The winter session at Queens College begins in a few days, on January 2, and, today, I emailed the enrolled students about my online courses: Media Technologies and Contemporary Media. My welcome message lays out the schedule for the three-week term. My courses consist of twelve modules, just like the ones we cover in the in-person classes offered during the traditional fall and spring terms.
Within a few hours, I received messages from two students asking if they can finish all the course material early. Coincidentally, both students said they would be out of the country for about 10 days, starting on the 2nd, and that they would not have Internet access while abroad. One student suggested that they planned on finishing the work before they left on the 2nd. In other words, they wanted to complete all the work within a few days—something that takes over over two weeks on our accelerated winter schedule and that takes about two months in the fall and spring terms.
To be clear, going away is not the issue. I am running the course from California, which is quite manageable, because I have reliable Internet access and my mobile plan allows for tethering. But every year, my dad wants to visit Guatemala and I always have to rebuff him because I am not sure if I can reliably tend to the courses while out the country.
Why did these students enroll in a twenty-two day course and plan on missing about half of it?
This past semester, I found six cases of suspected plagiarism. Right now, I am in a distrustful spirit, and I have to wonder: were these students planning to cheat? Did they get the work from another student and just planned to dump that work as soon as they could?
I suggested to both students that they drop the course before it starts and take it when they actually have a chance of doing the work in a meaningful way.