Please talk me out of throwing in the towel...

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by gbrogan, Aug 26, 2009.

  1. gbrogan

    gbrogan Member

    A long post coming. I apologize in advance but I'm at my wits end.

    I don't think I can remember a time when I was ever this absolutely frustrated to the point that I'm making myself literally sick.

    I'm doing my Masters online and have finished six courses. I recently started the 7th and the trouble I am having with it coupled with my wholehearted belief that I'll never get through the capstone and graduate anyway is making me very tempted to ditch the whole thing and call it a day.

    The instructor for the course is nothing short of maniacal about formatting. Understandable, but I have been formatting my papers the same way for every course and never had a problem.

    This time, I received back my first assignment and it was literally a sea of red ink. At the top of the assignment was two pages of expectations for the course and a grade that was close to failing. I took it as a failure because I take my classes very seriously and this grade was in the toilet.

    A lot of the deductions could have been avoided had the instructor emailed the expectations before the course began, which in my opinion would have been the thing to do.

    In any case, I spent about 8 hours fixing the assignment and resubmitted it. The grade was increased to a much higher one, however, I was surprised (and frustrated) to find that questions that had no notations when I got the paper back initially were now doused with red ink as well.

    This instruction requires that every question be answered with citations from elsewhere. I'm at the point where I'm terrified to include a sentence that is actually mine because that will not be acceptable. I understand that casual writing is a no-no with regard to a research paper but every in every other course I have taken, including this one, the questions ask the student to "describe the relationship between x and y" or "explain what is meant by...."

    If I explain it using my words, points deducted. So I am spending hours searching web sites for someone else's explanation and including that instead. It seems pointless to me and shows that I can copy and paste someone else's take on the information and credit them but does not in any way demonstrate my understanding of the material.

    I could live with the above I suppose if the questions were actually addressed in the course textbook. The assignment I am working on now has a question something like this: "Explain the problems that Smith has with Jones's theory."

    The course textbook has one line about Smith: "Smith says that x is not necessarily the case in all situations." That is it. There's no information about Smith's problem with Jones or Smith's theories.

    Hours later I'm still searching the web, every library database I can find, the school's cybrary and have read paper after paper and cannot find anything remotely close to a writing that addresses Smith's dislike of Jones's ideas.

    The idea that I have six more modules after this one is making want to chuck the whole thing. It's becoming not worth it anymore. I've written to the instructor about my concerns even suggesting that perhaps I have the wrong textbook but the replies are vague and seem to not address the question posed.

    I just don't think I can take it anymore. I have spent the last six days of my vacation time working on this course and have very little to show for it. My other courses were enjoyable and interesting but this one has me so completely frustrated. I am way behind and will have to ask for an extension because I'm having so much trouble with it but they could give me a three month extension but I'm having an excruciatingly difficult time finding information to assist me in answering the module questions.

    Shouldn't the course textbook address all of the questions in some way? I can't even see straight anymore I'm so upset and frustrated.

    I'm sorry for venting in such a long post but I really am close to just dropping out and hoped that venting here might help me snap out of this incredible funk and I've found myself drowning in.
  2. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator

    Sorry for your troubles. Which school? My advice: you're too far in to give up. Don't let one instructor kill your degree.
  3. Go_Fishy

    Go_Fishy New Member

    So you want to drop out because of one course, even though you enjoyed all the other ones? Sounds like a really, really stupid idea to me.

    In grad school? No way. ;)
  4. Randell1234

    Randell1234 Moderator

    First of all, I can say I know what frustration can be like. Don't give up, focus on the end goal, and think of how much stronger you will be when this is over.
  5. Dwand

    Dwand New Member

    It sounds like a nightmare! Are you going for MBA, MSA, etc? Central Michigan will take up to 15 hours towards their program if it can fit into one of their programs. I say don't give up! There is always light at the end of every tunnel!
  6. Malajac

    Malajac Member

    Seems to me you're taking two different courses at the same time - the one you're actually taking and the "Handling difficult people" one - so you're getting two for the price of one. How's that for glass is half full? :D

    I have a somewhat similar prof at my university ("nearing retirement, doesn't really care much about student feedback type" I guess), and as much as this guy makes me frustrated and plain angry, something is to be said about a professor who is willing to devote a large chunk of his time to writing little red comments on a student's paper. Well, he's either really bored and has nothing better to do or he does really care about the stuff he's teaching you.

    I have a friend doing his PhD who says something along the lines of - one of the most valuable skills he acquired during his PhD studies is the ability to visualize and handle poorly structured problems. The course you're describing seems like a good candidate for such a title. And if one is to judge by the comments on this board, if you ever decide to go for a PhD you're more likely than not to encounter this same issue, so this is also a PhD preparatory course. Three in one! :D

    Other than that, I'd say do not give up. After all, the probability of your next course being similarly difficult is only 1/7. :)
  7. cookderosa

    cookderosa Resident Chef

    Brick walls are there to keep out the people who don't want it bad enough. Is that you?

    Last year, I posted my frustration with this kind of writing. It was my first grad class, and quite a shocker....however, once I got into the style, it was fine. Just try what I did- think of yourself as a reporter, not an expert. In other words, you are reporting the facts as an observer. Your teacher is slamming your conclusions because you are an academic nobody (nothing personal). My professor said we should look at info through our own lens, not try and make assumptions. That was new to me, and took a while to digest. So, pretend that you are a reporter, and as long as you can prove what you report, you'll be good to go! I don't know if you can use the word "I" in your papers, but try taking that out. GOOD LUCK to you whichever you decide.
  8. Arch23

    Arch23 New Member

    Give yourself a break, drop that course, and take it again under a different instructor, preferably one you've had before. Then take advantage of your break to continue with your research and readings for this course (since it's likely that the syllabus in the future will cover the same topics regardless of the instructor) and review your knowledge of the required formatting (being on top of the formatting rules will ALWAYS be helpful to you, regardless of whether a future professor will ding you for mistakes or not). And so that this not happen to you again, in all your futures classes, during Day 1 of Week 1 of each course, ask your professors for explicit guidelines and expectations.

    I know, it's annoying to have to add 'pleasing the professor' to your academic burden when all you should really worry about is mastering the material, but unfortunately, that comes with the territory.

    Good luck!
  9. Abner

    Abner Well-Known Member


    Don't give up. We go to the same school. I think I know what instructor you are talking about. She is very strict about APA formatting. Just try to struggle through it. Please. I know you could do it. Just do the best you can ok? You may also want to try and secure a tutor at your local B&M uni. I know it is a pain, but it is one class. You CAN break through this wall.

    Right now I am working up the nerve to take the darn final. I have completed all of the classes. I am nervous as hell. But I decided I am going to dive in head first and just do it. Of course, after that, I still need to do the capstone.

    You can also contact President Lady. He is a great understanding person, and he may be able to offer some suggestions.

    I wish you the best,

    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 26, 2009
  10. ebbwvale

    ebbwvale Member

    Some instructors lack interpersonal skills and think that they are actually helping the student deliver higher product by bullying. Others can think that you owe them something and don't see you as the consumer. It may be a power trip on the lecturer's behalf. You can spend a lot of time tied up in conflict with the lecturer which takes you nowhere.

    Will you care in a few years time? I think not, so why care now? You will ,however, regret the failure to finish for years to come. Remember you won't be the only one to get red ink! The problem with online learning is that you will think you are. On campus students get to ventilate to each other.

    It is your dream to get the degree and then advance your prospects in the world. Don't get trapped in battles with little people who will destroy itif you let them. Just get up and deliver the next assignment. Get the mark and don't worry about the red ink. Remember the objective and focus down on the immediate next step. What may happen in the future is at best a guess.

    In respect to the research stuff. I approach it by saying "A says this" and "B says this" My opinion is this because of XYZ. There is little original in the world so it was probably said by somebody, somewhere else before. The purpose of higher education is for you to have an opinion so don't feel intimidated in expressing it. Just show that you have researched others before expressing your own. Feel free to criticize the authors as well, but justify it. They are not gods and can be wrong. We would have no new science if there was no criticism.

    Get past the red stuff. In my state, there is now a move to mark in colors other than red. I personally think that arrogance and abuse has little to do with color, but apparently some have power rushes when using red.
  11. gbrogan

    gbrogan Member

    Thanks for the replies:

    This paragraph was my Eureka! moment and was more helpful to me than anything. I understand now. Thank you for posting this. I'm heading back into the research mine now.

    Again, thanks for letting me vent. Yes, I'm sure it sounded like a stupid idea but I was at the "it's hopeless" stage. I'm glad I posted here. I almost hit Cancel, but just had to vent. I have more clarity on the situation today.
  12. cookderosa

    cookderosa Resident Chef


    So happy that encouraged you!
  13. tomball

    tomball New Member

    Weapon of mass dist....

    The easy button - drop the class- if it's killing you and try again with another instructor.

    I"ve used the easy button before, hell in high school I'd burned some of my books - no kidding, I did.
  14. Dave Wagner

    Dave Wagner Active Member

    Assuming what you've said is correct and you are not just whining unduly, this instructor seems insufficiently trained for their current position.

    My advice is to suffer through this novice to stay on track with earning your degree; getting an A in every course really doesn't matter that much in the end.

    In sum, try to comply with the instructor's wishes and earn the best grade possible. Get done.
  15. Han

    Han New Member

    Are you perhaps in a co-hort? I partnered up with a person in my class during the MBA, he was an ops/stats guy, I was the HR/mgmt/OB person - it led to a great partnership - when I struggled, he helped and vice versa..... and we vented together :)
  16. AV8R

    AV8R Active Member

    Hey, I've used that "easy" button before too. There's no shame. :)

    If the instructor's demands are simply unreasonable, drop the course and pick it up again under a different instructor.
  17. gbrogan

    gbrogan Member

    I honestly thought about dropping the course but my tuition is paid in full and if I did that I'd have to pay to repeat the class and of course run the risk of drawing this instructor again. It's a gamble I'm not willing to take.

    I'm calmer now. I am not the type to get flustered and am usually very stoic in stressful conditions. This course, however, just felt disjointed and strange from the get go.

    I certainly understand the writing requirements of research papers but the questions were not posed in a manner conducive to this type of assignment. They seemed more in line with inquisitive questions designed to demonstrate that the student understood what s/he had read in the chapters, i.e., describe the difference between x and y. It just felt like putting a square peg into a round hole.

    I worried that I was whining but honestly my reaction to this class surprised me greatly. I have switched tacks however, and have been rephrasing the questions in my mind in a research-paper oriented way and have been answering them as best I can in that vein. I think I've been successful but we'll see if the red ink continues to flow.

    Again, I appreciate all the responses.
  18. japhy4529

    japhy4529 House Bassist

    Happy to hear that you have decided to press on.
    Good luck with Aspen.
  19. BlueMason

    BlueMason Audaces fortuna juvat

    It also seems that you now have a better understanding of what this "instructor" expects - go deeper with your answers, while it may seem frustrating, I bet you're gaining a better understanding of the subject matter, n'est pas?
  20. tomball

    tomball New Member


    Question, you felt the conflict during the first class session? Correct?

    Moving forward coaching: Learn your institutions DROP POLICY and use it to WIN!

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