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Here are constraints for my course (which will be delivered remotely):

  1. The class size is huge (250+ students).
  2. Lecture contents will be delivered asynchronously (with pre-recorded videos and live Q&A sessions).
  3. Synchronous (scheduled weekly for 20 minutes), frequent, small assessments will be used to test lecture contents.
  4. Each assessment is web-based and can be automatically graded (say manual grading is not possible, given the TA hours, for this large class).

Given that it's an online course, is it fair to assume the responsibility of stable internet connection (so that each assessment can be started and submitted in time) on students?

If such an assumption is not fair, then does it mean any student claiming a network-related problem can be accommodated unconditionally for extra time or another test?

  • Is this a course that was always planned and announced as a remote course, or one that would normally be available in-person but has been moved to online? – Patricia Shanahan Jul 9 at 18:35
  • It had been taught in-person pre-COVID19. It will be taught online the first time in the coming Fall. – user2574706 Jul 9 at 18:46
  • Are the students all in one country? I have students in 90 countries and the internet performance varies... – Solar Mike Jul 9 at 18:49
  • Students might be in different countries like yours. This is my very question: students are to take assessments online, but can we assume that they're able to complete them online? – user2574706 Jul 9 at 18:52
  • Some platforms will allow interactive quizzes where if students get questions correct they continue, and if wrong they go around a loop to reinforce the learning. – Solar Mike Jul 9 at 18:53
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This is something you need to work out locally and before the course starts if possible. People here will have opinions, but only the local opinions at the university will have any actual weight.

Some things here seem foolish to me. Especially a large student population with insufficient TA support. There should be a dozen or so TAs to make this possible. Harvard's CS 50 course is also huge, but the student to staff ratio is about 20 to 1.

It may not be fair for the course designers to make such assumptions but you are probably going to be stuck with them whatever they are.

You point out some of the deficiencies of online instruction at this time. Even worse is that some students just don't have access to the equipment or bandwidth. But it is a chaotic situation.

Probably the best you can do is file a statement, say with a department head, and get acknowledgement of it that (a) internet connections can be flaky (b) cheating can be rampant no matter the technology (c) policies need to be established to fairly account for as many of the potential problems that might occur. And the policies will need to be somewhat flexible.

But demands are likely to be ignored. Enter into a conversation so that you have some assurance that fairness will be maintained.

On the other hand, some things about this course seem fine to me, such as frequent small assessments rather than a few high risk exams. Question-answer sessions is also a good idea if the times are flexible. Mailing lists can also be used to increase communication.

The course may actually need to oscillate a bit toward a successful outcome as there has bee insufficient time to even design the research needed for successful pedagogy. But if those assessments are well designed it can work out.

And you should prepare a quiet place in which to work if that is at all possible. Especially for the assessments.

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  • Not only well designed assessments, but well designed material. – Solar Mike Jul 9 at 18:48
  • @SolarMike, you and I, at least, never produce anything except high quality stuff. – Buffy Jul 9 at 18:49
  • Well, I do try to do thst - some students like it, others don't. But it's a good answer. – Solar Mike Jul 9 at 18:51
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Given that it's an online course, is it fair to assume the responsibility of stable internet connection (so that each assessment can be started and submitted in time) on students?

No, I don't think it's particularly fair to have the students shoulder the entire responsibility for something that is largely outside their control without giving them some alternative way to complete the assignment. Moreover, it's unrealistic to assume they have any reasonable way of ensuring connectivity. Internet connections can go down, the power can go down, and hardware can fail. I understand you may be trying to avoid people taking advantage of you, but these things happen and should be accounted for. (Personally, I've experienced the first two during video calls with collaborators during the last couple of months.) Further, some students (perhaps rural or less well-off) will have less table connections than others. Do you want the assignments to test students' learning, or the reliability of their internet connections?

If such an assumption is not fair, then does it mean any student claiming a network-related problem can be accommodated unconditionally for extra time or another test?

I think you should make some accommodations, but unconditional ones seem unnecessary. Reductio ad absurdum: if a particular student doesn't have a way of accessing the internet at all, they shouldn't be registered for an online class. If the student has recurring connection problems they should take steps to address that. But accommodations allowing for missing or delaying some number of quizzes (the number could be specified in the syllabus and/or kept flexible) seem important. There's somewhat of a parallel in mandatory physical attendance policies, which usually allow for missing some lectures even in normal times.

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