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Grading Policy: Is this typical for an online class?


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My son is taking a Latin class online.   The quizzes/tests are typically graded by computer.   Some questions are multiple choice and others are fill in the blank.   My son typed the correct answer in the fill in the blank question, but he hit the space bar AFTER his word.   (FYI...the answer was an English word not even a word in Latin.)  He went back to check his work (and everything looked fine to him), but when he hit the submit button, the computer marked the question as wrong because of this space after the word.  I felt this was unfair because it was really a technical/computer problem, not a problem with why son's actual knowledge of the subject matter.   (And why does this website not filter answer and remove spaces?  I am a former computer programer and this is one of the first things we would do when making forms for customers to fill out.). 

I encouraged him to contact the teacher and let her know the computer marked the question wrong because of an invisible space, and she said, "Per her grading policy, this counts as a typo and no credit would be given for his answer."   I did a lot of searching on the syllabus, the course homepage, and the academy's website---and as far as I can tell, there is no published grading policy.  So I guess my son is expected to figure out this grading policy as he goes along through trial and error?   Maybe I am wrong, but shouldn't students be told the "rules" before they play the game?   I would be fine accepting that an invisible space would be grounds for an incorrect answer if we were warned ahead of time about it.   Now we know, but we had to find out the hard way.  You know?  

My son wants to accept her answer and move on.   (He tends to never want to question authority.)  However, I would also like to teach him that it is OK to speak up (in a very polite and respectful manner!) to authority figures if he believes that something is unfair.   

The problem is that I don't have a lot of outside course experience.   Is the teacher's response typical?  Do instructors usually publish a grading policy, or is it just unstated and in their minds?   What would you encourage my son to do?   Should this be a lesson on assertiveness or should I let it go?

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FYI...my son still got an A despite the fact that he missed this question.  A few additional points on the test might give him a higher percentage which may help him later on with his average.  But that is it.  So this is more a lesson on how to handle things like this in the future.

 

 

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Not at all typical of the online classes my kids have taken, but we have only had a few and only used 3 providers. 

Yes, online school usually has a grading scale and a rubric of some kind. Rubrics for math or language may be different than for writing. 

Since he got an A anyway, I'd let it go. He knows how it works now. I would likely address it with the administration at the end of the year. If it were a test or more significant grade, I'd persist now.

 

Edited by ScoutTN
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Not in our experience. My daughter is taking Lukeion classes including Latin, and any free-form answers are marked "pending" by the computer. The teacher goes through those manually. Something like an extra space would be given full credit. The same goes for answers that have different capitalization, or include an article such as "the." She sometimes gets partial credit if the answer is very close, like a synonym.

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That is totally ridiculous.  I would have expected the teacher to give him the point, warn him that in the future spaces will count as typos, and update her materials so that this particular issue is called out.

As far as publishing a grading policy, if you mean something that will tell you how they grade every little thing in a foreign language (or math) class--no, I've never seen such a thing.  The only things about grading I've ever seen are rubrics for writing assignments and information about how various categories of assignments are weighted.

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Totally typical response of a defensive, maybe rigid-thinker, but not standard for an online class in general.

However, I would be concerned that any cushion he adds to his A would be counteracted by the teacher's potential ill will toward your ds. 

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I think that I would contact someone in the administration now.  That is a totally unacceptable policy in my view.

My dh teaches an online math class.  Sometimes student answers are marked wrong because they were not written in the exact format (spacing or whatever) that the answer key had listed.  He always goes through each test to hand-correct answers that were marked wrong because of issues like this.

It sounds like this professor is just being lazy.

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My dh just informed me that due to FERPA policies, all communication must come from the student.  I would advise for your student to email the administration to inform them of what happened, rather than for you to do it.

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As a former software engineer that is very poor design and the teacher is being ridiculous.  But I can’t imagine it being productive going back and forth with her if she already declared that a typo (dumb!).  I wouldn’t take another class through that teacher and possibly the provider and I’d save some choice words for a review online somewhere when the class is over.   

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My DD has often had trouble in math classes due to auto graded problem sets marking answers incorrect due to misplaced spaces, or correct variations, but the software wasn’t programmed to accept it. Some professors go through and hand check, some don’t, or do only at the start of the semester, but expect the student to make the corrections by test time. She’s learned to use homework sets as a way to figure out the tolerances of the software, so that by the time she gets to tests, she knows how to make the computer do what she needs it to do. It’s also why she dislikes online math classes, or even ones that use online sets as part of the grade, vs completely lecture/book based ones, but she didn’t have a choice this fall. 

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28 minutes ago, Junie said:

My dh just informed me that due to FERPA policies, all communication must come from the student.  I would advise for your student to email the administration to inform them of what happened, rather than for you to do it.

Is this a college course?  

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Ugh I hate arbitrariness.  Most profs would be reasonable about it, but I had one or two jerk profs who would have handled it that way.  I do think it's worth another try ... are you sure your son was very clear about what the "typo" was?  I could understand the teacher not accepting a misspelled Latin word on a Latin test, but a space after an English word?  It's not like you can even see that when you go back and proofread. A very respectful email clarifying why the answer really was correct might help.

I could understand a decision to avoid conflict and let it go ... but that is the easy choice, not necessarily the right one.

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46 minutes ago, Junie said:

My dh just informed me that due to FERPA policies, all communication must come from the student.  I would advise for your student to email the administration to inform them of what happened, rather than for you to do it.

For homeschooled students? No.  
I communicate directly with both my child's online teachers and the online school administration. 

Different for college studetns who are 18 or older. 

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Also, if this teacher refuses to fix this after a very polite and reasonable request, I [as student] would wait until the day after grades were posted and write a scathing review of her laziness and arbitrariness.  In nicer language of course.  She needs to learn a better way to run her class.  (I say this as a former grad school prof.)

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20 minutes ago, dmmetler said:

My DD has often had trouble in math classes due to auto graded problem sets marking answers incorrect due to misplaced spaces, or correct variations, but the software wasn’t programmed to accept it. Some professors go through and hand check, some don’t, or do only at the start of the semester, but expect the student to make the corrections by test time. She’s learned to use homework sets as a way to figure out the tolerances of the software, so that by the time she gets to tests, she knows how to make the computer do what she needs it to do. It’s also why she dislikes online math classes, or even ones that use online sets as part of the grade, vs completely lecture/book based ones, but she didn’t have a choice this fall. 

My DD had a question marked incorrectly by the computer recently. She typed 5.40 instead of 5.4. Her teacher corrected it. I would be super aggravated by OP's teacher's response. 

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1 minute ago, ScoutTN said:

For homeschooled students? No.  
I communicate directly with both my child's online teachers and the online school administration. 

Different for college studetns who are 18 or older. 

Yes, it would be different if the parent is also the high school admin, as with homeschoolers.  But at the college where dh teaches, minor students are not treated differently in this regard.

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1 hour ago, Junie said:

Yes, it would be different if the parent is also the high school admin, as with homeschoolers.  But at the college where dh teaches, minor students are not treated differently in this regard.

Same with all of the colleges my kids have attended regardless of homeschool status.

Edited by EKS
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We do check quiz and test answers manually, but it is time consuming. And there are two of us--I'm the aide for the course and I have time to do this. The primary teacher has an incredibly full load preparing each day's lesson and learning/fighting the technology. I can understand any teacher saying they don't have time to go back and check manually, BUT they should clue students in. For math, we explain in the question the format the answer needs to be in, like "write your answer as (x+2)(x-3) with no capital letters and no spaces." Makes our jobs A LOT easier if students follow the format so we don't need to manually check. And we later found out that the students who were putting an X between the factors were getting their answers from an online problem solver. Your son has a healthy attitude. If I were in his shoes I would ask for a copy of the teacher's grading policy--need to keep her accountable too. No making it up as you go along!

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2 hours ago, Junie said:

My dh just informed me that due to FERPA policies, all communication must come from the student.  I would advise for your student to email the administration to inform them of what happened, rather than for you to do it.

 

 

1 hour ago, ScoutTN said:

For homeschooled students? No.  
I communicate directly with both my child's online teachers and the online school administration. 

Different for college students who are 18 or older. 

For a private provider class, FERPA doesn’t apply. FERPA applies for community college and college classes even for under 18. 

However, I have let my kids email their teachers since some teachers may go into a power struggle thing with parents. My kids ask me to read through the emails before sending just to make sure they didn’t unintentionally offend.

I only had one teacher explicitly remind my kids about being careful when entering answers to online quizzes before the first quiz. Some teachers do not give any weightage to online quizzes, saying to treat them as test prep instead. 

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3 hours ago, lmrich said:

The teacher has to grade the write in answers. I am guessing she does not know how the program works. Your son should speak up; most teachers would want to make it right. 

it depends on the program/software being used.  There are some that auto-grade written answers.  

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1 hour ago, Bootsie said:

it depends on the program/software being used.  There are some that auto-grade written answers.  

You are correct the program grades it, but most teachers grade those themselves. 

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4 hours ago, dmmetler said:

Some professors go through and hand check

Our experience has been that the software auto grades the quiz but the status of the grade is left at "pending" until the professor goes through the "write in" answers and validates that the software graded correctly. In the past, we have had grades change online after the professor has manually checked the wrong answers. In this case, after your son pointed out the reason for the mistake, I think that the professor should have given him the credit for that answer. I am sure that this is laziness and apathy on their part.

I would never again take a course taught by this professor and would leave a bad review online if possible. If this is a private provider of online courses, I would call their customer support and complain about the poor quality of testing.

Edited by mathnerd
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I wonder how common that kind of problem is with online courses. DS is taking a dual enrollment class and he had something similar. He had a quiz where he got one problem marked wrong and couldn't find any other possible correct answer. He emailed the professor to get the correct answer and is absolutely positive that's the answer he turned in. This professor has been terrible, so I doubt he'll even be able to get her to check it.

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Not typical but as you can see, it does happen.  My son had one professor for a basic computer course.  You know the how to use microsoft word, excel, etc.  He did fine at the projects and work.  However, the tests were from the textbook company. He would get the highest grade in the class on it and it was a 74 or something.  One test everyone failed.  The prof did not curve. He did not go back and regrade. He got a B for the class.  Ridiculous.  And your prof is ridiculous, but I would not complain. He/She will just punish your son.

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This is one of the major complaints I hear from college students who are using Pearson "Mastering Chemistry" software for their autograded homework - they claim to lose points for having a space or other minor deviation from the acceptable answer.
So I'd say, pretty typical.

Yet another reason I don't use that stuff for my own classes (besides philosophical issues with Pearson and with making students pay money for access codes)

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I also don't find this all that surprising, unfortunately. It would drive me nuts though. If he's a stickler and got an A anyway, then I agree with him that you should all just take a breath and move on. It's wrong, it discourages learning (as a student, I'd have started bombing the class on purpose after something like that, just to tick everyone off), it's apathetic of the teacher, etc. But also, pick your battles, etc.

I am unclear if this is a college course. It doesn't say that it is in the OP. Therefore, I assumed it was a high school course from a provider. If that's the case, obviously FERPA does not apply in the same way (FERPA also exists for high school students, but they're assumed to be minors). You could contact them and complain on his behalf. You're the customer. If it is, agreed that it doesn't matter what his age is, he has to do it. Regardless, it's a moot point because I think you should all gripe about it and then let it go.

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That’s crazy.

 

My kid tried (and very quickly dropped) a French class. His first quiz was on day 2 of the course and pertained to the information covered in the previous course without review. And questions asked things that could be answered in a number of ways. For example, what is an opposite of selfish? Mine said altruistic. It was marked wrong. Why? We don’t know. There were at least 5-6 questions like that. The class had kids who haven’t taken the previous level with this teacher but instead have taken French at other colleges.  How are they supposed to know the preference of the textbook that was used the prior semester? A wise person on this board told me that was an indication of what to come. We promptly dropped it. 

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I teach online for a large community college and a private K-12 school.

Both strongly discourage fill-in-the blank. Students should not be penalized for a space in the wrong place.

My oldest (a graduating senior) said he had a fill-in-the blank quiz this week in college. When they had their weekly Zoom session, the student were livid, and the professor said she wouldn't do that again. 

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I've taken MANY online college courses and the typo thing is a common problem in online tests. It is completely standard for instructors to issue credit for those questions. I've never had an instructor refuse to adjust a test grade when it is clearly a computer formatting issue. She's a jerk.

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On 9/17/2020 at 6:56 AM, TheAttachedMama said:

My son is taking a Latin class online.   The quizzes/tests are typically graded by computer.   Some questions are multiple choice and others are fill in the blank.   My son typed the correct answer in the fill in the blank question, but he hit the space bar AFTER his word.   (FYI...the answer was an English word not even a word in Latin.)  He went back to check his work (and everything looked fine to him), but when he hit the submit button, the computer marked the question as wrong because of this space after the word.  I felt this was unfair because it was really a technical/computer problem, not a problem with why son's actual knowledge of the subject matter.   (And why does this website not filter answer and remove spaces?  I am a former computer programer and this is one of the first things we would do when making forms for customers to fill out.). 

I encouraged him to contact the teacher and let her know the computer marked the question wrong because of an invisible space, and she said, "Per her grading policy, this counts as a typo and no credit would be given for his answer."   I did a lot of searching on the syllabus, the course homepage, and the academy's website---and as far as I can tell, there is no published grading policy.  So I guess my son is expected to figure out this grading policy as he goes along through trial and error?   Maybe I am wrong, but shouldn't students be told the "rules" before they play the game?   I would be fine accepting that an invisible space would be grounds for an incorrect answer if we were warned ahead of time about it.   Now we know, but we had to find out the hard way.  You know?  

My son wants to accept her answer and move on.   (He tends to never want to question authority.)  However, I would also like to teach him that it is OK to speak up (in a very polite and respectful manner!) to authority figures if he believes that something is unfair.   

The problem is that I don't have a lot of outside course experience.   Is the teacher's response typical?  Do instructors usually publish a grading policy, or is it just unstated and in their minds?   What would you encourage my son to do?   Should this be a lesson on assertiveness or should I let it go?

------------------

FYI...my son still got an A despite the fact that he missed this question.  A few additional points on the test might give him a higher percentage which may help him later on with his average.  But that is it.  So this is more a lesson on how to handle things like this in the future.

Yes, it's typical.  I hand grade all my essays and fill in the blank questions because of this.  I would tell him to talk to the professor, but it seems she is unreasonable.  I would drop a class with a prof that can't cope with small insignificant typos - that's ridiculous.

 

Yes, it's 

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On 9/17/2020 at 8:54 AM, dmmetler said:

My DD has often had trouble in math classes due to auto graded problem sets marking answers incorrect due to misplaced spaces, or correct variations, but the software wasn’t programmed to accept it. Some professors go through and hand check, some don’t, or do only at the start of the semester, but expect the student to make the corrections by test time. She’s learned to use homework sets as a way to figure out the tolerances of the software, so that by the time she gets to tests, she knows how to make the computer do what she needs it to do. It’s also why she dislikes online math classes, or even ones that use online sets as part of the grade, vs completely lecture/book based ones, but she didn’t have a choice this fall. 

My dd3 had a chemistry college class at a university in her senior year of home schooled high school.  She spent so many hours on the stupid computer issues that she decided to go to a college that didn't do that.

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I am often grateful I did university prior to computers being required (by the end some people had them and we had computer labs for computing courses).  Multi choice was pretty rare and we did a lot of writing but we didn't have computer issues.

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