I’m making my final edits for the online Writing II syllabus and just added more to the “responsibilities” section. This section is a shorter version of an email I send to all online student a week or so before the class begins. The syllabus section used to end with this (hat tip to Steven Krause who supplied the boilerplate and the “responsibilities” idea a few years back in his post, Teaching online and how I warn students.):
Telling me that you were unable to complete an assignment because of some technical problem (e.g., “My computer crashed” or “I don’t have very good access to the Internet” or “My roommate/ boyfriend/ girlfriend moved out and took the computer”) simply is not acceptable and it will under NO CIRCUMSTANCES be tolerated as an excuse for late work or incomplete assignments.
This new paragraph is added:
The same principle applies to having/not having software. Just like having required textbooks, courses can and do have required software. I go out of my way to keep you aware of options that are low-cost or free. This section of 210 in particular only requires you to pay for one book, and that one is extremely low cost by textbook standards. Consider any software costs the same as buying books—a normal and natural cost when taking a university-level course.
This is not the first time I’ve written about this, and it probably won’t be the last. Earlier this summer I wrote about accessibility issues for software and why first-generation college students almost never have Apple computers. Resources needed to teach 21st century literacies mean that when we say class resources, we really mean resources, not just a code word for books. Books are expected. Students may kvetch about cost, and I get that. As a English/Creative Writing Option B.A. student in the late 1990s, I had one semester when I spent over $800 dollars on books, and the other semesters were not far from that. I kept those books, too. Scaled for inflation, the cost was mind-boggling, but they were resources that proved their value over the years. Software may not be literature, but like buying brushes, paint, and high-grade paper for an art class, software gives students the wherewithal to do the work they need to do.