Opinion Web Exclusive

Professors strive to keep student grade turnover up to date

Francis Emelogu//The Cougar

Today’s world builds everything to be convenient and efficient. That which isn’t is brushed away, labeled obsolete and replaced by something that can do the job better and faster. As this is the case, there is no reason why the college grading system shouldn’t follow suit.

This is 2014, a year familiar with 3D movies, communities of social media and tiny pocket computers known as cell phones. Technology, the boom of this generation, is evolving exponentially faster every day and it all sits at our fingertips.

Meanwhile, there are college students sitting at desks awaiting the return of last week’s essay assignment. They are lingering outside their professors’ offices to retrieve their standing. Pre-pharmacy sophomore Lauren Remo said she feels like professors can sense the students’ impatience.

“I think (professors) get bothered a lot about wanting to get grades back immediately,” Remo said.

This is true, as many students develop great anticipation for their scores; receiving said scores can take anywhere from a couple of days to a few weeks. However, there is no reason why these grades should not be accessible online, if only to speed up the process by a few days.

Work such as Q&A assignments can be passed out and returned via email. Projects can be sent through attachments of PowerPoints or movie-media programs. Rubrics for oral or performance presentations can be filled out or scanned onto the computer.

Some professors may argue that certain assignments, such as essay papers, must be handed back so that the student can see the corrections to be made. While it may be important that the student see their errors, there are modern ways of going about this.

First of all, there are editing options in tools like Microsoft Word and Google Docs that could be used for turned-in and returned essays. These options are more timely and more environmentally “green” — a word proudly attributed to the UH campus.

For the most part, UH professors are keeping up with the times by using Blackboard Learn and PowerPoint presentations. However, there are some professors who have yet to take the leap, or were hesitant to move from penmanship to keyboard.

Clinical associate professor Teresa Edgar, who is experienced in online teaching, explains her initial hesitation of grading papers online.

“At first, I had a hard time moving from grading with a paper in hand versus grading on the computer,” Edgar said. “It took me awhile to make the transition, but once I did I found it easier to give feedback on the assignment and then email the paper back to the students.”

These programs can only help, as they are less physically stressful on educators who would otherwise be forced to lug around a bag full of papers. Instead, they can easily access their students’ assignments from any computer, be it at school, a coffee house, or at home.

Samuel Brower, an assistant professor at the College of Education, notes the convenience of today’s technology in respect to his own teaching experience.

“It’s easier to immediately respond to students as I can access their emails and messages on my phone or online from around the world,” Brower said. “Currently, I have students taking my course in Spain, Taiwan, Honduras and Pakistan, and I’m able to communicate with all of them online immediately and with relative ease.”

In addition, when students can physically view their grades online, they gain a sense of control over their semester grade. This instills within them better planning objectives and, therefore, a better GPA.

It is worth applauding professors who have already taken charge in posting grades online. Some, for instance, utilize Blackboard Learn, especially for online or hybrid classes. When professors use it regularly, it is helpful for students; they are better able to plan and estimate their grades for the semester.

Human development and consumer science professor Barbara L. Stewart is one of the professors on campus who utilize this piece of technology.

“I can respond to students via technology from any location and at any time I log into the course (and) check my campus email. This is a great improvement over students trying to find faculty during office hours on campus.” Stewart said. “It’s easy to post grades online. Once work is graded, the UH Blackboard course platform provides clear means for faculty to post grades and students to see grades.”

Unfortunately, some professors tend to use it sporadically, entering only a handful of their students’ grades during the semester.

For example, a professor may enter every test score, yet neglect to enter any homework scores which may significantly alter the grade. This can become more confusing to students than if the professor hadn’t entered anything at all. Needless to say, consistency is crucial for these learning tools to be effective.

Not only does posting grades online keep students fully aware of their grades, but it opens up another line of communication between student and professor.

Large name email systems like Hotmail or Gmail often result in forgotten messages in the inbox, and some professors will mistakenly fail to notice a student trying to contact them. Those professors who do receive the email may then have to search for separate documents to find answers to their students’ questions about grades or rubrics.

However, by using online grading programs — most of which have built-in messaging systems — professors can simply click a few tabs to retrieve the necessary information for the student.

The times have changed, and with it, so must everything else. Luckily for UH and its professors, this is a change that is easy and beneficial to everyone.

Correction: The original article said “Samuel Bower” instead of appropriately saying “Samuel Brower.”

Opinion columnist Michelle Odgers is a creative writing junior and may be reached at [email protected].

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