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The Care and Feeding of Online Instructors
(Continued from 1)

Use a good quality virus detection program on your computer! A virus checker that is operating in the background should prevent you from catching or passing on a virus. There was a time when I had a sub-standard virus program and some infected files came in. That's bad enough, but then inadvertently passing the virus onto other students compounds the sin.

Never, ever, ever, ever plagiarize! There is plenty of web content out there for quality research. It must be acknowledged appropriately in your assignments through footnotes or bibliographies. I once had an online MBA student who had to write a paper on outsourcing of a corporate function. She sent emails to other students asking for their suggestions on how to get started. Three days later, she submitted to me a paper of journal-grade quality. After I politely challenged her on it, I never heard from her again. She failed the course. Enough said.

Be timely! Deadlines are for a reason. You may have to write your assignments, but we have to read them all. However, it's more than reading. The instructor is obligated to provide professional feedback and suggestions, as well as a grade. Downloading and uploading take time. When working from home, competing for computer and Internet time with the rest of the family injects some stress into the instructor's schedule (yes, we're human too!). Late submissions, particularly those that arrive weeks late, or are piled into the inbox during the last week of the course, will only earn you animosity even though your work could be exceptional.

Don't be reluctant to use humor! I teach economics online. The reason I became an economist is that I was very good with numbers, but didn't have the personality to be an accountant! Occasional humor, without being frivolous, can endear you to a professor, particularly one who is grinding through e-papers in the dead of night after a long day in the classroom or at the office. Best to put your humorous comments in your e-mail message and not in the body of your paper. Even a :-) is welcome!

I wanted to pass on to those of you who might choose, or be required, to take a course in my subject area, some good online resources available in the virtual universe. One of my favorites is the economics site on About.com. John Irons has done an admirable job of assembling a quality site and providing numerous hyperlinks to just about any resource on economics that you could think of. My other favorite, which is a bit more narrow in scope, is the website for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The New York Fed has excellent information about the nation's banking system and the Fed's role, and research on current macroeconomic issues.

Finally, paste the following checklist next to the monitor.

  • Did I spellcheck my work and run it through a grammar program?
  • Is it virus-free?
  • Did I pay attention to the instructor's comments on my last assignment and not make the same mistake(s) again?
  • Does my virtual paper directly address the question or topic that is assigned? Have I eliminated any ambiguity and included enough detail to demonstrate my points?
  • Did I read my work over carefully, and does it read like I would speak the words?
  • Will I remember to ask for an automated receipt through my e-mail program, or ask the instructor to acknowledge receipt of my assignment?
  • Is this my best work?
Okay, go ahead and punch "send!"
Kenneth Maxey lives in Evergreen, Colorado and is an instructor at Regis University.

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