My advice to the students in my section was to remain flexible, just like I wrote about in this very same area of Firehouse.com a short while ago. I advised my students that I would grade their work on the quality of their product, understanding that there would be some minor difficulties. I also assured them that I was pitching a bitch to the school to get their act together.
I filed complaint after complaint. I asked for someone to please call me on the phone to discuss this serious issue. Not only did they fail to have the courtesy to call me on the phone, they informed me in a most clipped and impersonal email manner that they did not do that because everyone was working at remote locations. All I craved my friends was the simple courtesy of a human voice on the other end of the phone to whom I might pitch my bitch to in most personal way.
Nah! We don't need no stinking human beings to solve your problems. We have forms, computers, and procedures. We have no need for humans to speak to other humans. Well I guess they told me, didn't they. Heck, when I initially told them that there was a problem, their response was to change the modules without even telling me. Given all of my complaining, they only changed one module out of the whole group.
Well my friends, apparently the people running that program got really upset with good, old Harry Carter the other day. My students were continually pointing problems out to me and rather than guiding discussions, I was fielding gripes, like it was my fault. I was then passing them along to the institution.
It was at this point that I had had enough. I sent yet another bitch to the institution, via yet another nameless, faceless form. I think they took umbrage with one or two of my comments. It may well have been the paragraph, which included the following words. I really do not appreciate your "dumb-ass system" where humans are forbidden to speak to other humans. I further stated that I was concerned that my reputation might be tarnished by such shenanigans.
Apparently I struck a nerve somewhere in a nameless, faceless office. The first indication I received that something was wrong came when, as I was sitting down to do some work in my course-room, I noted an email from one of my students. Since it was from one of my learners, I took the time to read the message. Here is part of that message.
What happened? We now have a new instructor? What the heck is going on here? Please give me a call. Take care, my friend..."
As you might imagine, this interrogatory had an instantaneous impact. I immediately checked into the system, and guess what my friends? No more course to teach. Wow. I guess those folks are not masters of subtlety, any more than they are masters of courtesy, civility, or human communication. I steadfastly refuse to name the players in question. However, I learned my lesson. I shall do a heck of a lot more checking before I sign on to do anything more in the on-line world.
What disturbs me most is that this interaction is so different from the excellent experiences I had at Capella University in Minneapolis. I guess I was spoiled by the manner in which they took care of business. They had a telephone system to die for. Now I know that not all institutions are alike, but my experiences with these two institutions are so divergent as to make oil and water look like close friends by comparison.
Whenever I had a problem, I dialed 1-888-CAPELLA and help was only a couple of telephone keystrokes away. Best of all, the response was made by a real, live human being. More importantly, my mentor Dr. Bill Reed was always only a phone call away. Rare was the time when my phone calls did not solve the problem. It was a really great experience. I hope Capella does not lose sight of the vision which created it.
Trust me when I tell you that I see the benefit of an on-line learning environment. Many people do not have the availability of a residential program near them. Others cannot devote the time to traveling to class, so the need for these programs is obvious. I remember the ten years I spent attending class and working full-time. It was a real tough period of my life.