I have three classes this term – one on MWF, one on TR, and an evening class on Wednesdays. It’s a pretty sweet schedule actually, because my weekday classes are at 3 PM and 3:30 PM which means I have most of the day to work or sleep. My first class was today, and it was ASTRO 122. It did not go so well. Here’s a rundown:
- The professor introduces himself. Here’s his website, and here he is on ratemyprofessors.com.
- While going through the course outline, he comes to the point about assignments. He says they are done completely online, using webassign.net. I’m thinking “wicked!” I hate paper.
- Then he says we only have access to webassign for two weeks. After that we need an access code. Apparently the code comes with the textbook or can be purchased separately for $11.
At this point, I stuck up my hand.
Me: “Are you saying that I need to pay to get access to my assignments?”
Him (hesitating): “Yeah, that’s right.”
Me: “Well that’s kind of dumb.”
Some of my classmates chuckled…
At the end of the lecture I went up to talk to him. I said that I thought it was ridiculous that I had to pay to get access to my assignments, and that this had to be against some kind of university regulation. He really didn’t say much so I went on and on and on and finally he asked if we could take this up in his office later. I said sure, and left.
The only time he really spoke as I was complaining was to disagree with me about the textbook. He said it was required, so it was assumed that I should have the code. My argument is that you are NOT required to purchase a textbook simply because a professor says it is required for the course (I have searched the Calendar and have found no such regulation). Furthermore, you are NOT required to purchase a new textbook, which would be necessary to get the access code in question.
Here is the message that the webassign website shows after I log in:
According to our records you have not entered an access code for this class. The grace period will end Monday, January 15, 2007 at 12:00 AM GMT. After that date you will no longer be able to see your WebAssign assignments or grades. After you enter an access code, you will again have access to your assignments and grades.
The assignments are worth 20% of the grade in this course. I don’t believe I should have to pay anything beyond the registration for the course in order to get access to the assignments. If there is optional material that requires an extra expense, that’s one thing. There’s absolutely no way however, that I should have to pay extra for something that counts towards my grade.
I’m going to do something about this, I’m just not sure what yet.
I almost feel like I should try to do something beyond just this single issue. The root problem here is that professors are free to use any system they like for course materials, or no system at all. What the U of A needs is a campus-wide system for courses. Something like WebCT, but better. And all professors should be required to use it. In my time at the U of A I have used WebCT, Moodle, ulearn, and many other “systems” that a professor has hacked together. It’s a truly sad state of affairs.