Teaching Online: Questions and Help

I don’t know everything they have going on in their lives, and can’t be bothered to suss truth from excuses, especially when the online fracad* gives new areas of excuses (technical issues). Weekly quizzes with drops was originally done to deal with the shortcomings of long final exams, and really worked out well.

Nothing wrong with helping them out a bit. Frankly, if the pass rate is too low probably I’ve fucked up somewhere. Especially in classes with subjective grading for jobs that aren’t life and death, I’m humble and generous enough to bump them over by 1 percent on the assumption that it is my fault they were going to fail by that small amount.

Do you know what a Bell curve is?

It’s a fancy way to say i added marks. There are different ways to do it. On a strict curve it actually doesn’t help the ones at the bottom, it drags them further down. Probably most people just add the same marks to everyone, which moves the curve over but gets the job done (ie, +10% for everyone). What i did was multply everyone’s final grades by a small percentage, which gives a bigger bonus to the ones already on top (high end of the curve), and the bottom still goes up.

I actually don’t believe in a normal distribution in my classroom. If i do my job right it should be possible for everyone to get As, theoretically if i get a really bad crop should be possible to have no As at all. The curve is just a useful pseudo-statistical tool for not being a dick

*fracas? Facade?

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I did that with a course last semester and I got halfway through entering grades before I realized a bunch of students had exceeded 100%. Oops. I needed to quickly redo the scaling. Sigh, such a split in that class - one peak with an average of 90%, another with a peak around 45%.


Yeah, i gave the maximum percentage bonus i could give without sending the top student over 100, i think it was multiplied by 1.075

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Easy enough to put a ceiling formula in a spreadsheet. If I’m using any kind of bonus system I usually just put an IF<100, cell value, ELSE 100 function in to do that. Of course that would get a bit flat topped with a lot of bonus and I did look at more sophisticated ways to do it, but never used them.

I don’t give across-the-board bonuses as you describe, but some bonuses can be earned, eg by giving more than one reason for an answer when only one was asked for.

This year grades are I think higher than normal, perhaps because I’ve given them more opportunities to cheat. Unfortunately my “good” class did worse than my “bad” class, perhaps because they didn’t embrace the opportunities so enthusiastically.



It’s very hard for the admin staff to deal with student complaints about one lecturer failing a third of a class and another failing nobody.

Obviously it’s not ideal having some sort of a spread of pass scores, but what else can you do?

I described a compensation for my imperfect delivery


Ah, the bimodal split. This has become increasingly common in my classes—where a bunch of students get it, a bunch of students don’t, with nearly no-one in between. :neutral_face:



Yeah, it was frustrating. “OK, half of you need really basic reading practice, and I know how to do that. The other half of you read young adult novels in English for fun and are enthusiastic about mid-level literature lectures, and I know how to do that. But, um, you’re together. And now I don’t know what to do.”

EDIT: I’ve probably mentioned this somewhere upthread, but the course got messed up by the online start last fall: I’d never taught the course before, and I didn’t know what to expect for the level. Online, I had lots of high-level participation. Wow, I thought, this course is great! Then a few weeks later I met them, and realized … oops.


Local variant. Half the students give 0.5 shits, and half the students…don’t.

And has been said, the half that do can make a disproportionate impression online, especially if one takes volunteered answers rather than picking victims.

I try and avoid volunteers in favor of the Pose Pause Pounce Paradigm (British Army Methods of Instruction) but I sometimes forget. This was a particular failing when teaching my African classes, who were enthusiastic. Excess enthusiasm hasn’t been much of an issue with my Taiwanese classes.

Having poked around a bit before posting My Last Grades this afternoon, the apparently poor showing of my “better” class was probably mostly due to a larger sub-group of “wasters” with poor attendance and major assessment elements missing, rather than differential cheating. Since they aren’t there much they dont make much of a negative impression, but they have a big impact on the grade average.

I’m not, but I’m lazy enough not to want to think about it, or deal with any borderline case whining, so I’ve had that bit automated in the grading spreadsheet for over a decade.

If they get between 57% and 59.4% it gives them 60%, the official pass mark.

It has sometimes caused a bit of extra aggro when I put in a grade change request, because I have to explain it, but I’ve never QUITE been told to stop doing it.

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Think I’ll quote Lawrence of Arabia again. “Do nothing, that’s usually best” (Allenby IIRC)

I’m not aware of any serious attempt to get comparable grading where I’m at/was, and I can’t see them looking for that amount of trouble, which to be fair, would likely be a hiding to nothing. Classes vary quite a lot, after all, and here they are (or were) banded as to ability, though maybe declining student numbers are eroding that separation.

Foreign non - Sinophones like myself get/got the “A” classes, and have more difficult (sometimes unusably so) textbooks specified, and I believe the lower bands are / were “capped” at a maximum %, say 90% for B, 80% for C.

Finding rational argument and data (I ran some publishers levelling tests which showed the texts were far too difficult for the students) had no effect on textbook policy, I just ignored it for the past 10 years or so.

Came pretty close to getting caught/confrontationally confessing a couple of times but seem to have got away with it.

Likely no one cares, but they would pretend they did if they had to.

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Why do you think you get all the “A” classes? I’m lucky if I get one a semester and they are so much easier to teach than Intermediate and elementary.

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They are easier to teach, but they also whine way more. They expect to be getting grades in the 90’s when they do hardly fuck-all.
I prefer the weaker students. They’re just grateful to pass.

Policy, I assume based on the assumption that you might need some Chinese to explain stuff to the less capable bands, and/or maybe that they would “benefit” more from having a native speak at them.

Mostly I sneer at their policies but I cant knock that one, which is supported by the fact that Taiwanese teach English almost entirely in Chinese.

Didnt apply to an evening “conversation” class I had (I assume unbanded, described to me by admin with a straight face as “Advanced Students”).

Talked in English at them first class. Not a glimmer, and 75% of them didn’t come back.

I dunno. I always get the weak students, and I can hardly speak a word of Chinese.

Hasn’t been my experience. For several years my uni gave me the “elite” freshmen class, which was a mixed class made up of students plucked from their regular classes based on their application test scores. You would think being the best and brightest you would get a better overall class experience.

And there were a few gems over the years and more than I would find in regular classes. However, there were plenty who were just here for the beer, with no better learning attitude than average. And many of the really good ones left mid-semester after reaching the minimum TOEIC score that allowed them to wave the class. I finally got the school to drop the course from my schedule it was so disappointing.

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That is some farewell!


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Such, such are the joys of AutoCorrect