Your final grade for Geog 307 will consist of the following
Research essays: 40 percent
Assignments: 35 percent
Contribution: 25 percent
Assignments make up a very important part of most online courses, and Geog 307 is no exception. Class only meets once a week, which means that we have about half of the time in classes that a regular classroom course does, and we will cover half the material. You will do the rest outside of class, and the assignments are designed to help you with this.
All assignments will be posted on Canvas, and you should also submit them via Canvas. Some will involve multiple choice questions, others may include short written answers.
Please make absolutely certain that your Canvas notifications are set up so that you get a message immediately letting you know that an assignment has been posted. I may not announce or mention assignments in class, and so Canvas will be the only way to find out about them.
You will always have at least 72 hours to complete assignments, and so I will enforce deadlines very strictly and will not accept any late submissions except in cases of very dire personal or family emergency.
2. Contribution to class discussions
There is no participation grade in this course, and you will get no credit at all simply for showing up to class or even for talking in class or posting on the blogs. There is, however, a grade based on your contribution to the substance of class discussions. The more other members of the class can learn from your contributions, the more valuable they are.
At the end of the course, I will assess your grade based on your contribution to class discussions (in our class meetings, on this site, and on relevant Regional GeogBlog posts.) This is not a participation grade, nor is it a grade that reflects what I think you have learned, or the extent to which you have mastered the subject matter of the course. It is an assessment of the value of your contribution to the discussion of the class as a whole. If your contribution doesn’t help inform and engage others, then it is worth very little.
The criteria I will use in assessing your grade include the following:
- Engagement. Do you engage with the the ideas in the readings, the discussion, and the comments of other students in the course, or are you comments unrelated to them? Do your comments advance the discussion as a whole? Taken together, comments should make up a conversation not simply a list of individual and separate points or questions.
- Originality of your comments. If someone has already made a point in a conversation, there is no point in simply repeating it.
- Quality of your contribution. Does your contribution build on the ideas in the readings, videos, and/or class discussion? Do your ideas draw on discussions on other topics earlier in the course? Do they reflect an understanding of geographic concepts, terms, and principles? Do you draw on sources of ideas and information other than those on the required readings list in your comments? Posting a comment like ‘I thought this article was very interesting’ contributes nothing to the conversation unless you explain what was interesting about it, and why. Commenting that ’I was really surprised at what I saw in this video’ is equally meaningless unless you explain what was surprising about it, and why. In short, contributions should be about the subject matter, not primarily about you.
- Consistency of your participation. Not participating in discussions for most of the semester and then suddenly dashing off a dozen posts in the last week or two does not contribute nearly as much to our discussions as posts written while we were covering topics in class, and posted in time for other class members to respond to them.
- Number of comments. The number of times you contribute to our discussions is obviously significant, but only if your comments actually contribute to the discussion. If you don’t have any new ideas or thoughts to contribute, there isn’t any point in posting anything.
Please bear in mind that if you have not contributed to our class discussions or the blogs, you will obviously have a contribution grade of zero. Not a D, but zero. Remember also that you cannot contribute meaningfully to discussions if you have not done the readings or been engaged in in-class discussions. Finally, don’t lose sight of the simple arithmetic fact that if you do not contribute to discussions, you cannot possibly earn anything higher than a C in the course even if you score 100 percent on every assignment and on the essays.
3. Considerations that have no impact whatsoever on your grade
A grade in Geog 307 is a reflection of the caliber of your work in this course, and nothing else. This means I will never take any of the following into account when assessing or determining any student’s grade.
i) How much you need a particular grade. It would be both unethical and unfair for me to take into consideration the fact that a student really needs to pass this course or that a D would delay the student’s graduation. A grade in any course is a reflection of a student’s performance in that course, and nothing else.
ii) Effort. Grades are based on results, not effort. This is how you will be judged in the workplace, and it is how you will be judged in this course. (If your surgeon bungled an operation on you, would you be content knowing that she tried hard? Would you happily pay an automobile mechanic who did not fix your car just because he put a lot of effort into it?)
iii) “I didn’t know.” I will assume that you are familiar with all of the information posted on Canvas and the course website, that you keep track of deadlines, and that you follow course rules and guidelines. If you do not read posted information and your grade suffers as a result, the fault is yours and yours alone.
iv) “I couldn’t find information on the course websites; the websites were confusing.” If you cannot find information that need or are looking for, ask. That’s what the discussion forums on Canvas are for. If you don’t receive a response there, then send an e-mail to me directly. And if you have suggestions about improvements to any online materials that would make them easier to follow, please let me know; I want them to be as clear, useful, and interesting as possible.
v) “I would have commented on the blogs but everything I wanted to say had already been said.” All discussions in this course (and most in the real world) are open-ended, and it is very unlikely indeed that all possible ideas are ever exhausted. If you have done the required readings, paid attention in class, and thought about the comments of other students, you should certainly be able to think of something worthwhile to add to any conversation. If you really find yourself bereft of ideas on one topic, then comment on others. You certainly don’t need to post a comment on every reading or every blog, or respond to every point made in class.
vi) “I learned a lot, even though my assignments and/or class contribution may not have reflected this.” There is obviously no way that any instructor can fairly assess a claim like this and do so equally and fairly for all students in a class.
vii) “I had technical problems which prevented me from accessing assignments and/or blog posts and/or class meetings.” Overcoming technical problems in this course is your responsibility, but help is available. You can post a question on the Technical Problems discussion forum on the course Canvas site (the chances are that other members of the class have had similar problems and they may be able to help you.) The UMW Help Desk is also available to offer technical advice and support, and your instructor (although not a technical expert) is also available to help you if he can. If a debilitating technical problem affects the whole class, nobody will be penalized as a consequence. But if it affects only you, dealing with it is your responsibility.
viii) “I am not comfortable speaking in class or posting on a blog.” If you sign up for any course, you need to abide by the rules of that course and meet its requirements. If you cannot do so, you should probably reconsider taking the course. Obviously if you have a documented disability that prevents you from meeting the requirements in any UMW course, you should bring this to the attention of your instructor and the Office of Disability Resources, and they will make every possible effort to help and accommodate you.
Donald N. Rallis