PITA Student with a Problem: WWtFD?

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Your advice, please:  What would you do with my PITA student?

Some of our class time is devoted to hands-on work using the computers in a computer lab.  I demonstrate various things on my computer (projected onto a big screen for all to see), and the students re-create what I'm doing, step by step, using their own (lab) computers.  So, I might say, for example, "Open your browser and navigate to <url>, and--" at which point the PITA student will interrupt me with a loud announcement, "My browser won't open!"  It will turn out that she has clicked on the icon for Windows Explorer instead of the icon for Internet Explorer (even though I've taught the class, repeatedly, the difference between the two).  Or I'll say, "Open XYZ application and click on the blah-blah dropdown menu and select the basket-weaving command.  When you do this--"  And sure enough, there's my PITA student, interrupting again (and you can hear the exclamation points in her tone), with "I can't find the dropdown menu!" (it's there, right where I showed you ten minutes ago) or "My computer doesn't have the basket-weaving command!" (it does) or "Why aren't we using the music-making command?" (because that command makes music, and we want to weave baskets) or "My brother's computer has TWO basket-weaving commands!" (yes, he has a Mac, but we're using the PC/Windows version of this software, and all the basket-weaving functions are combined in a single dialog box).  You know the kind of student I'm talking about.  She needs lots of hand holding, lots of gentle social discipline ("I'll come to that in a moment, PITA, let me finish my point," etc.), and lots and lots of guidance in every aspect of the course.  She thinks nothing of holding up the entire class to demand individualized help with something she should already know.

Now she has a job offer more than 200 miles away, which she wants to accept.  (The job starts in two or three weeks.)  Another professor offers this course entirely online, but that section is full (overfull, actually) and she has refused to allow this student to switch sections--entirely understandable, given that the drop/add period ended weeks ago.  We offer multiple sections (including at least one online section) of this course every semester, but if the student withdraws now and retakes the course this summer or next year, she loses her tuition money (and, for all I know, her financial aid, if she has any).  What she wants is for me to deliver the rest of this semester's course to her online.  (All the students already do their assignments, quizzes, and exams online, but they do so in the computer lab, with me there, proctoring.)  So what she'd be missing is the actual course instruction, but not the assessment activities.  I've already told her that I cannot possibly find the time to design an online version of the instruction itself, and she claims that she's fine with that, saying she will use our (very good) textbook to teach herself.

Yup.  And I'll grow wings and learn to fly.

You know that she will start sending me thrice-daily whiny emails, "Mrs. Infopri, [yup, she's one of those], I just don't understand the material in Chapter 3 at all.  Can you explain it to me?"  "Mrs. Infopri, can you just look at my assignment before I submit it officially, and tell me what I did wrong and how to fix it?" and all sorts of other emails that would require three-page email replies.

So, WWtFD?  Would you force her to choose between withdrawing (and losing "thousands of dollars!") and declining the job offer, or would you let her do the assignments, quizzes, and exams online, but without any instructional support from you?  (That is, replying to the inevitable emails with reminders that she must rely solely on the textbook, etc.)

And yes, I am consulting with the Student Services folks--but I'm expecting the one who counts to say that the final decision is up to me.  What say you, O Fora?

I would simply say no.  The amount of work this is going to turn into if you agree will be immense--she will e-mail you daily, or, worse yet, send a flurry of e-mail messages every times something is due or overdue.  In the end, she'll almost certainly fail to master the material.

So practice a brief refusal.  Something like:  "This section is not designed to be taken as a distance learning course.  You may either complete the course as it is designed or withdraw."

Then keep repeating that every single time she asks.

Well, it's easy for me to say this b/c I'm not the instructor, but I would hold your ground and say no. First, she is an adult and must have known when applying for the job and signing up for courses that there was the potential for getting the job and it starting during the semester, so she'd have to lose that tuition money. She has to accept that responsibility. She can try to discuss it with the registrar's office, but I'm pretty sure they wouldn't give her the money back. Second, the course she signed up for is not an online course, and it isn't fair to the other students to have their exams proctored and not hers. Nor is it fair to you to set up her exams to be proctored from 200 miles away.

The above reasoning has nothing to do with the fact that she is a PITA. so you can leave that part out of the equation. However, that she is a PITA tells me that you will regret this the entire semester and it will make your life more difficult. Again, she applied for the job knowing the risks, so I don't think you need to do extra work to pay for those consequences.

On edit, what mended_drum said more briefly.

And, as I said, it's easier for me to say this than for you to do this, but I would stand your ground.

stand your ground. you are not responsible for the refund policy at the institution. and taking the job was her decision. be prepared to redirect her to the dept/program chair or other admins if she complains about something that is beyond your responsibilities - "you sound concerned. the best person to talk to about that is X"

if you happen to get admin pressure to accommodate her I could see framing it as, "so you are asking me to open another online section? what would the compensation be for that?"

her version of PITA sounds like someone who speaks before thinking, or she does all her thinking outloud. hard to call someone out on it, hard for the person to inhibit it, and hard on the other people in the room who are trying to concentrate.

With all due apologies to Nancy Reagan, "just say no!"

The request is not one that I'd be inclined to support even for a very good student. It's not fair to the other students in the class, and it sets a dangerous precedent. (Would you want PITA saying on an RMP website: "awesome class! Mrs. Infopri let me finish the last 2/3rds of the semester remotely!"??).

I would counsel the student to petition for a retroactive withdrawal (perhaps even offer to write a letter of support to the registrar's office). Even if the powers that be won't grant such a request, I highly doubt that the student will actually decline the job offer on account of not being able to finish your class. In other words, this is a false either/or dilemma that is so not your problem.


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