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I'm in an online graduate program. I have two classes with the same professor. One is required and the other is from a small pool of elective classes. In other words, the odds of someone taking both classes is quite high. One of the assignments from each class is exactly the same. The assignments are not a trivial portion of the class grade. There is some room to create a different product the second time around, but mostly in the presentation and less so in the content, since the content that must be included has been dictated by the professor and involves giving our opinion about the exact same points in both cases. This feels very awkward. I don't want to self-plagiarize or reuse content, but it is almost impossible to not reuse at least some content and still complete the assignment, given the nature of the assignment.

A second assignment is also reused between the courses, however, that assignment can go in a slightly different direction, whereas the first reused assignment cannot. I can't help but feel, however, that this isn't really best practice, since, as I mentioned, both of these classes will be taken by many of the same students due to the program requirements and the final products will be very, very similar due to the required elements of the assignment.

I should add that students need to do a capstone project, in which we reflect on specific assignments from our coursework, at the end of our degree in order to graduate. We have a limited number of classes from which to draw this coursework. (It must be from our area of concentration, which is made up of only 5 classes, including these 2).

Additional information: It is also obvious to me that the course content was largely copied and pasted between the two courses, as well, since the textbook listed initially was the same for both classes. That has since been corrected.

Thus far, there are no lectures posted, only assigned readings.

Is this typical? I'm not sure whether I'm justified in feeling a little ripped off and disappointed.

I understand that professors are often overworked, underpaid, under-respected, etc., and I am sympathetic to these problems in higher education. But I'm also a paying student. (And just generally, since I'm complaining, anyway, I'm tired of not receiving feedback on my assignments beyond stuff along the lines of "Great paper!" I am not even sure many of my professors are reading my papers, based on the scant/generic feedback I've gotten. As an undergraduate, I remember actually getting in-line comments on papers, but I have only rarely gotten that degree of feedback as a graduate student. It is sad to work hard on an assignment and feel as though my professor hasn't even read it.)

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  • Meta thought: If you are taking two classes such that the assignments could potentially be interchangeable, maybe you are taking classes that are too similar. Possibly these classes should not both be credit for a degree?
    – Boba Fit
    Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 14:07
  • @BobaFit OP here. I tend to agree. I did raise concerns about this with someone in the department, actually, because on paper, the classes looked awfully similar, even before I signed up and saw that they are, indeed, very similar. But I was instructed to talk to the instructor directly and since I'm wrapping up the degree and couldn't change classes at this point, anyway, I decided it wasn't worth possibly making the instructor defensive or setting up a grudge. It's not a big enough program that I could have just taken these classes with another prof if I accidentally burned a bridge w/ them.
    – FoxLake
    Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 18:40

1 Answer 1

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You say you are in an online graduate program. I might be getting behind the times a bit as online education has really advanced a lot lately, but my impression is that online programs are not the same quality as in-person programs. That doesn't mean you can't get a good education online, but a lot of education on- or off-line is really driven by you as a student, anyways. It's possible you're encountering one of the shortcuts that has been taken along the way to build the program you're in. If this course is representative of the differences with your undergraduate education, it might simply be a difference in the quality of that program versus this one.

I definitely think you have reason to find this situation irritating, though. As far as the issue of what to submit for your assignments, I'd recommend having a conversation with the professor to see what their expectations are - perhaps given that they are assigning the same task to two courses, they'd be fine with you putting in a commensurate level of effort and just submitting the same assignment. If they want two distinct products, they should be able to express to you what their expectations are for making the products distinct.

Of course, that doesn't solve the problem that you've signed up for these courses expecting to get a certain level of training, but if you want to act in your personal best interest it's probably better focusing your energies on some self-learning on these or related topics, rather than going through the bureaucracy to complain formally.

You always have the option to take your money elsewhere, but there can be clear downsides to that option as well if you have already earned credits that won't transfer someplace else.

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  • +1 for ask the professor what to do. Perhaps they will suggest a more in depth version of the same project. Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 1:41
  • OP here. Thanks for your thoughts. The program is accredited and it came highly recommended, but perhaps it's gone downhill. I'm close to finishing the program, so changing schools isn't an option. I guess at this point, the best option is to just make the best of it and hope that I'm able to pull something together for the capstone project. Maybe my expectations were too high. It seems like a lot of people in grad school just want the piece of paper. Live and learn, I guess. (I don't want to ask the prof what to do bc I think they may get defensive; I don't want it to neg. impact my grades.)
    – FoxLake
    Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 18:55
  • @FoxLake If you don't attack them they are unlikely to get defensive. Asking what you should do is not an attack. Saying it's ridiculous or awkward or that you feel ripped off probably is, but you can ask without saying any of those things.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 19:00

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