Old School

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PhD comics for 3/25/2015:

Of course, email is "old school" in the sense of "15 years ago", since 20 or 25 years ago, most students didn't have an email account.

But anyhow, this can be a real-world problem, especially for large classes, since schools generally don't yet offer a utility for txting all the students enrolled in a given course, or at least offering them that option, and instructors still assume that email notices of one kind or another will be effective.

And for 4/1/2015:


  1. Laura Morland said,

    April 5, 2015 @ 2:31 am

    "It's how grown-ups communicate." Exactly right. My godson just started junior college, and for the first time he is actually checking his email regularly. So grow up, Millennials!

    BTW (cf. panel #3), the eighth-grade teachers at the middle school where I volunteer regularly send email to their students… each of whom gets the use of a school-issued Chromebook several times a week. It's how Generation Z is being taught to communicate. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generation_Z

  2. Rebecca said,

    April 5, 2015 @ 2:50 am

    It kinda spoils the cartoon, but the students can just configure their email accts to forward their mail to their phones as txt, if they really don't want to check their email.

    [(myl) I don't think that would really work, given the frequency and length of the unimportant messages that quickly clog a student's university email account.]

    I found the timeline in the post interesting. I got my first university email account in grad school circa 1981, but left academia after finishing a few years later, so I've not been aware when having email became common. Seems surprising that it took so long.

  3. Michael Watts said,

    April 5, 2015 @ 3:41 am

    Yeah, I never really checked my email regularly because there was no point — I didn't receive email. But now you can have email pushed to your phone, or have an IM client poll for it, so that problem doesn't exist anymore. Anyone with a snapchat account (as the students clearly do, since they requested to be notified that way) already owns a device that checks their email for them.

  4. Judith Strauser said,

    April 5, 2015 @ 5:43 am

    Speaking of acronyms and abbreviations which are longer to pronounce, it drives me bonkers that cop shows and the like continuously have actors saying "gee-ess-double-u to the chest" instead of gun-shot wound. I'm not American and have no clue if this is truly how LEOs and health-professional speak, but whether it's true to the reality or not I can't help but cringe every time. It takes longer to say! A silly pet-peeve no doubt, but there you have it.

  5. Ian Loveless said,

    April 5, 2015 @ 6:54 am

    I've heard it pronounced "bee tee dubs" mostly.

  6. Ralph Hickok said,

    April 5, 2015 @ 7:07 am

    Like Col. Potter's frequent references to "double-u double-u two" on Mash. But that was a running joke.

  7. Ellen K. said,

    April 5, 2015 @ 7:34 am

    Rebecca, I was in college 1987 to 1991, and I didn't even know I could get an email till my last semester, and even then didn't bother because I had know one to email, since I didn't know anyone at another university. Perhaps grad students, back in those pre-WWW days, as you were when you got an email, were more likely to have reason to use email than undergrads.

  8. Andrew Riggsby said,

    April 5, 2015 @ 9:09 am

    The University of Texas encourages us to use boilerplate language in the syllabus stating that important information will be sent by email and that students are expected to check it every [interval]. I don't know whether it actually changes any behavior, but at least they've been warned.

  9. Catherine said,

    April 5, 2015 @ 9:19 am

    Facebook now seems to be considered old school by most of my students.

  10. JW Mason said,

    April 5, 2015 @ 10:58 am

    In my experience teaching at a variety of colleges and universities, email is 100% reliable for communication with students (as long as you ask them their preferred address the first day.) Certainly much more reliable than Facebook, which many students do not use. I think this is a "kids these days" myth.

    [(myl) I can guarantee from personal experience that this is not entirely (and maybe not predominantly) a myth. ]

  11. D.O. said,

    April 5, 2015 @ 12:17 pm

    What is interesting here is the attitude. If students are told to come each day to a (physical) bulletin board to check for announcements, they simply must come and do as told. "We don't check e-mail" – "Take an F and have a great life". That's what I call pedagogy.

  12. Rebecca said,

    April 5, 2015 @ 4:00 pm

    @Ellen – it was brand new for us then, and only those of us doing comp. linguistics on particular projects had accounts. But it was really useful during dissertating years, particularly when key people were on sabbatical.

    @myl- then the students (or their Moms) need to put a filter on the automatic email forward to just catch things from selected addresses (such as current professors). I think most email programs support that. Not ideal, but better than expecting the sender to change how they send it, instead of the receiver changing how they receive it.

  13. Mark said,

    April 5, 2015 @ 9:31 pm

    I have a number of younger employees on my team (enterprise IT support) who are shocked to learn that they are responsible for items communicated via email. It usually takes a couple of months for them to adapt.

  14. Sevly said,

    April 6, 2015 @ 12:41 am

    @JW Mason @myl

    From the student side, one of the things that rings false about these comics is the idea that any student would actually want their TA, or even worse, their professor, to send them homework through Snapchat. The key thing that makes these platforms attractive is that they are specifically a space to talk to people-my-age about people-my-age things. Things are not cool because they are on Snapchat; rather, things are on Snapchat because they are cool. Homework is not one of them. This factor is in large part responsible for the shift away from Facebook, which had it when it was exclusive to students but lost it when it became available to everybody. The cycle is parodied excellently in Adobe's "Woo Woo" advertisement.

    As such, I'd say that most students expect professors to send things through email because that's just what "old people" do. While I've definitely heard of students complaining about not getting an important announcement because it was sent to a university email address, this is either due to confusion with another email account or in a "the dog ate my homework" kind of way. The claim may sound plausible at first blush, but if pressed the claimant would admit to having no expectation, or even desire, for the professor to have texted or Facebooked or Snapchatted them. So then, the professor asks frustratedly, how else did they expect to get the message?

    It's a bit of a bind, since while it's true that students are well aware of and even expect professors to send notices through email, a nonnegligible number still fail to check the relevant account regularly (an issue of prioritization, since, as Michael Watts noted, it's not all that hard to get it synced to your phone). The best solution for announcements of pressing nature is probably text, since it's new and immediate enough for students to pay attention but not so new that the presence of professors will feel invasive.

  15. J. F. said,

    April 6, 2015 @ 5:46 am

    @Andrew Riggsby

    The University of Texas encourages us to use boilerplate language in the syllabus….

    The syllabus? How do you get them to read the syllabus?

  16. Francois Lang said,

    April 6, 2015 @ 8:49 am

    BTW, it gets better:


  17. D.O. said,

    April 6, 2015 @ 10:14 am

    So what do you think, the next Clinton scandal will be about her snapchatting from an unofficial account?

  18. Nick said,

    April 6, 2015 @ 2:47 pm

    I just asked a grad student who happened to walk by my desk as I was reading this thread which he prefers: email or text notifications? He replied that he hates texts because his phone service is so lousy. I can see his point. Email may be old fashioned but its reliability doesn't depend on the cell carrier.

  19. Jim said,

    April 6, 2015 @ 2:49 pm

    @Judith, according to my neighbour, who's a police officer, they talk about "GSWs," mostly because that's how it's written down in most of the official paperwork. See also office workers saying, "I'll cee cee you," instead of, "I'll copy you."

  20. Karen said,

    April 6, 2015 @ 3:21 pm

    Yes, they say gee ess doubleyou. It's not about what takes longer to say, it's about in-group jargon.

  21. MikeA said,

    April 6, 2015 @ 5:23 pm

    If students didn't have email 20-25 years ago, why was there a tidal wave of spam and trolling on UseNet every September? If those were all grad students, I weep for academia.

  22. Adam F said,

    April 7, 2015 @ 7:53 am

    Get off my lawn, you crazy kids!

  23. Bean said,

    April 7, 2015 @ 8:43 am

    For the record – I saw a TV ad for Facebook in the past two weeks – during an NHL game, I think, since that is the only TV I watch – after which I turned to my husband and said – Did we just see an ad for FACEBOOK? WTF? I am certainly in Facebook's target market, but everyone who wants to be on it is already, and ornery oddballs like me who have better things to do with their time will not be swayed by the ad. I'll probably just dig my heels in harder.

  24. Bean said,

    April 7, 2015 @ 8:46 am

    Also, in my own university days (mid-90s), they used to hand out paper assignments and make important announcements IN CLASS. You had to actually be there! Same takeaway lesson, I guess – you're responsible for receiving the communications – so get with the program. If not now, then when you enter the workforce, as Mark pointed out.

  25. Gene Callahan said,

    April 7, 2015 @ 11:09 am

    @JW Mason: 'I think this is a "kids these days" myth.'

    Nope: I have seen students fail to check their email for weeks.

  26. Gene Callahan said,

    April 7, 2015 @ 11:13 am

    @JW Mason: 'I think this is a "kids these days" myth.'

    Nope: I have seen students fail to check their email for weeks.

    And there is no doubt that (at present) it is right to demand that college students get used to regular emails: essentially all businesses today do their official business with email, and essentially none with text messages. Email can be managed, archived, searched, used to store documents, forwarded to a list, coordinated with scheduling software, etc much more easily than text messages.

    Text is for chatting with friends. Email is for serious work.

  27. Matt McIrvin said,

    April 7, 2015 @ 12:40 pm

    In the 1980s, I had a campus email account, but my university was actually not on the Internet: it was on BITNET. Email to and from Internet addresses was possible, but only by bouncing it off of a gateway at Cornell, a slightly awkward operation.

    I think I got my first directly Internet-accessible email account 25 years ago, minus a few months, when I entered graduate school. Within a couple of years, it was unthinkable for a US university to not have Internet access.

  28. Ron said,

    April 7, 2015 @ 11:49 pm

    Ha! I see your email and raise you … a haiku.

    My kid in college gets course info via email (for now) but my younger kids' high school is on a cloud-based platform called Haiku. Teachers post homework, grades, and other information and students are responsible for logging on to get what they need. Teachers also use Moodle to organize course work instead of a written syllabus and some use TurnItIn for essays and other written work. This is all pretty new, and my kids say that many of the teachers are having a hard time making it work.

    But they do use email and Facebook – to stay in touch with their grandmother.

  29. RP said,

    April 8, 2015 @ 7:50 am

    Did you pronounce "WTF" as the three initials or as the three full words?
    (The second cartoon made the point that some people use "BTW" as initials in speech, and I know people do the same with "OMG" – do people do this with "WTF" yet?)

  30. Bean said,

    April 8, 2015 @ 1:50 pm

    @RP: Ha, good question! I used the real words. Frankly, when I'm in familiar company, I have a very foul mouth. :P

    For all three of the ones you named (OMG, BTW, WTF) I would use the real words. But I'm ancient, almost 39…

  31. little Alex said,

    April 8, 2015 @ 11:01 pm

    When I went to college in 1997, I got my 2nd ever email address. And it was fairly new and exciting to me.

  32. Graeme said,

    April 9, 2015 @ 6:11 am

    I had my first email account (Unix based? only available from the UCL computer room) in early 1992 as a post-grad in London. I was estranged from my straying de facto back home. Prior to that I used to bypass any red pillar box and yearn – as if I felt a tunnel linking the postbox and my home letter box. That feeling haunted me for years after.

    Email was both a blessing (overnight communication free) and a curse ('where is that reply I need it now!)

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