Failure on the internets.

So, this semester I am teaching a hip, new class which is essentially composition with a “new media” focus, or, in other words, “writing online”. Now, this is a writing class, not a computer class, so there’s not a high requirement for technical ability. But, you know, we (the people who developed the course) assumed that students who enrolled in the class would read the title and the course description, both of which clearly indicate the nature of the class, and self-select accordingly. I know, dear reader, I can hear you falling off your chair as you chortle heartily at our naivete.

It’s been hilarious so far, if you find that kind of thing hilarious. Let me present to you, then, some of my experiences, in the form of a list, entitled: “Signs you may not be suited to doing an online writing class”.

  • You don’t know how to turn on your own laptop, and have to ask for assistance in a stage whisper, which halts all other discussion.
  • You sign up for a gmail account, get onto the prof’s contact list, and then forget your password.
  • Your solution to forgetting your password is to sign up for a new gmail account.
  • You forget the password for that one, too.
  • Instead of going to the courseware page you are given:, you decide to go to the google, and find the home page of the courseware, and try to sign in there.
  • You actually manage to sign into the home page of the courseware,, but you then cause great confusion to everyone by complaining bitterly that you can’t find the group for your class. This is only resolved when you take some screenshots and send them to your prof.
  • You do the same idiotic thing as the previous student, but you don’t know how to take a screenshot. Luckily someone else was almost, but not quite as stupid as you, and this eventually solves your problem.
  • It takes a back-and-forth exchange, during which you send 4 emails, for you to figure out how to post a reply to a thread on the courseware forum.
  • In one of the emails, you explain that you have written your reply in MSWord, but do not know how to upload it to the forum.
  • After you – finally! – successfully make this post, you send another email, asking how to start a new forum thread.
  • You get a twitter account, but can’t figure out how to follow someone. You don’t see the point of twitter, since nothing happens.
  • You identify yourself as someone who is slow with computers, and by slow you mean “it took me 2 weeks to reply to the semester startup email.”
  • When you are told in your computer lab class, to close down Internet Exploder and use Firefox instead, you burst into tears because you “don’t know how to do that”.
  • You send a message to the prof asking if “doing all this online stuff is really necessary” because you “prefer not to do any of your schoolwork online”.

7 thoughts on “Failure on the internets.

  1. Orli

    I have to ask, and I’m trying not to be all snarky and age-ist, but are these all people over 40 or so? Because I’m pretty a large portion of those in college now who are the “general age” (by which I mean the 18-20somethings) have been using computers since they were fetuses. I’m almost 27 and I distinctly remember being taught the basics of, well, BASIC, in 3rd grade.

    Although I guess I should take it back, since my 92-year-old grandad-in-law is a regular on a bunch of forums and has figured out how to hook his Morse Code machine into the internet so he can talk about it with his friends in Australia.

    I just can’t understand–and I see this is your point–why someone would take an online writing class if they can barely use their computer, much less tell the difference between IE and Firefox.

    1. whatladder Post author

      I know, it sounds like they are all grans, and people like the woman who told me today that “email is a better method of communication because the web is so hard to access,” but no, they are nearly all 18-20 year olds, many of whom have been in post-secondary education for at least a year.

      They all know how to use Facebook. That’s pretty much it.

      1. Orli

        And therein lies the problem. Facebook and Twitter have taken away all their ability to pay attention to anything that is longer than 140 characters and doesn’t have a “Like” button.

        Maybe if you put a “Like” button on the homework they’ll be able to do it better 🙂

    2. MelindaKnits

      I used to think the 18-20somethings were more proficient with computers and the internet too, but I’ve learned not to ever assume they know how to

      -use Word
      -do an effective Google search
      -figure out how to navigate unfamiliar programs/websites

      Whatladder, your final bullet point is priceless.

  2. jesslla

    Once upon a time, I thought that any idiot could figure out where to plug the power cord into their laptop at. I mean, it’s like a puzzle – there is only ONE hole in which the plug fits properly. How can you screw that up? Yeah, well, one of my clients plugged the power cable into the plug designed for a telephone cable and couldn’t figure out why the laptop wouldn’t work.

    People never cease to amaze me. Usually not in a good way though.

  3. V's Herbie

    oh god I feel your pain this semester!

    We’re doing online homework through blackboard, and having issues with the little dears getting the idea that there’s an assignment due Sunday night every week.

    It’s for a completion grade so, no pressure, right?

    I had one snowflake copy an answer off the internet. They feel the need to cheat even when there’s no advantage.


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