Monday, August 20, 2012

Slowly but surely...

I am glad that Coursera is willing to introduce fixes into an ongoing class! Today I noticed that there is an automated announcement on the course homepage to alert people to upcoming deadlines, which is not something we had before:

And there is also now an honor code declaration that we mark when we turn in our writing:

I still think that they need some actual plagiarism resources online to help people who are truly not clear on the difference between plagiarism (either verbatim or "patchwork") and original writing - but at least this is a first step in the right direction!

Update: There is now also a way to flag "inappropriate" content in the forums, but there is no definition of just what is inappropriate content. For example, there is currently a very active discussion thread which consists of making fun of other people in the class - making fun of people with poor English skills, making fun of people who ask questions about the assignments... and yes, people do ask obvious questions sometimes - it would be surprising if they did not! Of course, almost all of the postings in this thread are by the "anonymi" (who knows how many of them there are; there is no way of telling one anonymous from another). I'm not going to say it is something to flag as inappropriate, but there is a lot of sheer mean-spiritedness at the discussion forums for this class, something that came as a real surprise to me. I wonder if that is true at all the Coursera courses.

Tomorrow we will get our fourth batch of essays to review. I hope there will be a flag available there now too, or a zero score option, for essays that are blank, spam, for the wrong novel, etc.

Most importantly, I wonder if there will be a flag for inappropriate feedback. There is plenty of mean-spiritedness, even viciousness, in some of the feedback people have shared at the discussion board... and the feedback is all anonymous, which I increasingly think just does not bring out the best in people. Between the rudeness in the anonymous feedback and the rudeness in the anonymous posting at the discussion board, I am not impressed. Pseudonyms are fine with me - but all this anonymous meanness is really troubling.


  1. I was thrilled when they added flags so that we can flag inappropriate messages. We shouldn't have to put up with obscenities or direct attacks/name-calling. I felt so listened to. :)

    1. Aha, so that is new: I noticed the flags recently, but then I couldn't really remember if they had been there previously or not. IMHO Coursera is just asking for trouble by allowing all the anonymous comments in the discussion boards (pseudonyms are fine; anonymous is just bad news I think). I haven't seen anything in the dboards I would flag as inappropriate just because I figure it's an open space - if I don't like something, I just ignore it.

      I'm actually way more concerned about being able to flag inappropriate content that see in the essays (I need to be able to put something back in the pool and draw a new essay if I get a blank, if I get spam, etc.) - and, most of all, a flag for inappropriate feedback. Of course, that would mean Coursera would need to do a better job of explaining what is inappropriate feedback. I'm sure, though, that "your essay is crap" would have to be on that list of inappropriate types of comments! I wonder if we will see changes to the feedback process this week, too - maybe we will!

    2. I initially made the suggestion to Coursera because there was someone who went off on a rampage of obscenities in a comment. At the same time as creating the flags, administration also deleted THAT message. I checked. :)

      I DO think we should have a right to flag that sort of stuff. I also think we should be able to flag adverts that appear in the forum (though I haven't seen it'll happen eventually!)

      But you're right, of course, we should be able to flag comments on our essays, or flag the essays themselves.

    3. Ugh, obscenities. And you are no doubt right about the ads - my favorite example of the inappropriate spam essay was an ad for someone's novel. Weird, hilarious, yes - life on the Internet! But I don't want to give a 1-1 for an advertisement turned in as an essay, ha ha.

  2. I wonder by which moral standards should obscenities be judged in a course with a world wide audience (US, European (French?), some other)?

    In the History of the Internet course someone from Eastern Europe was very offended by the lecturer's use of the expression "the Balkanization of the web" which other people thought to be ok because it is commonly used.

    BTW have there yet been any books to read in the fantasy course that some participant would have found to be obscene or otherwise offensive?

  3. Well, there are people who have a mission in life to be offended somehow by something on a daily basis...

    We are reading 19th-century fiction in the fantasy course, so of course there is all kinds of 19th-century stuff. Bram Stoker made all kinds of ridiculous statements about Slovaks in the Dracula novel, etc. - far worse than Balkanization, that's for sure. So, for people who want to get offended, oh yeah, there's no shortage of stuff.

    I'm mostly surprised and saddened by the way people seem willing to say outrageous things about their fellow classmates. Has there been that kind of person-to-person rudeness in the Internet History course?

    1. Yes, that kind of threads are everywhere. To be fair, we do it a lot as a student in real-life, though these people are so irresponsible and cowardice by hiding behind anonymity. Person-to-person rudeness is 'inappropriate' in my book.

      By allowing us to give '0', it'll certainly make us feel better. 1 is for those who tries but still lacking, and they're not supposed to be on the same level with spammer or plagiator.

  4. "there is currently a very active discussion thread which consists of making fun of other people in the class..."
    Happy I haven't seen this useless and annoying thread. I'm still sticking with the course, and I love the video lectures, but I believe they should be available at the beginning of every unit. Maybe then there would be more interesting discussions instead of "stupid" people feeling less "stupid" then others.
    La boludez humana...I wish somebody would find a remedy for that one!



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