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The Usual Questions, the Usual Answers

What is the policy for late papers/assignments?

How much work am I expected to put into this course?

Will the lectures follow the textbook?

Why is the availability of lecture notes so variable?

My friend wrote the same answer as I did, and he/she got more points than I did

Most of the class missed that question; obviously there was something wrong with it and the point(s) should be given to everyone

Will regular attendance guarantee me an "A"?

What do I do if I will be unable to attend an exam?

What happens to my grade if I do miss an exam?

Why are there no make-up exams?

Do you have office hours?

Are our conversations/communications confidential/privileged?

May we contact you via e-mail?

May I ask you for a reference letter?

The question was for 5 points and I only got 3, where did I lose 2 points?

What "key words" were you looking for in that question?

One member in my group did not carry his/her weight.

What is "the" answer"?

Are sample exam questions available?

Will the grades be "curved"?

Which chapters/pages will be covered in the exam?

Am I supposed to memorize every example you mention in class?

When/where will the final exam be?

Who wrote/will grade the exam?

When will the test/exam/paper be graded?

What do I do if I am unsatisfied with (an aspect of) the course?

What do I do if I am happy with (an aspect of) the course?

How do I go about approaching the instructor with my concern?

What if I think the test/grading was unfair?

What if I think my exam was graded incorrectly?

Will the second exam (or final) only cover the latter part of the course?

Will the final exams be available for reviewing?

Is there “Extra Credit”?

What are you doing here?

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What is the policy for late papers or assignments? I tend to grade all papers and assignments together, so it does not really matter to me if they are late, as long as I have not finished grading them yet. After that, it is the usual 10% per "working" day, starting on the day it was due. I could start grading immediately after the due date or several days later, depending on what else is going on. You are free to take your chances.

How much work am I expected to put into this course? Well, at least as much as I put in. No, that is probably expecting too much. About 10 hours per week would be reasonable. This includes the hours in lecture and/or lab, so even with 3 hours of lecture and 3 hours of lab per week, I will assume that you are spending an additional 4 hours working on the course. Even if there are no specific assignments or readings, you ought to spend the time reading, studying, researching, and discussing. Finding the time for school is more important than finding the money for tuition; tuition money just gives you an opportunity; time gives you the power to make something out of that opportunity.

Will the lectures follow the textbook? The purpose of having an instructor is not to save you the trouble of reading the textbook. The material presented during lectures will not be simply the material covered by the textbook, or necessarily be presented in the same order. During lectures I might emphasize certain aspects, present the same material in completely different ways, offer new perspectives, and present complementary and supplementary material. In some cases I might even disagree with the textbook, particularly if I am not the one who selected it. Yes, disagreements exists among scientists; the world is not black and white.

Why is the availability of lecture notes so variable? Sometimes lectures notes will not be available, sometimes the ones available will be slightly different than the ones used during lecture, sometimes they will only include the text but not the figures, or vice-versa. There are 3 main reasons for this. First, the LECTURE to be what I present, in person; the PowerPoint presentations are NOT the lecture; they are simply a visual aid. Whom do they aid? They aid ME in making a point. If at any time I think they are HINDERING me from making a point, I will make changes as I see fit. Second,  sometimes I might make last-minute changes to the presentations which will NOT appear in the downloads you might have at the time of class.  There is necessarily a trade-off between how far in advance of the lecture these "lectures" are up and how closely they will be to the lecture that I actually present. Depending on how it was, I might make further changes for the next time I present the lecture immediately thereafter, while things are fresh in my mind, so it is unlikely that I will ever have an EXACT copy of what I presented. Third, I am willing to make these notes available to my class but not to anyone in the world with a web browser, hence the passwords, formats and short times that the lectures are up, etc. Make sure you get them when they are up; if you do not, hope you study partner(s) did. Your first recourse consists of your fellow classmates, not your professor. Think of the PowerPoint "lectures" as spoken words or web pages, that is, as ephemeral entities that will help you navigate an unknown terrain and then disappear once you establish your own bearings.

My friend wrote the exact same answer as I did, and he/she got more points than I (did).- First, are you sure you wrote the "exact" same thing. Answers to my exams seldom consist of single words; sentences are usually required. Hence, your ability to express yourself clearly in writing affects your answer. If you really wrote the exact same thing, and you were not sitting anywhere close to each other during the exam, obviously there has been an error; bring me both exams for me to see and I will make sure both receive the same grade.

Most of the class missed that question; obviously there was something wrong with it and the point(s) should be given to everyone.- Yes, some professors have policies whereby they automatically discount an exam question if only 5%, 10%, or even 25% of the class get it right. Such policies pander to mediocrity, and hence are usually popular, but they also prevent the best students from excelling, and hence are unfair. A properly constructed exam SHOULD have some questions that only a few students can answer; this is how  the top students differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack. 

Will regular attendance guarantee me an "A"? Regular attendance does not by itself earn you the right to succeed (however you define it). You may be in class every time, take good notes, engage in vigorous discussion, study from the text afterwards and still fail. Unlikely, but it could happen. In contrast, you might miss quite a few lectures, be barely awake when present, hardly take notes, never read the textbook and somehow end getting an “A”. Unlikely, but it could happen. We all come to this world with different gifts.

What do I do if I will be unable to attend an exam? You do not have to contact me pre-emptively. Check official university policies to figure out what are "justifiable" reasons. If you have a justifiable reason make sure that you obtain proper documentation. Contact me as soon as possible after the missed exam. Tests and exam dates are usually announced the first day of class, so the old "I purposely made an appointment with my physician/dentist/barber/beautician so that it coincided with the exam" is NOT a valid reason to me, but it might be to the institution. In those cases feel free to come in and ask ME for a note to take to your physician/dentist/barber/beautician.  Please be aware that there are usually few legitimate excuses for missing the final exam.

What happens to my grade if I do miss an exam? Unless otherwise dictated by university policies, there shall be no make-up exams; this is biology, not cosmetology. If you have a justifiable reason for missing an exam or assignment your final grade will take into account only the remaining exams/assignments maintaining their relative weight (e.g., you miss an exam worth 20% of the final grade, the final grade will be calculated out of the remaining 80, such that if, for example, you get a total of 60 out of 80, you will get a final grade of 75%). I will state this again: there are usually few legitimate excuses for missing the final exam.

Why are there no make-up exams? First, as I mentioned above, this is biology, not cosmetology. Second, unless you have been in an isolation chamber since the original exam, and I have proof, I have to assume that you have some knowledge about the content, format and general themes covered in the the original exam, maybe even detailed knowledge. Third, of course, I could change the exam, but then if you get a good grade people who took the original might complain that it was not fair.

Do you have office hours? Yes, I do, to the extent required by official university policies. The official office hours are indicated in the syllabus. However, I usually CHOOSE to extend my office hours to anytime: in or out of the office, on or off campus, with the exceptions noted below.

    When it comes to office hours students are divided into 2 major groups: those who do not use them and those who abuse them. The former just never come in, even when failing miserably. The latter come in two morphs. Students of the first morph come only after failing a test, not to ask for help or inquire about content, but rather to complain. They rudely insist on a better grade using fallacious logic, and then do not come again until they fail the next test, at which time they do the same thing. Students in the second morph wait until the day before the exam and them expect the instructor to spend all afternoon reviewing the entire course with them.

    I want to encourage more people who come in at regular intervals, as soon as and preferably even BEFORE any help is needed. Come in just to say hello before you actually need help. When you do need help, come in after doing some basic legwork. "Basic legwork" means being able to answer "yes" to at least some of the following questions: did I attend that particular class?, did I ask my question during class?, did I ask it the next class? Did I consult with the text and other resources/references? did I consult my colleagues? Am I coming soon after my problem arose?

    Hence, there are some exceptions to the "any time" rule. First, I limit visits to 15 minutes per day (you can always come back tomorrow). If you come every day, Monday to Friday, that is an extra 1.25 hours   per week, or over 20 hours of one-on one instruction for a typical term. Yes, I am quite willing to do that for you. We can set up a regular daily 15 minute meeting if you want. Second, I do not hold any  office hours in the day preceding an exam. I might be working on the exam and have it on my desk and also because I really do not want to deal with people who wait until the last possible moment and then try to learn everything the night before. There are many instructors who do not see students the day before the exam;  they go into their offices and work on their exams quietly, hiding from students, and do not answer the door if you knock, or better yet, they work at home on the day before their exam. I am just being open about it.

  I also welcome students who might not be having ANY problems with the course. It is always nice to hear from the top students. Finally, venting, complaining and grade haggling will only be allowed during official office hours, NOT the extended ones.

Are our conversations/communications confidential/privileged? That is an interesting question! Confidentiality is required when dealing with a lawyer or physician because it might be necessary to reveal personal and potentially incriminating or embarrassing information during the normal course of the professional relationship. By the way, this is usually why money is exchanged in nearly all interactions with a physician or a lawyer, even phone conversations, as a reminder to both parties that the relationship is and remains a professional one. However, the relationship between a professor and a student is different in that there is no reason why confidential information, other than grades, ought to be part of ANY professional interaction. There is no reason why you have to tell your professor ANYTHING about your personal life (family, job, financial situation, health, criminal involvement, medical conditions, etc). If you need to use any of this type of personal information as an official excuse (for missing a test, for instance), it should be formally documented by a professional (ANOTHER professional, in that field: physician, parole officer, loan officer, judge, etc) and details should NOT be included.

For example, if you have a medical excuse for missing an exam you should furnish an authentic medical excuse (yes, I have been given fake ones!), signed by a professional in the medical field (e.g., "Joey was medically incapacitated on Thursday"), and it should not include any details about the ailment (e.g., NOT "...because he had a boil removed from his ____ the previous day and he could not leave it alone so it got infected and he had to be taken into emergency surgery"). The same thing applies if you are subpoenaed to appear at a murder trial; the court order is all that matters; details about the case or your involvement are immaterial. Your professor should not ask for any further information, nor are you required or expected to reveal it. Instructions about what to do (e.g., "... so please allow Joey to take the exam again") are beyond the scope of the judge's or physician's area of expertise and hence should NOT be included. If anything, the inclusion of such rhetorical embellishments call into question the judge's or physician's credentials and professionalism, and will be followed up by a phone call.

So, again, there is no reason why you should have to reveal ANY personal information to your instructor. Actually, this warning is to both parties; there is not reason why the professor ought to tell you ANYTHING about his/personal life either; you are not his/her friend of confidant. The professor might be friendly, but he/she is not actually a friend; the professor might be personable, but he/she is not actually a person. Okay, maybe the latter is not really true. Nevertheless, during casual discourse you might choose to reveal personal information, but you should not consider this conversation to be part of your professional relationship, and just as if you had spoken to a casual acquaintance, whether the information remains confidential depends solely on the vagaries of common sense. Please be aware that academicians are not particularly renowned for having much common sense, or they probably would have chosen more lucrative careers.

May we contact you via e-mail? Yes, but I would prefer if general questions are asked during class, when everyone can benefit. If you use e-mail, always identify yourself with your name and use your own e-mail address, preferably the one assigned to you by the university. Also, just because e-mail is there does not mean that you can use it for any thought that crosses your mind. Please check your spelling, take care of your grammar, and maintain your professional decorum.

May I ask you for a reference letter?  Yes. I believe writing good letters of recommendation is part of the job. Note that I wrote “good letters of recommendation", so yes, I only write good letters, and you may ask for more than one (I will keep a copy in my computer). I believe I can find something good to say about nearly anyone (although in some cases I might be left with something like "impeccably dressed", which is not so good). So, if you are doing well with the course, or perhaps even not so well, and you need a letter of recommendation for a job, grad school, “professional” school (as if the rest of us were not professionals!), please come forth and ask. Of course, it would be difficult for me to write a good letter if I do not know you, so you can make my job easier by attending class, asking questions and generally showing interest on the course.

    I will not, EVER, write you a bad letter, or even a half-hearted one. I will not openly and shamelessly lie too much, but I will do everything I can to paint you in the best possible light. If, for example, I know you are not mathematically adept, I will simply not mention your math skills and instead emphasize the good things that I do know about you. If you wish, I will share the letter with you before sending it, and you may decide whether you want to use it, or comment on it and ask me to change parts of it. I might. Remember: writing letters of recommendation IS part of the job. I am not doing you a personal favour by writing a letter for you, nor are you in any way indebted to me if I do.

    For academic positions, letter writing has become another instance in which the people paid to do the job (the hiring committee) pawns off the work to others (the letter writers) but not the money. Instead of asking for letters at the end, as a final confirmation of people otherwise deemed qualified, letters have become a pre-requisite for even applying for a position, much like personal endorsements for entry into a private club. Worse still, the letter writers sometimes end up considering themselves unpaid members of the hiring committee, and write critical instead of praising letters. Only in academia!

The question was for 5 points and I only got 3, where did I lose 2 points? You have it backwards! The question should be "where did I get 3?". You DO NOT start the course with 100% and lose points as the term goes on; you start with ZERO and must earn every percentage point until the last day.

What "key words" were you looking for in that question? In most cases you are not being judged on a "per key word" basis. Complex knowledge is not digital (this is probably more applicable for 3rd and 4th year courses; in the 1st and 2nd year, knowledge IS somewhat digital, but not always). It might be simply that other people had better answers or that you did not express yourself very well. Yes, it is just my opinion, an opinion that is sufficient for international journals when they ask me to evaluate the work produced by PROFESSIONALS.

One member in my group did not carry his/her weight.- There are several options and philosophies here. The simplest one is: "Life is not fair; start learning to deal with it!". Alternatively, we could try to make life a little more fair. If so, it could be done by me or by you. If I try to do it I would have to rely on what you say, so I might as well let you do it. If you do it, you could do it anonymously or openly. I believe that if you are going to judge somebody, hiding behind anonymity is not only cowardly, but the lack of accountability encourages irresponsible behaviour. I believe everyone must stand and be willing to defend and accept the consequences of their actions. If the class is willing to do that, we will arrange some open, mutual evaluation system whereby part of your group-mate's grades will be for you to assign and justify.

What is "the" answer? Sometimes there is an answer, but sometimes there are SEVERAL possible answers, some good, some not so good, and some I might have never thought about. That is what creativity is all about. Yes, during most of our educational training we are taught to repress creativity, and we are indoctrinated with the idea that there only ONE solution or way to approach a problem. Well, that is not real life. Of course, creativity must be based on solid knowledge and is not an excuse for answering with just anything that comes to mind. As long as your answers are reasonable and well expressed, they might be deemed to be correct. Again, this is probably more applicable to 3rd and 4th year courses.

Are sample exam questions available? Yes, if you want to. I am willing to accept any suggestions for exam questions, and I will tell you whether they are worthy of an exam for someone of your calibre. You might bring them up during class or elsewhere. Remember, the best questions are those that involve not only the recall of facts, but also the application of these facts in a new and unexpected way. Yes, this requires a little work but it is a good way of learning.

Will the grades be "curved"? I think it would be great if universities had OFFICIAL policies whereby only a certain percentage of a class could get As, Bs, Cs, etc., or if the class grade distribution appeared on official transcripts. Such policies would prevent grade inflation, and would prevent instructors from gaining favouritism from students by giving away grades. Unfortunately, that is not the case, but some institutions have UNWRITTEN policies stating that everybody (or a certain percentage) passes, and if a given class' hopes look bleak as the course approaches its end, word comes from above "suggesting" professors put no time constraints on final, allow it to be "open-book", dumb it down considerably, individually rearrange the grades, or simply give away the entire grade for the final. I have seen some pretty creative after-the-fact ways in which departmental chairs have fiddled with the numbers given by professors (e.g., count only 2 of the 3 exams, and the student gets to choose which ones, or adjust their relative weight, and everyone gets full marks for the term paper, etc.). Professors at reputable institutions would never put up with this; control over your class is part of academic freedom.

Having said that, however, I should also mention two facts. First, that professors do not like failing ANY students. We love knowledge (that is what the "Ph." in Ph.D. means); we have a deep respect for knowledge, and we love transferring that knowledge, so we prefer if all students succeed. However, if we gave everyone high grades soon the whole process would become meaningless and your degrees would be worthless. However, all professors usually adjust grades to some degree, whether they tell you or not. Adjustments can be indirect, by making or grading exams harder or easier (usually easier), or direct, by playing around with the numbers. Second, I believe that school should prepare us for the real world, and just like in real life, students ought to be assessed not in absolute terms, but rather relatively to their peers. To me, it is a balance between failing as few students as possible, and allowing the best students to document their brilliance.

Adjusting the relative weights of exams halfway through the course is unfair because it might unfairly favour students depending on how well or how poorly they have done on one versus another exam. Do the algebra if you do not believe me. The fairest way to adjust grades is at THE END of the course, once all grades are in, by adding a certain percentage to everyone's grades. The best student could be given 100% and the rest would be measured relative to that student. However, students do no like this because they have to wait until the end to find out if they passed, so they lose the opportunity to drop the course half-way through the term. A compromise is to adjust grades similarly AFTER EACH TEST. The way to do it is to set the top person as a 100% and adjust all other grades relative to that one. If you do half as well as the top person, well, then you probably you deserve <50%. One problem with this system is that if the top person gets 99% in a test, the adjustment is minimal, and the top person will get some pressure not to do so well the next time. Of course, there is no reason why the top person ought to tell the anyone his/her grade.

    Hopefully, there will be no need for any adjustment of any type, or only minor adjustments. Adjustments are usually unnecessary after the course is taught a few times. As time passes the professor learns what to expect from students and adjusts to local standards, and vice-versa, the professor and the course get a local reputation (easy or hard) and students know what to expect before deciding to enrol.

Which chapters/pages will be covered in the exam? I do not know; I was not paying attention during class either!. But seriously, this is where I think we get into the realm of hand-holding. Unless specifically communicated otherwise during class, you will be responsible ONLY for the topics and issues covered during lectures. The textbook should be used only to better understand the topics covered in class, so if you cannot even identify these topics or sections you might be in serious trouble already.

Am I supposed to memorize every example you mention in class?  No, in most cases, and particularly in 3rd and 4th year courses, examples are given only as a way to illustrate a general principle. You are supposed to understand every general principle that is covered in class. The general principle may come up again in a different form, so you will have to recognize it and know when it applies to a different situation, whereas the specific example may never come up again. You are supposed to LEAVE THE LECTURE UNDERSTANDING THE GENERAL PRINCIPLES, NOT hoping that they will make sense when you skim your notes the night before the exam.  IF YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND.... ASK!!!!. Once you understand the general principles, you might carry out additional work after class (read the book, carry out a literature search, read the suggested references, discuss the topic with colleagues) to find further examples and potential applications. Yes, I assume that you are doing some work after class, even if there are no assignments.

When/where will the final exam be? See the university’s official exam timetable.

Who wrote/graded the exam? I did, or people whom I deemed were qualified to do so.

When will the test/exam/paper be graded?.- As soon as possible. Please wait at least a week before asking.

What do I do if I am unsatisfied with (an aspect of) the course? The most common practice outside academia is to talk to the person in charge, and, if unsatisfied, "ask" to talk with his/her boss, and so on up the ladder. "Ask" is really a euphemism, because they cannot refuse, but it is a common courtesy. The system works. Subordinates usually do not like to bother the boss with minor problems, so "asking" to talk to the boss might be all the incentive you need to get your problem fixed. On the other hand, good supervisors usually prefer to first get the full story from their subordinates, and they generally do not appreciate people who try to bypass the hierarchy (they might the the next victim!). This system works, whether it is at the level of federal politics (think of how the PM always defends his MPs initially), telephone call-in centres (they will NOT give you the supervisor's number, to talk to the boss you have to ask the person who answers), or fast-food restaurants (where you must ask to see the manager, and you cannot just jump over the counter or walk into the manager's office).

In academia things depend largely on the leadership, whose natural abilities and administrative experience ranges from none to extensive. Academicians are seldom trained as administrators; they just happen to be professors who, sometimes reluctantly, unwillingly, and/or unwittingly, take on the mantle of department chair or faculty dean. Actually, the worst administrators are often the ones who, disappointed by their research and teaching, try to take on new roles for which they are woefully qualified. At the other extreme, some faculty members that struggled as teachers and researchers, after a few years find their true calling in administration. The best might be those who are relatively happy with their teaching and research, and reluctantly move into administration because they are asked to do so by their colleagues within the department. Some Faculty Deans and Departmental Chairs could manage large multi-national corporations; others not quite. We all come to this world with different gifts!

What do I do if I am happy with (an aspect of) the course? Express your appreciation to the people involved! Despite appearances, they are human and they will really welcome a little gratitude, just like the bus driver on your way home or the clerk at the convenience store.

How do I go about approaching the instructor with a concern with the course? Kindly and politely. Make it clear that you have already tried to fix the problem on your own. Make sure your problem is not simply the result of a lack of foresight (e.g., (1)the paper assigned for tomorrow's discussion, which you could have looked up weeks ago, is not in the library and must be brought from elsewhere, which takes several days, (2) the term project, which you had 3 months to do, is due next week and you are only now starting to think about it). Try to visualize the problem from his/her perspective, and be aware that in large classes the instructor cannot give you too much personal attention [I once had a student ask me to go to the library with him to try to find a journal; what happened to the librarians??!]. If the instructor is new, you might know things about the university he/she does not know. If possible, offer solutions, do not just present problems. Help him/her do a better job and you will be greatly appreciated by both the professor and the rest of the class.

What if I think the test/grading was unfair? First ask yourself whether you think it was it unfair to you specifically, or unfair to everyone. Fairness is a relative term. You are competing with your peers, so things are fair as long as everyone is facing the same circumstances. If everyone is being treated equally, then it is fair. If a question is so difficult that nobody can answer it, it is as if it were not there. The same is true if the question is so easy so that everyone gets it; it does nothing to separate you from your peers.

Now, if the exam was somehow unfair specifically to you there is definitely a problem. Please tell the instructor immediately and make sure you have sound logic and plenty of evidence. Do so as soon as possible, not after you receive your grade. If you wait, it might just seem like you are unhappy with your performance but are instead blaming the test. It might be difficult to even imagine a scenario in which the exam is specifically unfair to you, but it actually happened to me. Somehow I ended up sitting too close to a source of noxious fumes. I asked the instructor if could move but there were not other places available. It was distracting and I would have done better without this distraction, but I did not complain officially. I figured that is just part of life, and others in the general vicinity were also affected. Those beans must have been really good!

What if I think my exam was graded incorrectly? (1) If it is just a matter of addition, write "addition" on the front and return it. The addition, and ONLY the addition, will be checked and corrected. Make sure the correction appears on the official grade sheet. (2) If it is a matter of content, hand it back with a short note on front, and THE ENTIRE exam will be re-graded. Why the entire exam? Because grading errors occur when the grader is tired or distracted, so the distribution of errors is usually clumped (not uniform or random), but the errors are directionally random. So, errors occur together, but errors occur both ways, in your favour or against you, so it is best to check the entire exam. It is possible that you might end up getting a LOWER grade, so check the ENTIRE exam before handing it back. Again, if there is a correction, make sure it  appears on the official grade sheet.

Will the second exam (or final) only cover the latter part of the course?  No, the second half of the course MIGHT be emphasized, but the all exams will cover the entire course to that point. Knowledge does not come in isolated, unrelated chunks.

Is there “Extra Credit”? I had been in the university system for a long time before I heard that one. At first, I thought it was some sort of totally inappropriate offer in exchange for grades, but I then learned that "extra credit” is sometimes given for doing an additional assignment (even though the student obviously cannot handle the regular work load), going to a relevant seminar (something that students should do, anyway), helping to clean up a lab (is cleanliness extra? ), helping to set up a lab (are technicians not doing their jobs?), or other tasks that are or ought to be part of the repertoire of the average student. At some institutions the situation is so pervasive that some students think they are entitled to "extra credit" and refuse to even lift a finger or in any way enhance their learning experience unless their actions are explicitly linked to "extra credit".

Does "extra credit" exist in the real world? Does a professor get rewarded for holding a review session on the weekend instead of spending time at the park with the kids? For extending office hours beyond what is required by official university policies? For staying a little longer after the class ends instead of going home to have dinner with the family? For presenting a departmental seminar instead of working on a paper? for attending a seminar? Well, surprisingly, YES. But the relationship between additional effort and the eventual reward IS NOT explicit. In fact, it would be considered rude and unprofessional for a professor to insist on extra money every time he/she is required to talk to you or do anything extra for you or for the department. However, one assumes and hopes that the rewards will eventually come and someone will notice that a particular professor puts a lot of extra effort and helps the institution, and this will eventually translate to better performance reviews and career advancement. The same goes for not only for professors, of course, but for nearly any other person dealing with the real world. I must say, however, that I have noticed in recent years that in some professions people being more concerned with documenting their work than with actually doing it. Maybe they got tired of NOT being rewarded for the extra work, or maybe the internet has made it easier to document everything you do.

Anyway, it just does not seem right, moral, or ethical to me to inculcate on students the idea that quid-pro-quo always exists for everything in the real world. Hence, the answer is: NO, there is no "extra credit", at least not in the quid-pro-quo sense. Just do the work you are supposed to do. If you choose to do more, great, it will raise your profile among your peers and instructors, make you a valued member of society, teach you more than you could have learned by just studying, and make you a better human being.

What are YOU doing here? Through the years I have occasionally ran into students off-campus. They seem shocked! Upon recovering from their shock, they often ask: "what are YOU doing here?" Well, if I am at the grocery store, I am probably buying food. At a restaurant... eating. At a bar... having a beer. At the ski slope... skiing. At a sporting event... watching the game.... etc. Yes, professors are people too.

 

There are also several questions that should never come up but they do (link).

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