Discussion Boards, Group Projects and the Core (Hard or Not)

Published March 13, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

As I warned yesterday, I will be bitching about class today.  But not just about class, but about also the week leading up to it.

So, this is a class on oral history, yes?  Not just studying it (which is what I had thought I was signing up for) but also practicing it.  I should have dropped it as soon as I found out that it wasn’t what I signed on for.  I may still drop it, even though it’s the only class I’m taking this semester, and the drop date has passed, so I’ll have an “EX” on my transcript forever if I drop it.  We’ll have to see what happens, but that’s where I am right now, in my head-space.

Getting back to the class, we have various assignments each week, as you’d expect, but we don’t get much spelled out about them until the week before they’re due.  (With a few rare exceptions.)  So the assignment that was due yesterday was that the class was divided into two groups–undergraduates and graduates–and each group was to compile a list of 40 questions for an oral interview, and that these questions would be put into practice on a test subject in class.  A discussion board was set up for the purpose of this assignment.

Because I really didn’t want to do it, and last weekend was the worst I have had in many years, I put off going to that discussion board until Sunday night.

It was still a blank, virginal slate.

So I started a thread about the assignment, saying that we should talk about what theme we wanted to center our questions around.

When I went back Monday night, the only response was from the professor, who said that determining those themes was part of the assignment.  As if I had been asking him, rather than trying to start a discussion with my fellow students.

Since no one had said anything, I posted again with about a dozen questions, mostly basic, introductory stuff.  Because by Monday night, for a paper due on Thursday, I would usually want to have the rough draft done (though obviously that isn’t always achieved) and so having nothing at all of the question list by Monday night was burning me up.

Over the next two days, two of the other students pitched in.  One of them contributed about the same number of questions that I had–though fewer introductory questions and more on thematic issues–and the other had written a list of 45 questions, which she posted in its entirety.  Which would have been fantastic, except she seemed to have misunderstood the assignment a bit, and had written a set of questions that would have been appropriate for interviewing the men whose interviews we had transcribed earlier in class, men who had been WWII veterans.  It was a fine list, but there’s no point in asking a 50 year old woman if she served in WWII, you know, so most of the list was useless, and most of the basic information questions covered the same information that the other student and I had put up.  Still, at least she had put time and effort into it.  She didn’t have time to contribute to the discussion, as such, but she wasn’t blowing off the assignment, so I don’t have any problem with that.

What I do have a problem with is the other two graduate students.  One posted late on Wednesday night, posting about six or seven questions, most of them fairly basic and many already covered, and the other posted at 4 a.m. on Thursday morning–barely more than 12 hours before the final list was due!–and posted even fewer questions, having clearly not read any of the questions that had already been posted, because there was no truly new material in it.

That, of course, was when I realized that if I didn’t do the assignment, it might not get done.  There were only two of us properly taking part in the discussion, and the other one had said in his latest post that he was working almost all day on Thursday, so I could see that he wasn’t going to have time to compile a full list out of the half dozen threads with the questions scattered through them.

So I had to do it.

It took me almost an hour.

And the results were, of course, pathetic.  The questions were simple and shallow, because there had been no discussion of what information we were looking for, and there were only two people actively contributing questions.

The worst part about all of this is that one of the things the professor said about the lists was that he was disappointed at how little they tried to delve for deeper information on important topics.

How in the bloody, pluperfect, *&%$ed-up HELL were we supposed to do that!?  NO ONE was willing to make any kind of stance, we were given literally ZERO  guidance, and in our case there were only TWO PEOPLE trying to do a job assigned to FIVE!


All right, I’m better now.

But I am still seriously pissed off.

I’m pissed at the two students who completely blew off the assignment–especially since the professor’s posts made it very clear that all of our grades were going to depend on the whole group taking part, as if I had any way to get the other two involved when I didn’t even know they were graduate students!–and I’m pissed at the professor for designing this so poorly, and I’m pissed at the entire class for turning our in-class deliberations about the final  list into one big argument in which absolutely nothing was decided.

But perhaps I’m most pissed that I didn’t just drop the class after the first day.

I should have been able to switch into another class.  Missing the first day isn’t that big a deal, even in graduate-level classes.

Worst of all, though, is the next assignment.

Because the next assignment is to conduct the interview.

We’ve all been given the phone numbers and e-mail addresses of someone we’re supposed to interview.  We have two weeks to interview them and transcribe the interviews.

This is why I should have dropped the class from the word “go.”

Because I’m not good at talking to others.  Especially not strangers, but even with people I know, I’m not good at it.

And now I have to e-mail–or, even worse, call!–a total stranger, set up a meeting time, and then interview her?

This will not end well.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  It’s not like this woman doesn’t know.  All the interviewees were contacted by the professor or some of his acquaintances, and they all agreed to do it.  So it’s not like I’m calling a total stranger and having to explain why I’m calling her and asking to interview her.   So it could be worse…but the second interview is going to be like that.  We have to provide our own interviewees for the second interview.

That’s why I want to drop the course now.

But I’m going to try.  I’ll e-mail her tomorrow and hope it’s a working e-mail address so I won’t have to call her.  I’ll try to conduct the interview.

But if it goes as badly as I think it’s going to, then I’m dropping the course, and I don’t care how bad that “EX” is going to look on my transcript!  It’d have to look better than an F, and I think that’s what I’d get if I kept going.

Especially since the second interview is again part of a group project, and we’d have to use that damned discussion board again to determine what the project was.

I shudder at the thought.

There should have been a warning in the course catalog:  “Don’t take this course unless you’re seriously hard-core!”

I am not hard-core.  As far as this subject goes, my core is so soft as to have mostly evaporated.

I guess I’m hard-core about other things, though.  I went to a toy store on my way home tonight, in the constant rain, after dark (and I hate driving in the rain, especially after dark) because it was the first chance I had to check to see if the new Monster High doll had been released today, since it’s Friday the 13th.  (They’ve released special dolls to celebrate Friday the 13ths before.  And since this is the second Friday the 13th in a row, I thought surely they would this time, but it seems not.)  So that’s a little bit of hard-core-ishness about me, but even then, not really.  It’s not like I’m willing to shell out massive amounts of money to scalpers for dolls before they’re released, or for convention-exclusive dolls or something.

Ugh.  I need to do something fun to unwind.

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