This has been a long day with many “welcome to the class” emails sent to new enrollees for my online class. I guess that means my welcome email works–I want students who think the class will be self-paced with no due dates or the ones who say “I’m not good with computers” to drop the first week and make room for others. Of course, my real hope is that they will change their expectations and meet the deadlines and do the work, just like in a face-to-face writing class, but sending that email a week before class starts and again the first day to those who have not yet enrolled in the class site, that is my way of playing fair. Telephoning the ones who are silent and absent after that email has been sent twice and after class update emails begin is my last resort way of playing fair. So, today then, was my day to be hung up on.
I wish things were different. I wish I didn’t feel that I failed to be a good consumer service provider, a role I don’t aspire to, but one that TV commercials for other “schools” promote, with online courses sounding so different from what they really are: courses that take more time, more work, and a lot more communication between student and instructor in order to get things done. Silence and absence are the enemies of effective online courses.
Since online late registration ends soon (tonight, I think), the roster may actually be set except for any more drops or written requests to add. All but one of the “missing persons” dropped, which is fine; it doesn’t take long to get behind in a writing class if one never attends. However, one person adding the class this afternoon, now the end of week one, dropped after the welcome email, and I question if I misstepped when I wanted him to go to the course site to see it all. It seemed so reasonable a thing to ask from my viewpoint. All the other newly enrolled students were on the site and participating, so why not him? I sent him the welcome email, and an hour later he emailed asking for the syllabus. I thought he hadn’t seen my email yet, and directed him to it and also gave him the URL for the site again, noting that it was where all the materials were. He emailed back that yes, he “saw” my email, but needed the syllabus so that he could decide whether to take the class now or next semester. I responded that the syllabus and all course materials were on the site, ready to be seen. Should I have attached a copy of the syllabus? it was late then, after 8:00 PM, and I had been teaching, in committee work, and writing/responding to students since 7:00 AM. It seemed to me as if he had some responsibility in this too, the responsibility to enter the room, so to speak, and not hover outside the door waiting for me to hand him a syllabus in the hall in case the class didn’t meet his standards. He dropped an hour or so later, not saying another word and never even looking at the course, even the syllabus.
So now I carefully reread my welcome email looking for hidden snark or meanness, but no. It really does have the tone I want–a teacher who is excited about the class, but also one with clear expectations that are reasonable, i.e., asking for writing in a writing class, set due dates, a discussion board for the readings, having readings for that matter, peer workshop, and being responsible for your own computer access (while noting where the 24/7 labs are). I’ve used this email for several years now. Something has changed. Perhaps things will look better in the morning after a full night’s sleep. Yes, there is always tomorrow, the tomorrow when I will be writing careful feedback for the first stack of drafts, more to come (virtually) on Wednesday.