"First home work shoud be performed under guidance of the instructor."
I'm just going to finally give in and do one big post bitching about my students and then I can stop subjecting all my friends to my rant and (hopefully) can blog about something else for a while. I'll start with a couple of caveates - yes, I realize that in my school there are many international and non-traditional students who may be having a totally separate set of difficulties. yes, I realize this is merely the vocal minority of students. With a class of 300+ there are going to be whiners and they do not in any way represent the whole. Nevertheless, they are wearing down my soul.
Example #1 - the above quote, taken directly from a student's response to the optional questions on their homework assignment (approximately how many hours did this assignment take to complete and did the lab adequately prepare you to complete the assignment?) I'm sorry, you want your teacher to hold your hand and walk you through the homework assignment? Just exactly how old are you? (keep in mind these are graduate students)
Example #2 - several complaints about not knowing a program had already been written to complete their homework; for this first time around literally all they had to do was run the program and interpret the output. I'm sorry, you missed the two different places on the class website where you could download the program and the line in the homework instructions that said, the program to complete this assignment is located on the R drive... AND the numerous e-mails and bulletin board postings regarding the program?
Example #3 - I had to read ahead in the lab notebook to complete the extra credit problem, no fair! Well, no shit sherlock. That would be why the instructions to the extra credit problem said, we encourage you to read the next section in the lab notebook prior to attending next week's lab. On pages whatever to whatever we discuss the data step, do this simple example to gain some extra credit points and verify that you did the reading!
Example #4 - you said to enter percentages as a number between 0 and 100, I thought that meant to round to a whole number! Well, no, decimals are still numbers, and although whole numbers are also numbers, 'number' does not necessarily imply whole number.
Example #5 - what are the rules for rounding? Wha?!
Example #6 - There are too many documents posted on the class website, it was too hard to find the rights ones. Note - the website is organized thusly: under a tab called "Assignments" there are documents called "HW 1," "HW 1 - word doc," "HW1 program," "HW 2," and "HW 2 - word doc." Yes, of course, I see why that was so incredibly difficult to figure out. I'll post the rosetta stone for my crazy organizational system next time.
Bah. I don't want to be mean and bitter. I just feel two strong themes emerging - 1) oh my gosh, math and computers are so hard and so scary I am destined to fail! AAAAAAA!!!! immediate panic. Well, that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. I'm sorry that math is so incredibly poorly taught around the country, I'm sorry if you have some traumatic math experience in your past. But you are a graduate student now, and try, just for 30 seconds, to leave your mind open to the possibility that not only can you do this, but you will be provided with the tools necessary to succeed in this class. and 2) oh my gosh, this is a math class and it's going to be impossible and all the profs and TAs are going to be mean and out to get me, so I'm justified in whining and expecting a level of hand-holding that I would never ask for in any other class.
Lastly, many of their complaints are justified. They are being asked to use a pretty crappy online system to enter their homework answers, they are being asked to enter those answers in a pretty anal-retentive way, and they are going to get answers wrong if they don't follow those anal-retentive instructions. They're right. That's frustrating and time consuming. But a) I don't see a better solution available for grading 300+ weekly assignments, b) shouldn't graduate students be able to follow directions, even annoying, anal-retentive ones? and c) when they do inevitably miss a question because they enter 3.4 instead of 3.41, can't they get over it, since in the grand scheme of things that one missed question accounts for 2 out of a total of 1,000 points?