At 4:3o, last Friday, I answered the phone. A student wanted to know when we closed and was clearly upset that we were closing that moment. She had a paper due at 11 p.m. that night, and her computer just crashed. She was looking for another place to type and submit her paper. But Friday afternoons are simply not good for such a need. Not only was our campus closing, but so was the public library. She had called the English department, but her professor had already left for the day. And she couldn’t email him because, well, her computer had crashed.
Now, I happened to know this instructor. Of course, I had his work email address, but we are also Facebook friends and play online Scrabble. So I offered to get in touch with him, with the usual warning I give all students: I will deliver the message, but it’s totally up to the instructor whether or not he’ll make an exception.
Now I have no idea what my friend and the student worked out, but my friend later thanked me for sending on the message. He said the student had been attentive, punctual, and dedicated in the course so far. He added, “There might be a good column in there for you about how an online student can create a presence through timely communication and attention to all assignments.”
Woody Allen once said that eighty percent of being successful consists in showing up. The same is true for being successful in college. Obviously, showing up and participating in class can lead to more learning and better grades.
But it also creates a type of savings account with your professor. Take the following example: Imagine that you’re a professor. You have a student in your class who has missed several days and has been tardy for several more. This student rarely has his books in class, and when he does have his books, he busily packing them up fifteen minutes before the class ends.
This instructor also has another student in class who has missed no days and is always on time. He comes with books and takes notes in class. He asks questions and turns in all assignments.
If each student reported his computer stolen the day a paper was due, and assuming the instructor is only human, which person do you think he’d be more likely to believe?
The outcome probably wouldn’t surprise anyone. But what might surprise students is that they make the same sort of impressions in their web courses as well. Students who log in immediately, make comments on the discussion pages, and turn in their assignments on time build up a reserve of academic good feeling with their instructor. And if the worst happens, instructors know that it is a true emergency and not just another excuse.
Basically, as Dr. Phil likes to say, we teach people how to treat us. So it’s just smart to show instructors that you are reliable, hardworking, and earnest.