This past week, I received a strange piece of mail. It was a paper I wrote for one of my classes, one that I have been finished with for almost 2 months.
This is the first time that I’ve ever had anything like this occur, so I don’t want to blow this up and pretend that stuff like this happens all the time. It really doesn’t. I also don’t want to sound like I’m totally trashing this professor. He made it fairly clear (admittedly not until before the midterm) that he was not really down with delivering the class online, and much preferred lecturing. This became evident the few times I saw him in person, when he was engaging, passionate and funny – really an all-around great lecturer. The Blackboard site for the class, however, was a bit of a mess. Content was scattered, disorganized, and confusing.
I’ve come to understand that professors are busy: they’re under enormous pressure to do original research, teach classes, answer questions. It’s a 7 day a week job where they have to constantly be at the top of their game, demonstrating their expertise. With other such lofty concerns, I can imagine organizing Blackboard content and grading papers probably falls pretty low on the priority list.
I think it just may be a symptom of a systemic problem within higher learning that really has never been addressed. Andre Malan, a student at the University of British Columbia, gave this really fascinating talk about the future of education, where he discusses the paper grading problem.
His argument is that the traditional mode of doing so relies on one person – the professor, who may or may not grade papers reliably or accurately (his picture of papers thrown down a staircase, with the heaviest papers at the bottom and most deserving of an A – is freaking hilarious). He cites Jon Beasley-Murray’s Murder, Madness and Mayhem Wikipedia project as an example of a community-based grading system. In this project, the articles students wrote stayed relevant, even months after their completion. In many cases, student articles became top search hits for particular topics.
I appreciate the 100% the professor gave me on my paper. But 2 months out from finishing it, that grade just doesn’t seem relevant anymore.