Dumbing down education

I am taking online college courses through a well respected university. They are pretty interesting. The format is more like guided study than distance education because while there is no lecture, there are still weekly assignments, periodic quizzes, research papers, and a final exam. You log-on to a system called Blackboard. Here you can view the assignments each week, turn in completed items, and take quizzes.

Part of the weekly assignments is a discussion board posting. You are supposed to post an original though about an assigned topic by Thursday midnight. Then you have  until midnight on Sunday to post responses to two other students’ posts. It is expected to use proper grammar and spelling in your posts. Some classes have additional requirements such as APA formatting if research is done for the post. The discussion board is graded depending upon how well you follow the requirements. They are usually worth a quarter to a third of the weekly grade, so while not hard, they are important. Keep in mind, these are college courses so this shouldn’t be very hard for students to follow these basic requirements.

However, I’m finding the opposite to be true. We are now halfway through the term. Students are still doing late postings. For the course with APA requirements (in text citations and a list of references), several students still aren’t doing that even though the instructor gave examples of how she expected them to be formatted for the first 3 weeks.  Some students aren’t even giving a list of references, much less trying to do it in APA format.

Improper grammar is also fairly common in discussion board postings. I’m not meaning picky things either like the correct use of “it’s” and “its”. I mean basic things like complete sentences. Believe it or not, some don’t even use complete sentences. They just use phrases to answer the assigned questions. Others use “texting” phrases and spelling such as just a “u” instead of spelling out “you”.

It’s not just the students either. One of my instructors recently wrote “gonna” instead of “going to” in responding to a student post. How can they grade students down for improper grammar when they don’t even use it themselves?

This is frustrating for students like myself who try to follow the requirements. Late posts are difficult to respond to because they don’t give other students time to ponder them, especially if they are posted days late. To me, texting spelling and grammar is difficult to understand. If I can’t understand your post, how can I respond? Your inability to follow basic requirements negatively impacts the quality of my education.

Not using proper formatting is lazy. It doesn’t take that much extra time to do it right so you get full credit. Do they not understand this or just not care? I would assume many regular universities have similar problems. Why waste your money on college courses if you aren’t willing to do the work for a good grade?

If they  are taking shortcuts in classes, how successful will they be in real life when we need to apply what we learn? I would not place much value on a professional letter of recommendation or an applicant’s letter of intent if it is loaded with texting jargon and incomplete sentences yet they have a college degree.

Our use of texting and IM is having an undesired effect on students. Work is lazy. I’m sure there were lazy students before, but this is making it worse. IM and texting is great for informal conversations, but has no place in college assignments.


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