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I'm immensely grateful for the online courses on theoretical physics provided by the Perimeter Institute for free. A particular professor stands out for me, as the lectures were excellent, and the course was structured very well. Would it be appropriate or acceptable to send a small token of appreciation to the professor via (physical) mail?

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A related appropriate question would probably be "Is it appropriate for a professor to accept a gift for an online course?" –  O. R. Mapper May 26 at 17:18
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@O.R.Mapper: Out of curiosity, what would be your opinion? –  user1997744 May 26 at 17:18
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I am not a professor myself, and I wouldn't want to post a singular opinion far from a place where various parties would voice their possibly different opinions. However, I can see that an answer to that related question might interact with answers to this question; in particular, if there are circumstances where it is not appropriate for a professor to accept a gift, that may well have some bearing on whether it is appropriate in those circumstances to force the professor to decide whether or not to accept a gift in the first place. –  O. R. Mapper May 26 at 17:44
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If the professor is responsible for assigning you a grade for the course, then don't do it. Ever. –  David Wallace May 27 at 2:04

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up vote 33 down vote accepted

I deliver a significant number of online courses, though not for university credit. I appreciate emails, tweets, and other expressions of gratitude from those who enjoyed them. I am not sure how I would feel if a gift basket or a box of chocolates arrived at my office. Sure, everyone likes gifts, but it might feel a little creepy to be honest.

I provide my courses to the organizations, and they're the ones who decide to make them free (Channel9 or MVA) or very cheap (Pluralsight), not me. So they are the ones who probably should be the target of the gratitude. Since PI wants donations, why not make one, then email the lecturer saying thank you and letting them know you've made a donation because of how helpful they were. (You could also repeat the statement in public such as tweeting it or writing it on the institute's wall, so that PI are aware of the lecturer's contribution to their coffers.) I would appreciate that more than chocolate, myself - and I like chocolate a lot :-)

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Thanks for your response; I wasn't thinking of anything along the lines of chocolate, but I get your point. I'll follow your advice :-) –  user1997744 May 26 at 11:42
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Is it less creepy if the gift were shipped directly from, say, Amazon? –  Raphael May 26 at 13:09
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Kate, I just realized, you have the same surname as the professor! What a coincidence! @Raphael: I'd say if you're determined to send a gift, I'd send it to yourself so you can package it nicely, and write a note as to why you are sending it to the professor. –  user1997744 May 26 at 13:42
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@user1997744 I was thinking that an unsolicited package by an unknown person might come across more weird or potentially dangerous than one that was obviously packaged by e.g. Amazon. (Heck, if we got a package with "Thank you for your lecture!" written on it, I'm not sure we'd open it without a bomb squad. ;)) –  Raphael May 26 at 13:56
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@Raphael: Really? Do professors get any hate mail? Perhaps from looneys they've rejected. I always hear about these idiots mailing professors saying 'Einstein was wrong!' –  user1997744 May 26 at 14:27

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