Deadlines and the Online Academic

Dr. Tamara Fudge, professor, Kaplan University School of Business and IT

They say that patience is a virtue, but in reality we know it’s often in short supply. It’s 7 am on Wednesday morning – a scant seven hours past an assignment deadline – and a student frantically emails, “Why isn’t my paper graded? Didn’t you receive it? Was there something wrong?”

I pour my fourth cup of coffee,  sit back down, check through the 60-100 assignments I have downloaded for grading to ensure that her assignment is indeed among them, and begin to write a nice response that yes, I received the assignment, I am still in the throes of grading, and my bosses give faculty five days after a deadline to get grading completed – and I will meet the deadline.

After the fifth cup of coffee and some chocolate for fortification, I get back to grading. I’m thinking that grading  might only take the rest of the day. Then I realize I have a meeting at 10 am and another at 1:30 pm, a PowerPoint presentation due before the end of the business day, and several hours of curriculum work that need to be done before tomorrow, too. Late in the afternoon, another faculty member calls me with an issue he needs help resolving. My day and my grading plans are getting sucked into that black hole Carl Sagan warned me about long ago.

Typing with one hand while eating dinner with the other and watching the dog in the backyard out of one eye, I realize something: my students simply might not know what I do. Yes, I teach. But what does online teaching really entail?

When we were little kids, we thought a teacher was just some ruler-wielding person who made us do math (shudder), insisted we color inside the lines, and controlled bathroom breaks. By high school, we realized that teachers had to grade assignments, too, but we were still surprised to see them at the grocery store. Teachers have to eat and buy toilet paper, too?  Mind-blowing.

So, here’s the crux of this blog post.  In addition to teaching students about course content, how to write, how to behave professionally, and how to think critically for the workplace,  online professors do the following (and I have probably forgotten something):

  • Answer email daily from students, other faculty, and the administration
  • Attend several meetings each week regarding policies, curriculum, and other topics
  • Participate in school and university-wide committees
  • Write curriculum (I also do some instructional design that involves coding and video work)
  • Develop and update seminar content and load items in the seminar room
  • Create images, videos, and text for appropriate announcements
  • Post in the discussions, which includes some research to find links that help to answer questions and move the discussion forward
  • Check the gradebook every week to see who needs help
  • Send emails every week to students who are missing work or have low grades and send messages to advisors about the same
  • Encourage students to use the Academic Success Centers for writing, technology, math, and science
  • Deal with violations such as plagiarism, behavior issues, etc. – this especially takes a lot of time to ensure fairness
  • Devise makeup plans for students who are experiencing major life disasters such as a death in the family
  • Call advisors when there is something crucial in an effort to best help the student
  • Assist other faculty with solving problems and provide materials and guidance for other faculty teaching the courses we lead
  • Research and prepare papers and presentations for professional development – and then send the papers out for publication, and practice and perform those presentations
  • Grade discussions, seminars, and assignments (see chart below for assignment grading)
  • Keep records of all of the above


(Idea from the Ohio Education Association Facebook page)

It may help students to realize that in any given term, we may well be teaching more than one different course, and preparation is unique for each class.  Also,  like our students, we  have families and other obligations.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love my job. It’s creative, it’s investigative, it’s mind-stretching, and it’s enhancing the lives of others by imparting knowledge and guiding students in learning great workplace skills.  Teaching is what I am, not what I do.

I just ask for a little patience. As I pour coffee cup #6, I have to respond to another email: Dear student, please rest assured that you will get your assignment grade soon. Thank you for your patience.


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