There are many wonderful advantages to being able to look back at old discussions on the AUSU forum boards: questions regarding assignments can be answered and you can find a sense of comradery. There are a few things that you should keep in mind while reading some of these posts. First, just because that was one person’s experience does not mean it will be yours, and second, check the date.
Checking the date on the post is important because courses change and evolve over the years. A course thread posted in 2001 likely does not hold a lot of weight in 2015; it is great to have access to these old threads, especially for English courses, mostly because without them when I search for a course I would come up empty handed.
It is also important to remember that just because this was their experience does not mean it will be yours, even if it is a current thread. As I learned in a hotel tourism crash-course, most people who are going to leave reviews have had a bad experience. People who have enjoyed their stay generally will not take the time to write it down. However, if in a hotel someone finds a nest of bugs or a substantial amount of hair in the bathroom, and as a topper they have poor service when they report the issue, they will likely take to the internet to voice their concerns and vent. The same occurs with various other industries, and education is no exception. The thread you are looking at could be a small blemish on the course or a misunderstanding that may not accurately reflect the course or the tutor. Just as the hotel-reviewer may be exaggerating the number of bugs or the poor service, you never know if the guest may have been irate about something else entirely and took it out on the customer service representative. The same can happen on a course, the student and tutor may be having off days and clash where otherwise they normally would not have. I know I am guilty of flying to the forums when I have a frustrating experience. As students we understand what we are going through in a way that those around us do not.
Typically, I would not think too long on the effects these threads may have on the students who read them. Or what they are doing to myself when I read other’s threads. I simply enjoy reading other peoples? experiences, learn what I can, and go back to work. That is until I came to my last English course, English 353 Intermediate Composition. This course has one bad reputation on the message boards. The tutor that I had also had an overall bad reputation. Many of the students suggested that they were being graded well below what they should be, and that the tutor seemed to want students to fail. It seemed impossible to get a decent grade; these students mentioned that they were receiving marks nowhere near their usual “A.” These comments, to say the least, sent me into panic mode. I did not just want this course, or need credit for this course, I needed a final grade of a “B” as a prerequisite for several other English courses on my must take list. This was a make it or break it course for me. The reputation of this course weighed heavy on my mind?I was preparing myself for a couple months from hell. Not only was this course, supposedly, impossible to get a decent mark in, but my tutor would not help me, and seemed not to care about the students.
But I needed this course, so despite my angst, I ordered it and prepared myself mentally for the struggle that would ensue. As I made my way through the course I found myself thoroughly enjoying the content. My previous essays had repetitive errors that I had not yet been able to rectify; this course was answering my questions and making sense of some of my errors. Still it weighed on my mind that a good grade in this course would be hard to achieve, so my first two assignments went off to the Write Site before submission to the tutor. I achieved some of my best grades yet in this course, and my overall grade is the best I have yet received, and I have completed over half of my four-year program. This is when I began to reflect back on all those threads I had read. If I had not needed this course, those threads would have scared me off. I would not have enrolled in it. This course, ultimately, was one of the best courses I have taken, and I highly recommend it for anyone, whether you write a lot of papers, or not. My tutor was also amazing, discussing ideas with me and raising concerns about topics I had chosen to write about. My experience in this course prompted me to break the cycle of venting-threads and post a positive review for the course and my tutor. I would have regretted not taking that course and I wanted to share my experience with other students, so maybe a student who is looking for information on courses will find it, and it will cast some positivity on the overwhelming sea of negativity.
Negativity does have its place, everyone needs to vent. It is a healthy release of emotion, and finding comradery in your frustration can be a wonderful and healing experience. I would persuade students to make the effort to post about positive experiences with the same passion. I also emphasize for students to read these threads, positive and negative, but do not make a decision based on them. Even a course that has received nothing but praise may be a course you struggle with. Course selection and experience is very personal. Read the threads to prepare yourself for what might be coming, but every student is different. So keep in mind when you read any thread to take them with a grain of salt and check the date. Who knows, maybe without the initial scare I would not have gotten the marks that I did in that course.
Deanna Roney is an AU student who loves adventure in life and literature.