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Teaching ASL: "Responding to requests for leniency"

A student taking ASL 2 at a state university in California [2011] writes:

Dear Dr. Bill,
I Have been yelling at my computer for an hour and a half. I was doing the homework for your class, when my computer decided to "update." I am now unable to get into the college's computer system to complete the homework and submit my answers. I keep getting this "Internet explorer has detected a problem with the web page" blah blah blah, I have even tried to put the computer on safe mode hoping that will fix things, it didn't. Is there any way I could get a twenty minute extension tomorrow during class to finish submitting my answers. If not I understand, I should not have procrastinated and waited until 10:00 to finish my homework... Anyhoo... see you in class tomorrow!
- "Mary Smith"

Dear Mary,
Hello :)
Yup, you are right. You should not have waited until the last moment to do the assignment.
If I were to extend the deadline imagine the damage I'd be doing to your subconscious mind.
I'd be setting you up for a lifetime of procrastination and begging for extensions.
Wouldn't want that now would we?
Best for you to take advantage of this opportunity by yelling not at your computer but rather at your subconscious mind to get busy and finish future projects ahead of time.
But thank you for sharing with me your absolutely classic student procrastination email. I think I'll change the name to protect the innocent (?) and post this one somewhere.
- Dr. Bill


[Note to readers this next email exchange took place back in 2003! Sort of fun/interesting to see how things evolve. - Dr. Bill]

In a message dated 5/13/2003 6:54:25 AM Central Daylight Time, A student writes:

<<Dear Dr. Bill,
I just wanted to remind you that I do not yet have the book. I am waiting for it to be sent to me (I have ordered it). Please let me know what will happen if I can't get the work done by May 19th.

I am also a bit concerned about getting the rest of the work done. I will be moving in June, and my house is already being packed up, little by little. I am not sure how much longer I will have access to the internet at home, and do not have access at work (I'm an itinerant, so I'm on the road most of the day). Should I drop the class, or will you be able to give me more time if I need it? Please just let me know, so that I can make appropriate plans.
Thank you!!
- "Melissa"

Dear "Melissa,"
Think of this class as a Monday / Wednesday / Friday class meeting two hours each period. Even though it is "online and self study" it is a full 3-credit hour course that you are taking as part of a condensed summer session.
You mentioned having limited access to the Internet. For this course, you only need about an hour of Internet time--and that is only to submit your quizzes. Reading these emails is a good idea but generally necessary only for those who have questions about the material they are studying or are seeking some clarification or accommodation as you are.
I "may" set up an Internet version of the midterm and final, but regardless you may still do the midterm and final like the students did last semester: as a paper based test under the surveillance of a proctor.
My suggestions:

#1. Download the quizzes and print them off. Then staple them together fold them once and stuff 'em in your book. When you are going around doing your itinerant teaching duties, take the book with you and work on the quizzes.
Here is the link to download the quizzes: (private link)

#2. Then, every time you are around an Internet connection, log on and go to [private link]  to take a quiz or two.

#3. As you read the text, make notes in the margins regarding what type of research paper you want to do. Then work on it a little bit every week.

#4. Do so well (90% or better) on the quizzes, midterm, and final that you don't even need to write a research paper to get an "A."

Note: Regarding the quizzes: I'm suggesting you take the quizzes closed book, but I'm not going to be anal-retentive about it. If you take the readings quizzes open-book that is okay, but know that the midterm and final will be closed-book, closed-notes, and proctored so if you have been taking the quizzes without really sinking the information into your memory banks--it may come back to bite you on the closed-book midterm and final.

You indicate that you have ordered the book. You didn't indicate when you ordered the book. That is a slight issue. An "A" level student would have ordered the book back when I first suggested it (Subj: ASL Linguistics Re: List of Brownsville Students for ASL V Date: 4/3/2003) That was a month and 10 days ago. So, if you ordered your book by, say, April 17 (within two weeks of my suggesting it), and it still hasn't arrived, then I can see a cause for additional leniency regarding deadlines. On the other hand, if you delayed ordering the book and recently scrambled to order it, then I think we ought to stick with the policy as outlined in the syllabus: (Late submission policy:  Points will be deducted for tests and assignments turned in late.   Assignments turned in (emailed) after 12 midnight of the day they are due will receive 50% credit. Assignments that are substantially late will not receive credit.).

If I were a student who had delayed ordering a book that was necessary for a course for which I wanted credit, I'd consider borrowing a book from another student. I'll post a list of all the student's addresses at the bottom of this email so you can pursue that option if you'd like.

Your other option, of course, is to indeed drop the course. It doesn't affect me as your instructor either way because as of this writing, I'm not being paid to teach you guys. The person "over the course" basically asked me to do it as a favor and I said "sure." I share that with you so you will understand that my next bit of advice is not self-serving but a genuine effort to give you good advice:

You are busy now. But chances are you have been busy in the past and will be in the future. We are all busy. The department is offering you this chance to take the course via distance education. I designed this course I and own the online aspects of the course: the quizzes, tests, syllabus, wording of the proctor information, wording of the research paper instructions, and various Internet HTML pages and JavaScripts. This is likely my last semester here since I've completed my coursework. I don't know if the department will ask me to teach this course in the future or not. (But I'm sure it will be offered in some form by a competent instructor.)

Linguistics is a tough course. Some people would probably succeed much better in a brick and mortar classroom environment. Other people, (busy people), may do much better in a distance education / independent study environment. You have to ask yourself whether you want to take this opportunity to hunker down and get it done, or give up and hope to try again at some later date and in a fashion that may be even less conducive to your busy lifestyle, e.g., videoconference, or classroom instruction.

In any case, I wish you the best and want you to know I'll work with you in any way so long as it allows me to maintain the integrity of the course.

- Dr. Bill


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