Opinion: Get professors online

Screenshot taken from blackboard.sc.edu

We have all had a tech-averse professor who, for one reason or another, makes a point to avoid the online resources available to them. Those professors tell their classes straight away “I don’t post grades” and they leave their class Blackboard pages blank — without even a syllabus. While the use or avoidance of online resources has generally been regarded as an issue best left to professor preference, it is my contention that the university needs to hold them accountable to a more hardline standard.  

Allowing individual professors the ability to reject online resources arbitrarily can confuse and needlessly inconvenience students. You are probably familiar with the following scenario: It is 3 a.m., you have just made all the final edits to that essay due in your 8:05, and you are finally ready to get some shut-eye. You hop into bed and get comfortable, but right before you drift off to sleep you make a realization: Your professor does not accept digital submissions and you are going to have to walk across campus to print at the library. This causes a job that could have been done in one click to become an ordeal.

Furthermore, professors who choose to avoid online resources can directly disadvantage their students. Perhaps this situation will also ring a bell: You are over your head in a class that makes zero sense to you. Your professor’s office hours conflict with your class schedule, so you are not able to talk to them before the midterm. You have flooded their email inbox with questions but get no reply. After a disappointing performance on the test, you confront them, asking why they never responded to your messages. “Oh, I don’t check my email.” Where can you go from there?

Lastly, rejecting online resources can make tasks impossible for students to complete. Consider this: You have carved out a night to catch up on class readings in preparation for a quiz. Since all of the required essays are listed on the syllabus, you assume they will be easily accessible online. But to your frustration, not only has the professor not posted the essays to Blackboard, the only other versions online are locked behind paywalls. As a broke student, you are forced to take your chances on the quiz without having studied any of the necessary material.

There are a million little things that make college unnecessarily stressful, but this does not have to be one of them. A lack of professor involvement in basic online resources is an obvious problem with a simple solution. The resources are already in place, they just need to be used. That is why it would be beneficial for the university to draft basic rules requiring professors to do simple things like post items (e.g. grades, syllabuses, readings, etc.) to their Blackboard page, respond to student emails and accept online assignment submissions. All of these are vital methods of bridging the gap between students and professors.

Do not misunderstand me and think I am writing this without sympathy for professors; I know that learning to navigate online resources can be tedious and seem pointless. I am, however, asking that professors understand the limitations of students; for some, these online resources are the only method by which students are able to engage with a course. So what professors should consider is that when they neglect online resources, they risk neglecting students too.

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