Friday, December 18, 2009...12:54 pm

Student assessment hand-in. No last-minute panic, then…

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It’s student hand-in today for one of the online journalism modules I teach. And students who have not made an appearance for weeks – sometimes months – are suddenly sloshing content into their site as if there were no tomorrow. Which, technically, there isn’t I guess.
I don’t know why I thought it would be different – after all, I was a student once, and did pretty much the same thing.
But it’s a shame, for several reasons.

  1. It’s rushed, so it’s not the greatest quality. There hasn’t been enough time for research, fact-checking, spell-checking (I won’t dignify it with the name “sub-editing”) and thought generally. The content usually hasn’t been planned either, so it lacks much sign of editorial coherence.
  2. It doesn’t allow time for growth. One of the ways you improve as a writer is to write consistently, over time. And, consistently over time, you begin to find what works – and what doesn’t. Sling it all together at the last minute and you lose that chance for organic growth. Plus it’ll be another few months before the next hand-in, so you’ll probably forget whatever it was you did learn this time.
  3. It doesn’t allow for any feedback. I have feedback notes for some students that I haven’t been able to give them because they’ve just disappeared for weeks on end, with no indication whether they will even hand in for assessment. Yes, I could have emailed them with some suggestions. But I’d prefer to give it in person – if only to make sure they actually see it.

I’m sure students will see this and think “what does he know?”. After all, I don’t have to face law exams, shorthand classes and after-hours work in the local supermarket to supplement my student loan. Let alone “nightlife” (I’m old).
And, after all, deadlines are at the core of journalism. We all write to the clock when it comes to publication.
But the alarm generally isn’t set to go off in three months’ time. Mostly your deadlines are rolling and daily or weekly. I do worry that many journalism students will be completely sideswiped by this if and when they end up in a publishing environment.
So, please – students of journalism. Try to write more regularly and start your assessment work earlier. It really does work…


  • very familiar. The reception for handing in essays was all quiet until the morning they were due – then chaos.
    However, loathe to criticise my students. Handed in my own MA essay with ten minutes to go. Working in the trade just means you hide your fear and tension a lot better.

  • Once you have the assignments in, you then have to check that students have copied articles on the net. While most wouldn’t think of doing that, one or two will.

  • Actually, that’s churnalism – most people do it now. It’ll probably be on the syllabus after the next validation board…

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