Nichols’s 
Rules of the Internet Courses
Revised January 3, 2008

This purpose of this page is to address questions, concerns and frustrations that have commonly come up, and to provide students in the Internet-based classes with the rationale underlying some aspects of the design of the course.  Some of the points may have also been covered on the "Course Orientation" page, or on another page, while others were not. 

This page should be considered a "work-in-progress" that will be added to as the need arises.

Some of the following rules and guidelines are based on simple "Netiquette".  They should be considered universal.

Others are based on my specific needs and modes of operation.  Other professors may prefer to use different procedures.
 
 
 

New Rules
Added January 3, 2008
 

To avoid problems that have occurred in the past and to take advantage of capabilities that TCC has recently added, the following New Rules are in effect as of the Spring, 2008 semester.

1.  Missed Exams:
You are allowed to drop your lowest regular exam score whether it is your lowest score because you took the exam and did relatively poorly on it, something went wrong when you took the exam and BlackBoard (BB) did not receive your exam, or because you did not take it at all.

A.  If you took the exam and did poorly on it, you do not need to do anything special.  The lowest score is dropped automatically for everyone.

B.  If something went wrong when you took the exam and BlackBoard (BB) did not receive your exam, you must report that to me using the Unsuccessful Exam Effort report form I created for that purpose.  If you fail to notify me using the Unsuccessful Exam Effort report form, I will give absolutely no consideration to allowing you to make up the exam.

C.  If you did not take the exam at all, whether intentionally or unintentionally, and you intend to continue in the course, you must notify me via email that that is the case.  If you fail to notify me, I may drop you from the class before the next exam.  I do this to help prevent enrollment fraud and to "protect" my statistics.
 


 
 
NEW RULES
Added June 6, 2005
 

To avoid problems that have occurred in the past and to take advantage of capabilities that TCC has recently added, the following New Rules are in effect as of the Summer, 2005 semester.

(His "New Rules" are a lot funnier than mine: http://www.hbo.com/billmaher/new_rules)

1.  Email Accounts Used For Classes:
Students in my classes are expected to use the email accounts that TCC now provides.  (See details below in "Email".)

2.  No Repeats without my permission.  Students who are repeating my course are required to notify me of the fact that they are repeating the course at the beginning of the semester. (See details below in "Repeating Courses".)

3.  Related students must advise me of the relationship at the start of the semester.  (See details below in "Related Students".)

4.  Assignments will not be graded and returned until near the end of the semester.  (See details below in "Grading and Returning of Assignments".)

5.  I do not "do" grades before the end of the semester.  (See details below in "Early Grade Computations".)
 

Email
I have long suggested strongly that you have separate email accounts for important things such as course work.  That makes it easier to keep course material together and organized.   Also, you may not wish to use the needed settings for all of your email correspondence.   TCC has now made it simple and easy for you to do that by providing all students with a free Web-based email account. Surprisingly enough, TCC has even set up those accounts in such a way that they meet all of my requirements and almost all of my suggestions.  If you set up an account that meets my requirements, it will almost certainly also be satisfactory for use in any other course, even if that Professor does not specifically require what I require.

You can create separate folders for each of your classes to keep your work for each class organized by class.  That way, you can have the one email address registered on the TCC Student Web and it will automatically be included on BlackBoard (BB).  This is important because BB can only recognize one email address.

TCC's UserID format meets one of my most important requirements.  Your email address, for my classes, must include a UserID that directly corresponds to your name as shown on the class roll.  Since the TCC UserID format is YourFirstName.YourLastName, it matches the class roll and avoids many of the sources of confusion and errors that have occurred in the past.

In the past, I have also strongly recommend that you not use a shared account.  We may sometimes be exchanging sensitive, private information (such as scores and grades) that should not be available to anyone except you.  I know of cases where marriages, and "friendships" have broken up and one person has changed the account password.  As a result, the other person could not access the email account and missed important messages.  TCC's new email system eliminates any need to use a shared account.

Required Email Settings  (Some of these settings may be the default settings.  If not, you will have to do them manually):
Log into your account.
Go into the email account.
Select Options.
Select "Personal Information" to add or change personal information, signature file, name, etc. 
Select "Settings" to automatically save a copy of sent messages in the "Sent" file, and to automatically quote the original message when replying.

1.  (Required) Set your TCC account to automatically save a copy of all of your course related material.  You may have to "prove" that you sent something (such as an assignment).  While you can try to remember to save individual postings, that is not a reliable method, and if you "forget" to save a copy, it could result in extra work for you or even a loss of credit.

2.  (Required) Set your TCC account to automatically include the original message when you reply.  Do not rely on me (or other readers) to remember what it is that you are referring to in your reply. 

3.  (Required) Set your service or software for "plain text" email for normal course-related postings.  HTML formatting generally results in significantly larger files, and usually is not necessary.  (Attachments, such as Word documents, result in even larger files.  That is one reason I do not accept them, and in most cases delete them immediately without opening them.)

Other Considerations:
Do not piggyback messages.  Do not include any other information or explanation with your assignments — use a separate message.  Do not use one message to send a message that is unrelated to the topic of the original message.

Always include something that identifies the topic of your message in the "Subject:" line.  Never send anyone a message with a blank "Subject:" line.  That is always considered bad netiquette.  Always use the "Subject:" line I provide for the Assignments, and other notifiers (such as for the Course Orientation), without modifications.

Email messages such as "Did you get the assignments I sent last week?" will usually be deleted without reply.  Email messages will almost always go to the address to which they are sent.  In those cases where they cannot be delivered, you will get a bounce-back message that will tell you that the original message could not be delivered and why.  In the vast majority of cases, it is because you typed the address incorrectly.  If you entered my addresses correctly, and you did not get a bounce-back message, I almost surely got it.  If I have not responded, it is probable that I have not gotten to it yet, or that I am too busy with something else to reply right now.  Additional email is not going to help me get to it any quicker.

I never accept attachments.  I do not open them.  Use only straight text email.  Attachments, especially those created using MicroSoft products, are one of the primary means of spreading computer viruses.  I am not about to put my data and/or hardware (and, ultimately, yours) at risk by opening attachments to email.  Attachments also result in unnecessarily large messages which are a waste of storage space.

You can always do your work in any word processor you want to use, but copy and paste the material into your email, after checking spelling, grammar, content, etc.  It would be a good idea to save any work you do in your word processor, but be aware that unlike a saved message in your "Sent" file, this file will not "prove" that you sent it to me, and when.
 

Assignments
Before starting work on any assignment, read the assigned material and visit the assigned sites.  In other words, acquire the knowledge that you are supposed to know before attempting the work.

Before starting work on any assignment, carefully read the Example and Hints page for that assignment.  Note all of the things that you will be expected to address in the assignment.  For some assignments, very specific things are called for.  For others, I leave it pretty much up to your discretion as to how much and what you include.  There are only a few exercises that I check for accuracy of answers (for example, the learning theory exercises).  I grade them for accuracy because I already know that students have considerable difficulty with the learning theory concepts.  Most exercises are designed simply to force you to focus on some of the things that have a high probability of being on the exams.  On these exercises, I mostly look to see how complete your consideration of the material is, that is, whether you are looking at all of the relevant concepts and ideas.  I may or may not write back about deficiencies on these assignments, since I do not grade them for content.  My rationale is that if you do not give due consideration to the material, your exam grade — and consequently, your grade for the course — will probably reflect that lack of consideration.

Before sending in any assignment, check it against the Example and Hints page again to make sure you have included all aspects of the assignment that were specified.  Above all else, use the "Assignments Checklist" I have provided.  It will all but guarantee that there will be no "fatal" errors in your assignment.  If you have any doubt that you have done the assignment correctly (that is, according to the instructions) do not send it — correct it.  You should never have any doubts about whether or not you have full credit for the assignment.  You should not have to hear back from me that your work is acceptable.

Assignments will earn credit on an "All or Nothing" basis.  I do not give partial credit for Assignments that are done in a partly correct manner.  Assignments that are done correctly will receive full credit.  Assignments that are not done correctly will not be accepted.  If they are submitted early enough, assignments that are rejected may be redone and resubmitted for full credit.  In order to reserve the right to "Re-do and Re-submit" (R&R) an assignment, that assignment must be submitted at least 48 hours (2 days) prior to the "Absolute Deadline" shown on the "Assignments" page.  The "Absolute Deadline" will always be Midnight, the night before the test becomes available.    Assignments will be returned at about the time of the last regular exam.  If qualified for R&R, rejected assignments must be corrected and returned during the week prior to the start of the Final Exam.

Should you need to R&R an assignment for any reason, do not use the "Reply" or "Forward" functions.  Send a new message.  If you have followed my other instructions, you should not need to retype the entire assignment — use the saved copy, copy and paste the material into a new message, and make only the necessary changes.  Include the deadline extension statement, if I provide you with one, at the top of the assignment.  Also, modify the "Subject:" line to read "R&R - (Name of Assignment)". 
 

Chat
The chat allows for synchronous communication and permits real-time discussion of topics, though usually in less detail (and thoughtfulness) than does the class discussion group. 

If you cannot attend the session, at least check the transcript.  You never know what you might find there that might help you.

Chat time is limited, so do not waste it.  If you do not think that the chat session is not dealing with sufficiently "important" matters, try to steer the discussion in a direction that you think is more useful or helpful.  While it is OK to bring up administrative matters (in fact, it may be a good way to get a quick answer to such questions when such are possible) remember that the primary purpose is to "talk psychology" (the content of the course, preferably using the proper terminology).

Come prepared with ideas or questions from the readings or assignments that you would like to explore.  You can even type them out in WordPad or a word processor, ahead of time, then cut and paste them into the chat comment box to save time.

I did not set up the chat sessions as a vehicle for me to lecture the class, however, I do sometimes make important announcements, suggestions or recommendations that apply to the entire class.  Chat sessions are intended to, among other things, provide a venue for students to help each other make sure they understand the material and to participate in the kinds of discussions about the material that frequently take place in the classroom or in the "coffee shop" before or after class, in the traditional college environment.

It is not mathematically possible to earn the full amount of participation points by attending only the chat sessions.  You will also have to be active in the class discussion group and/or the discussion board.

The Chat session is expected to run for a "50-minute hour", though I might be willing to extend that as necessary, if it is possible to do so.  Students are expected to "attend" essentially the full session, and to actively participate in the chat, in order to earn the participation credit.  Students who experience technical problems getting into, or staying in, the chat room should advise me of the problems.  I may or may not know the solution to the problems, but it will probably involve more than I can do in writing.  Calling the Distance Learning Office (595-7143) is the surest way to find the solution to technical or procedural problems with the BB chat function.

Each chat session attended will earn the student 5 points.
 

Discussion Group (a.k.a., Discussion List)
The class discussion group allows for asynchronous communication and permits extended discussion of topics in greater detail (and thoughtfulness) than does the chat.  The discussion list serves much the same function as the chat sessions without requiring the students to be available at a particular time.  The discussion list, like the chat sessions, is intended to provide a venue for all of the students in the class (not just those who are able to attend the chat sessions) to help each other make sure they understand the material, to participate in the kinds of discussions about the material that frequently take place in the classroom, to get answers to questions of a general nature that other students may also have, and for me to be able to notify the entire class of matters pertaining to the class.  Each qualifying discussion list posting will earn the student 5 points.

Questions, comments, or complaints about administrative matters will not earn participation points.  I will not censor you or prevent you from saying anything you wish to say (within reason), but such things will not earn you credit.   Students who answer such questions or respond to such comments or complaints in a helpful or instructive manner may, however, receive credit. 

I subscribe to the class discussion list.  That means that you do not need to CC me when you post to the list, since I will be receiving and storing all postings to the class discussion list.

Since I do not want the discussion list participation to be viewed as merely a points-getting activity at the end of the semester, I am instituting a limit of 10 points per week (20 points per week for 8-week and Summer semester classes) that can be earned regardless of the number of postings.  The "week" will run from Sunday through Saturday.  You can feel free to post as often as you wish or need to, but are limited in the number of points you can receive.  My rationale is that if you post because you want to help someone else, or because you need to know, or because you simply want to be involved, that is fine.  If you are only willing to help, seek information, or participate only because of the credit, then to heck with it.  I do not wish to reinforce superficiality.

Discussion Board
The class discussion board allows for asynchronous communication and permits extended discussion of topics in even greater detail (and thoughtfulness) than does the discussion list.  The discussion board serves much the same function as the discussion list and the chat sessions without requiring the students to be available at a particular time.  The discussion board, like the discussion list and chat sessions, is intended to provide a venue for all of the students in the class to help each other make sure they understand the material and to participate in the kinds of discussions about the material that frequently take place in the classroom.

In 16-week classes, a "Question of the Week" (QoW) will be posted to the BlackBoard Discussion Board over the weekend.  Students will have until Midnight the following weekend to post a response for credit.  Unless otherwise announced, postings after that time will not receive credit.  In 8-week classes, a group of two or three QoWs will be posted to the BlackBoard Discussion Board at the beginning of the exam period.  Students will have until Midnight the night before the exam becomes available.

Each question answered in an acceptable manner will earn the student 5 points.

The nature of the questions asked is such that specific knowledge of the topic will generally be required.  It is probably unlikely that the questions will adequately answered without the student studying the textbook and/or investigating the topic on the Web prior to attempting to answer the question.

It is not mathematically possible to earn the full amount of participation points by  only responding to the discussion board.   You will also have to be active in the class discussion group and/or the chat sessions.

Repeating Courses
While it might sound counterintuitive, in most cases it is not a good idea to repeat a course under the same professor, especially if the same textbook is used.  While I do not prohibit course repeats outright, I may impose limits.  At the very least, I will have some special instructions and warnings.  Students who are repeating my course are required to notify me via an email message at the beginning of the semester that they have previously attempted to take my course and dropped the course or made an unacceptable grade on the earlier attempt.  They must identify when they had attempted the course and explain why the needed to repeat the course.  Failure to notify me of the repeat of the course will result in an Administrative Withdrawal or an "F" for the course.  On the "Subject:" line of that message, use "Repeating Course".

Related Students
Related students taking the same class together face the possibility of violating rules and ethical requirements, possibly without even knowing they had done anything improper.  Taking courses together, of course, may also be done with the specific intent to cheat.  The term related covers siblings, parent/child, husband/wife, etc., and any other such familial relationsips.  It should also apply to friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc., and any other such social relationships.

While I do not prohibit related students from taking my courses outright, I may impose limits.  At the very least, I will have some special instructions and warnings.  Related students who are taking my courses are required to notify me via email message at the beginning of the semester that they are related in some specified way.  On the "Subject:" line of that message, use "Related Students".  Failure to notify me of the relationship could have an impact on grades and/or credit for the course.

Grading and Returning of Assignments
It is unlikely that I will grade and return assignments as they are submitted.  Instructions are provided that cover everything I am particularly concerned about.  "Fatal" errors (failings that will lead to rejection of your work) are virtually impossible to commit if you use the Example & Hints (E&H) pages that I have provided for every assignment, especially if you also use the Assignments Checklist I have provided.  At this level of your education, you are expected to carefully proofread any work you submit (I know that I am not the first to tell you that) to insure that you have done what you were instructed to do and that your work is of reasonably quality.  You are expected to make sure you have covered the topic to a reasonable degree.  You are expected to check your spelling, punctuation, grammer, etc., at least to the degree that you do not appear to be a totally incompetent college student.  I do not "grade off" for such errors -- at least I don't  as long as I can make sense of what you have written without having to work too hard at it -- but there are many who do.  Get used to it.  Check your work before submitting it, and do not submit it until you are reasonably well convinced that you have done the best work you are capable of producing.  Since that is fairly easy to determine, you should have little reason to doubt that your work will be accepted as submitted.  You can further insure your success by simply working 48 hours ahead of what I call the Absolute Deadline (always Midnight, the day before I make the exam available to you) so that you are guaranteed the opportunity to Redo and Resubmit (R&R) the assignment should it contain fatal errors despite your best efforts.

Things move fast, especially in the 8-week classes.  By the time I could return your assignments from a previous exam unit, you need to be concentrating on the material for the next exam unit.  That is not the best time for you to be going back and redoing work you should have already done correctly.  The time of least activity, in terms of new work to be done, is the week between the last reqular exam and the Final Exam.  That is the best time to do any R&Rs that are necessary.  There are also some sound pedagogical bases for using this approach.  The most powerful one is the "first law of learning": Repetition is the key to learning.  If you cannot learn what you need to learn doing one or two assignments at a time, maybe it will help to do up to five or six in rapid succession. 

Somewhere around the time of the last regular exam I will return your assignments.  You will then have the time remaining before the Final Exam to R&R any assignments that are rejected — provided you submitted the assignments prior to the "Guarantee Deadline" shown on the Assignments page.

Early Grade Computations
I do not "do" grades before the end of the semester.  Do not ask me what your grade is, or if you can pass the course, prior to the time I post your grades to the Student Web.  By design, there are so many points that become available in the last 10 days of the course that it is never a lost cause until the very end of the course.  In addition, I do not know what you are capable of doing.  Nor do I know what you are willing to do.  I certainly do not know what you will actually do in terms of preparing for the last exam and the Final Exam.  I have no idea of what else is on your plate or what unanticipated things might come up at the last minute.  You know far more about such things than I do. 

You should constantly be self-monitoring your performance in all of your classes.  To help you do that in my class, I will be posting exam reports following each exam.   In that report, I will provide some statistics based on the high, mean, median and low scores on the exam in addition to suggestions about how to maximize you performance in the course.  Some of those statistics consider only the raw exam scores.  Others consider both the exam scored and the non-exam points for that exam unit.   You should not find it too difficult to find your place among those exam scores, adjust the non-exam points depending on what you actually did in those areas, and determine roughly how well you are doing in the class.

Required:
Send an email message to me at the proper address for your class (see the syllabus, and do not forget to CC a copy to the Oklahoma.net address) indicating that you have carefully read and understand everything covered by the "Rules" page as of this date.  Use the Subject line: The "Rules" Page (today's date).

Make it easy on yourself and copy and paste the following statement into the body of your email message:

"I have carefully read the "Rules" page.  I believe I understand everything on it.  I recognize that these are rules that will govern the way this course is conducted (though there may be additional rules involved that may be covered in other places).  I agree to abide by these rules on this page for the duration of this course."

(Note that you are not agreeing that this is the only, or even the best, way to do things or the way that you would like for things to be done, or the way that "everyone else" is, or should be, doing things.  You are simply acknowledging that this is the way things will be done in this class.)
 
 

The proper APA-style reference for this page would be:

Nichols, J. W. (2008, January 3). Eddy Cut and Rules for Internet Classes.  Retrieved January 22, 2008 from the World Wide Web: http://www.tulsa.oklahoma.net/~jnichols/EddyCutt.html