I am a student in an online undergraduate class at a regionally accredited state-run college. This college caters specifically to adult working students and in particular military students worldwide. It is not a research college. It has a typical plagiarism policy that calls on students and faculty to monitor for these things. The class is a junior-level computer science course.

For anyone not familiar, one of the “features” of an online class is the use of online discussion forums, supposedly to recreate a “classroom discussion” environment.

This week the following sequence of events occurred, and I’m not sure how to handle this situation, or even if I should say anything at all.

  1. Student A posted a thorough response to the professor’s questions. The professor accepted the response and gave praise.

  2. Student B posted a generic-style comment (see side note below) using keyword extracts from Student A’s comment. Clearly Student B had read Student A’s work even though the comment was “fluff” and had no substance.

  3. Student B then posted their own answer to the professor’s questions. I did not see Student B’s original answers, but the professor called out Student B for submitting content that was “100% copied” (in the professor’s terms) from two web sites. The professor gave Student B a chance to repeat the assignment in their own words.

  4. Student B apologized and submitted a new answer. This second answer is almost entirely a verbatim copy of Student A’s answer! Student B merely changed a few words but the content is largely word-for-word identical. It even includes the exact same citation at the end. To make matters worse, Student B added a section “My Opinion:” before copying an entire section of Student A’s work.

  5. Today when I logged in, the professor responded to Student B that the work was much better and was now acceptable. ??

My hope is that the professor wasn’t paying very close attention and did not notice that this post was essentially identical to Student A’s post from two days ago. I also suspect that both students may have copied their work from a third source, but I have no way of proving that and I know that as a student it isn’t my place to research that. Just adding it as I think it may point to the problem being more than just the one student.

My question: Should I take any action here? If so, should I contact the professor who accepted the work? Or should I contact the administration staff?

I work tangentially in the education field so I understand how important these issues are and it really chafes to see this happen. That said, this public school is a “churn” school, getting tuition dollars from the military and businesses and providing non-research-oriented education (i.e. not vocational training but not pure-academia either) en masse.

The professor is actually one of the most engaged online instructors I’ve had. As useless as I think most online class discussions are he is at least very involved in them, answering any and all questions within a few hours even though he lives in Eastern Europe, and asks sometimes pointed follow-up questions to students. While this is certainly not up to “in-residence” standards it is far better than other online classes I’ve taken where “mentors” often all but ignore the students. So I’d hate to do something that hurt him over something that he could correct. But the fact that he accepted the work stunned me.

What is the correct course of action here?

Site note: In my experience after several years of such classes over two different public universities, online discussions are rarely effective. Schools typically mandate that students respond to X number of posts in a week, and the vast majority of student responses involve picking a few buzzwords from the reading or a previous comment and merely adding statements like “I really enjoyed that you said _____” and “I found your post very helpful.” It’s extremely frustrating to see this happen in direct violation of every class syllabus that explicitly bans it.

I’m teaching a course where coursework is submitted online.
Recently, an important group project assignment was due.
We had announced that for every day that an assignment is late,
students will lose 10% of their score for that assignment.

As you might have predicted,
there were several student groups who submitted their assignments late.
The problem is that some of these students
have sent me e-mails begging me
not to impose the penalty for late submission.
They gave reasons such as:

  • The original PDF file which we submitted was corrupted,
    so after the deadline, we had to submit the PDF again
  • There were some technical problems with the original video link,
    so we had to upload a new video and are now sending you the new link
  • The project was due at 9 PM, and we submitted it at 9 PM
    (see our screenshot!) but the system marked it as late

Initially, I told them that
they will be penalized as specified in the policy,
in order to be fair to the students who did submit their work on time.
However, the students continued to say that
I should be more considerate or fair.

In my mind, I want to say to these students,
“Stop wasting my time arguing for marks!”
But this doesn’t seem to be
the right way for me to respond to the students.
How should I respond to these students
who keep on asking me not to penalize them
when the penalty is deserved?

Background

I received an email from a student a few days ago, and I have been mulling over it over the holiday.

Without disclosing too much of it, the student (who is quite weak) compared my class to his other classes (incidentally, taught by older male colleagues), and suggested that my teaching methods are not up to par (I receive stellar evaluations each semester). In particular, he had complaints about my syllabus, where not enough emphasis was placed on homework, and told me that “no one else does it this way.” However, I had taken the syllabus from a male colleague, and when I told him this, he apologized and backed off.

On reflection, I feel that he backed off because I named a very senior male professor who had done the same thing, and to criticize me was to criticize him. It feels sexist to me (I am female).

Actual question

In the spirit of fighting sexism, I feel that I should maybe say something. But on the other hand, as a person on the higher end of the power spectrum, I feel that I would be bullying the student if I were calling him out on his sexist remarks (which he is probably not aware of).

In the grand scheme of things, this is a minor issue, but this incident made me aware that even the young people can have sexist views, and that this will probably happen again in the future. So I am not necessarily soliciting an answer specific to my situation, but in a more general setting.

If I witness a student engaging in a sexist behavior, should I call him/her out? How can I do this without making the student feel intimidated? What would be the professional way to deal with such a situation.

In testing sessions that I proctor now, there are frequently one or more students who are not actually working on the test for extended periods of time. Perhaps they are just staring into space, or out the window, for most of the period. Or they may be holding the test paper up in the air and apparently scrutinizing it for a long period of time. Or a student may lean back in their chair and go soundly to sleep (that’s happened a few times this year, which I’d not seen before).

Frequently the paper I get back is mostly blank after an hour of inactivity like this. It puts me on edge because it’s so inexplicable, and it looks like the student is likely to be cheating and/or looking to send or receive signals from another student.

What is the best way to deal with inactive students in the testing session? Is it appropriate to demand that they leave the testing area if they’re not actively working? (Students are already told in advance that they can turn in their paper and leave as soon as they’re done with it.)

I’m teaching mostly lower-level mathematics at a large urban community college in the U.S.

Added: This is in a moderate-sized course with around 25 students in the classroom, taking the exam. The students are known to me and registered for the course which I am teaching. I made the exam and distributed a practice version, with identical directions for each question, in advance of the exam.

I received an email from a student a few days ago, and I have been mulling over it over the holiday.

Without disclosing too much of it, the student (who is quite weak) compared my class to his other classes (incidentally, taught by older male colleagues), and suggested that my teaching methods are not up to par (I receive stellar evaluations each semester). In particular, he had complaints about my syllabus, where not enough emphasis was placed on homework, and told me that “no one else does it this way.” However, I had taken the syllabus from a male colleague, and when I told him this, he apologized and backed off.

On reflection, I feel that he backed off because I named a very senior male professor who had done the same thing, and to criticize me was to criticize him. It feels sexist to me (I am female).

In the spirit of fighting sexism, I feel that I should maybe say something. But on the other hand, as a person on the higher end of the power spectrum, I feel that I would be bullying the student if I were calling him out on his sexist remarks (which, he is probably not aware of).

In the grand scheme of things, this is a minor issue, but this incident made me aware that even the young people can have sexist views, and that this will probably happen again in the future. So I am not necessarily soliciting an answer specific to my situation, but in a more general setting. If you witness a student engaging in a sexist behavior, would you call him/her out? How would you do this without making the student feel intimidated?

I generally don’t have a lot of business in my dedicated office hours, but then sometimes I get a needy student who wants to use all of them — every minute, of every day, in which I hold them. It gets physically tiring for me, and emotionally draining that they apparently have no capacity or confidence to follow along in class, read the book, or make connections on their own.

Granted that we have, say, 3 hours of office time per week (required at my institution), is it acceptable to set per-student limits on usage of that time, such as: 20 minutes per student per day?

Additionally, is it advisable to be forthright and tell the student that their behavior is unusual/a bad sign/an abuse of the office hours; that is, that they should be mostly responsible for the material on their own? (Often this same type of student will praise themselves aloud for being so proactive/smart with the office hours when others aren’t using them.)

This is in the U.S., and I’m at a large urban community college. Assume that most of the time no other students are showing up to the office hour.

(This was mentioned in this question and comments therein; I’d like to see a canonical answer on just this aspect of the situation.)

I generally don’t have a lot of business in my dedicated office hours, but then sometimes I get a needy student who wants to use all of them — every minute, of every day, in which I hold them. It gets physically tiring for me, and emotionally draining that they apparently have no capacity or confidence to follow along in class, read the book, or make connections on their own.

Granted that we are required to have, say, 3 hours of office time per week, is it acceptable (or common) to set per-student limits on usage of that time, such as: 20 minutes per student per day?

Additionally, is it advisable to be forthright and tell the student that their behavior is unusual/a bad sign/an abuse of the office hours; that is, that they should be mostly responsible for the material on their own? (Often this same type of student will praise themselves aloud for being so proactive/smart with the office hours when others aren’t using them.)

This is in the U.S., and I’m at a large urban community college. Assume that most of the time no other students are showing up to the office hour.

(This was mentioned in this question and comments therein; I’d like to see a canonical answer on just this aspect of the situation.)