cheat, drop the course and do something you are really interested and passionate about. Don’t waste your time, your diploma or certificate are not merely as important as your character and skills.

Alin Vrancila, PhD Candidate

Professors Intercultural Studies | Moody Distance Learning

Educational Researchers at ReadyForOnline

You can contact Alin by email: research@readyforonline.com