I don't understand how to do my final project! Gimme a good grade please
April 22, 2015 11:32 AM   Subscribe

Hi everybody, I turned in a final project for an online class on its due date, last Sunday. The instructor emailed me that she can’t locate part of the assignment. It becomes obvious to me that I didn’t understand the assignment and did it wrong/incomplete. There seems to be a communication failure and I cannot understand what I was supposed to do. I think it may be best to walk away from the project and take the best grade I can get. How do I tell the teacher this yet prompt her to go easy on me?

The course is Analyze Workplace Learning and Performance Diagnosis and a masters level course. I really like the work I did on this assignment. Ultimately, I feel like the assignment was successful as a learning exercise. I synthesized the material, just in an incorrect format. Her format template from the text reads to me like the directions of how to do the project and I don’t see how my data and interpretation fits. It is like the square peg in the round hole.

When I asked for further clarification she explained to me in more detail though email and gave me until last night to update it and resubmit. I had asked for her to clarify things last week prior to starting the assignment and thought I was on the right track even though her clarification was still vague. I just spent an hour going over everything last night and still have no idea what she is asking for. I’ve felt her instructions were unclear several times during the course. I’ve sent in several assignments to her concerned that I didn’t follow the directions correctly. Fortunately, until now I have gotten high scores on all of them, but of course this assignment is worth almost a third of my grade. I spent 8-10 hours on this over the weekend and another hour or so last night scratching my head to figure it out. Also, I paid a lot of money for what I felt has been a poorly run class.

Now it’s taking time away from finishing a final project for another class and to make things worse (or awesome, depending how you look at it) I was given two of the largest sales opportunities our company has ever had which is making a sales presentation to Home Depot and Ace Hardware Corporate. I need to have one presentation prepared in detail by Friday and the other by next Thursday and the amount of paperwork I have to submit is astounding. I’m getting a little stressed over everything. When these companies want detail, they want DETAIL. I’m thinking this just isn’t my priority right now and I should just give up and move on. She’s a professional and has her own consulting firm so she probably understands the time pressure I am under.

Honestly, I’ve taken a lot of online courses at my school and have been satisfied with all of them except this one. Prior to this, I was already thinking that when I do the private course assessment I will leave constructive criticism about the poor assignment instruction. I was going to comment about a lack of feedback on assignments as well. I’ve gotten nothing lower than an A- in any other course I’ve taken recently and am confident that I am a good student. I’m a working professional as well and not a slacking undergrad with a dog ate my homework excuse.

I’m thinking of telling her the following in an email:

Hi teacher, I had trouble following the instructions and the rubric and believe that it is best that I focus on other projects that I have on my plate. I have been given the opportunity to call on the biggest accounts our company has ever had the chance to sell to. They are Home Depot and Ace Hardware corporate and the level of detail they ask for on their paperwork is astounding. One submission is due Friday and the other the following Thursday. Additionally, I have another final class project due at the end of next week.

I spent a lot of time on this project and feel like I learned a lot from it. I also feel that the knowledge gained is extremely applicable to addressing problems in my family’s business. With much consideration I feel like I need to move on and focus on other things right now and ask that you grade this assignment on the quality of the content. I will accept whatever grade you choose to give me but ask for some leniency in this case.

I appreciate your consideration and have enjoyed the class.



She responded to me last night about my further issues and I still don’t get it. I asked for a call today and an example in my last email and she did not address these requests but said that I can still reach out for further assistance. So I’m still lost.

I would like to get a good grade but also walk away. How would you approach the instructor on this hive mind?
posted by Che boludo! to Education (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Why would she give you a good grade? Because you're too busy to do the work?

She's offering to give you additional time and assistance on the project, even if you don't understand it. That's on you to get a call with her, talk to classmates, etc etc.

Also, she probably won't care at all about your two fancy clients so I wouldn't bother with that line of argument.
posted by Flamingo at 11:43 AM on April 22, 2015 [19 favorites]

Describe where you think your misunderstanding lies, and submit your work along with the second paragraph of your proposed letter. Don't go into detail about your duties at your work. It isn't relevant and could easily be interpreted as unprofessional.
posted by adiabatic at 11:44 AM on April 22, 2015 [4 favorites]

Wow, do not send that email.

1) Do not address your professor, "Hi teacher" (maybe this is just advice request shorthand, but I've seen students do it, so I'm going to be cautious)
2) Do not tell your professor about all the other things you have to do that are more important than her class
3) You are literally asking her to give you a better grade than you deserve.

Apologize for failing to complete the assignment, let her know what you misunderstood, and walk away. Complain on the course evaluation if you want.
posted by mskyle at 11:51 AM on April 22, 2015 [22 favorites]

Response by poster: I did write up an example of what I thought she meant and I didn't understand her response back. I don't expect a good grade but would like her to be lenient. I'm just frustrated.
posted by Che boludo! at 11:51 AM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Your proposed email is way off in scope and in tone. Why would you tell her all that? TMI! You misunderstood the final project, and she gave you an opportunity to re-do it correctly, which not all instructors do. You're not going to take that opportunity. It is what it is.

The email you write her, if you write her one at all, should say:

"Thanks so much for the opportunity to resubmit my final project. While I'm disappointed that the work I put into it and the knowledge I learned from it will not be reflected in my grade, I see that my misunderstanding of the scope of the project isn't something I can easily fix. I'm unfortunately not able to resubmit due to limitations on my availability, and so I'll accept whatever grade you give me for the project and the class as-is."

Your instructor doesn't care about your fancy clients, and is not going to be swayed by a request for consideration for a better grade when you can't justify it quantitatively or qualitatively. Just let her know not to expect a resubmission and move on with your life like you'd planned. Sorry, dude. That's online grad school for you.
posted by juniperesque at 11:52 AM on April 22, 2015 [40 favorites]

Response by poster: Hi teacher, was just my example for this question. I would never refer to any professional in such a manner.
posted by Che boludo! at 11:52 AM on April 22, 2015

Are you interested in completing the assignment properly or are you just trying to write her a note that will encourage her to give you a better grade than what you actually earned? If it's the former, maybe you can ask a friend or two to read the instructions and see if they can figure out what the assignment was. Then, complete it. If it's the latter, don't bother with the nice note filled with unrelated information about your career opportunities. Just tell her you misunderstood the assignment and that now you won't have time to complete the rework before her deadline.
posted by quince at 11:55 AM on April 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

Would you rather go back and forth a few times with this instructor, finally figure out not only what she meant, but also _why_ you misunderstood (and how you could have achieved a clear understanding earlier in the process), and possibly get a better grade -- or wait and possibly learn about this by miscommunicating with a client later?
posted by amtho at 11:55 AM on April 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

Speaking as a former graduate school adjunct, I understood that students have other things going on. And I understood that for many reasons (some quite legitimate), they might choose to prioritize other things.

But students have to understand that these other things aren't a reason for me to grade them differently. Do students get a sliding scale based on how much (they say) is going on in their lives? No.

No way.

Write a short email that says that you can't resubmit, just so that the instructor knows not to expect more. Then accept that this didn't go as well as you would have liked.
posted by veggieboy at 11:57 AM on April 22, 2015 [15 favorites]

She’s a professional and has her own consulting firm so she probably understands the time pressure I am under.

I see this as the exact opposite. To me, this statement should read:
"She's a professional and has her own consulting firm so she probably understands that there are consequences for failing to complete work on time.
posted by Flood at 12:00 PM on April 22, 2015 [22 favorites]

I'm a professor myself and while I know sometimes I have given confusing instructions for assignments, I am seeing every assignment that is turned in and you are not. In my experience, even with confusing instructions my students get the gist of things. The fact that she gave you an extension and didn't apply it class-wide suggests that the problem lies more with you and less with the assignment. I'm not saying the assignment isn't confusing, but I think it's less problematic than you probably think it is.

I also think this because - and I hope this isn't rude - I am having a bit of trouble following your argument and logic in this very question here. You want her to be lenient? She's already being lenient by giving you another shot. At this point in the semester, she's practically acting a saint here - this is taking up her time, too. You don't have to take her up on it, but she's not going to grade you easier if you don't.

I would do one of two things:
A. Take her clarification email and rubric and write it out in your own words. Break the assignment down and figure it out. Forget what you've done for the assignment to date and figure out what she wants. Budget your time and devote four hours to making it better. Send that in. The fact that she gave you what sounds like an extra day or two after reviewing it to make it better? That means you don't need very long to fix it.
B. Ask her to accept what you have and say you don't have more time to complete it. Don't get into any details about your job or other assignments. She isn't interested in that stuff.

Option A will get you a better grade. Option B will not.

Also remember: as long as you pass, the grades you get in a masters program do not matter. "C's make degrees" is a phrase for a reason. Very very few people will care about your GPA or your grades. If you feel like you learned what you wanted to learn, let go of the grade - as long as it won't fail you.
posted by sockermom at 12:02 PM on April 22, 2015 [22 favorites]

She's gotten similar notes before, usually not from students you want to associate yourself with in her mind.

It's hard for her to sort out which excuses are real, and anyway that's not her job: the grade's there to communicate to what degree you've mastered some subject, for the purposes of figuring out whether you're ready to use that subject elsewhere, or take another class that builds on this one, or whatever. And if you failed to learn the stuff, it doesn't really matter much in the end whether it's because you're a flake or because you were busy or sick all semester, the result's mostly the same. The best accommodation a good excuse is likely to get you is an extension so you can finish the work later.

It may be worth explaining what you've done, where you think the misunderstanding was and what you would do next if this weren't the end of the term, etc., but drop this: "I spent a lot of time on this project and feel like I learned a lot from it". The point is to *demonstrate* that, not to come out and say it in so many words.

I wouldn't request leniency, or refer to grades at all, she's heard all that before and it puts her in a bad spot.

I wouldn't recommend it, but if you absolutely have to mention your conflicts, just leave it to "apologies, I would have also liked to try X, Y, or Z, but..." (brief description of work here).

Sounds like you've been a diligent student up till now and, based on grades, she's noticed that fact. Have confidence in that performance and leave the grading to her.
posted by bfields at 12:09 PM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've taught online courses like many of the posters here, and I agree that you should not send this email. It sounds to me like your professor has already been very lenient in allowing you additional time to complete the assignment as well as the opportunity to resbumit work for a revised grade. Asking, on top of this, for a higher grade than you earned is basically telling your professor that for reasons you deserve to be graded on a completely different standard than every other student in the course. That feels pretty unfair to and disrespectful of the other students and the efforts they have put into this course. I am always trying to balance meeting students where they are and helping them learn the material with creating an even playing field and ensuring that those who complain don't just automatically get higher grades because they spoke up.

Honestly, from your description I'm unclear on what went wrong here. You write that "Her format template from the text reads to me like the directions of how to do the project and I don’t see how my data and interpretation fits." So...it sounds like she gave you a template for how to complete the project and you ignored it? And now you still don't want to fix it? That is a perfectly fine and valid choice, but it isn't really a reason for her to be lenient in grading. Maybe it would help if you posted the specific directions/template you were given?

Regardless, if you don't have more time to devote to the project, that is your call to make, and I am pretty sure that your professor will understand in the sense of not thinking you're a horrible person or anything. But at the same time, that understanding still comes with consequences since you can't get your own special grading standard that other students don't benefit from. I have often had students for whom my class is just not a priority for them whatever reason. I totally understand in the sense that not every class was a priority for me either, when I was in school! I do not think these students are lazy or awful or whatever. But I also can't randomly give them a different grade than they earned based on the fact that my subject wasn't that interesting to them or they were working a lot of hours or whatever else.
posted by rainbowbrite at 12:22 PM on April 22, 2015 [6 favorites]

Imagine she is your most important client. Imagine hundreds of thousands of dollars hang in the balance, this is the correct answer.

Get this understood, by talking with a successful student from your class. This is the model for what you plan to do in life. Just pretend you aren't going to make the money, or get the job, if you don't. The customer is always right.
posted by Oyéah at 12:26 PM on April 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

I agree with juniperesque, but an additional option is to request an incomplete in the class and to make up the work in the next couple of weeks. Your prof might not go for it but it’s worth an ask if you’d be interested in trying more when you have more time.
posted by metasarah at 12:38 PM on April 22, 2015

You are making a lot of irrelevant excuses that all lead back to one thing here: you dropped the ball, and this is your responsibility to fix. I agree with what everyone else is saying; you need to treat this as you would a job, and figure out how to complete the assignment in full and correctly, even if that means it's late. Your teacher doesn't owe you a good grade just because you tried, just as a boss doesn't owe you a good review when you drop the ball on a big assignment. I recommend the following.

"Hi, Professor,

In reviewing the work I submitted to you this week I realized that I misunderstood part of the assignment and that's why a portion of my project is missing. I recognize that this is a big favor to ask, but I would like to do right by this project and complete it in full now that I see what I'm missing. If I were to submit the missing portion by X date, would you still be willing to grade it, or is what I've submitted the only portion you'll grade? I apologize for the misunderstanding on my end and will take care to clarify all phases next time rather than waiting till the end as I did this time.

Thank you for your advice."
posted by Hermione Granger at 12:42 PM on April 22, 2015 [4 favorites]

Juniperesque or Hermione Granger's emails are ones that you should send, verbatim, depending on what you want to do.
posted by suedehead at 1:03 PM on April 22, 2015

Response by poster: In the event that anybody is following this, I justreceved an email from the teacher on my final resubmission accoreding to my understanding of her final instruction. She explained that I still did not do it correctly and expressed concern. This how I am responding.

Thank you so much for the opportunity to resubmit my final project and your concern. While I'm disappointed that all the work I put into it and the knowledge I learned from it will not be reflected in my grade. I see that my misunderstanding of the assignment isn't something that I can easily fix at this time due to other professional and academic projects pending. With much consideration and disappointment I have decided that I am unfortunately not able to resubmit. I'll accept whatever grade you give me for the project and the class as-is.

On a positive note, I feel that I learned a lot from this project and that the knowledge gained is extremely applicable to addressing problems in my family’s business and other future work.

I thank you again for your flexibility in extending the due date and working with me on this.

posted by Che boludo! at 11:16 AM on April 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I got a B- for the class in the end. I can live with that.
posted by Che boludo! at 9:50 AM on April 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

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