Making the grade from two perspectives: Part II

By Dr. Vivian Blevins


How important are college grades? Is it how much money your family has, how much in demand your profession is, what political clout you exercise, what your graduate school plans are? Or are grades a measure of what you have learned for whatever reason?

Edison State Community College varsity basketball player Caleb Maggard of Marion, Indiana, has some advice on earning grades while juggling classes and a collegiate sport. “Basketball is a tough game and there are obstacles and adversities that a player must overcome with the time-consuming hard practices, conditioning regime, and the games themselves. “ Maggard’s plans are to attend Purdue University this fall and major in structural engineering. He understands the value of good grades and what it takes to earn them.

• Establish priorities. “ I try to get all my school work done the first three days of the week. Procrastination is the enemy. Follow the syllabus.”

• Carry a calendar, a paper folder indicating what’s due. Don’t use your phone for this because of the “ temptation to get caught up in social media.”

• Surround yourself with people who are like you.” Live lazy, sloppy, and you’ll fall behind.”

• “Stay neat, stay focused, get stuff done.”

• If you’re having an academic challenge, talk to your professor. Find out what you need to do. If you need a counselor, they’re there for you.

• “Forget the idea that things are given rather than earned.”

As an experienced college faculty member who began full-time college teaching at age 26 when I was married with one son and an M.A, and later at age 36 as a tenured full professor at age 37, still married, two sons, and a Ph.D., I understand about juggling responsibilities and making good grades. I made all As the last year of my bachelor’s degree, all As for my Master’s degree and all As except under one professor for the Ph.D. He told me that I was an A-/B+ student, and that still stings.

Some college students find it difficult to attend class: jobs, home/family responsibilities, sports. Others have difficulty managing their schedules. They are partying when they should be studying and sleeping when they should be in class.

Colleges are providing more and more scheduling options: on-line classes or night classes or classes that are a combination of in-class and on-line. My first advice to students is to know yourself and enroll in options that maximize your chances for success.

Addition advice is the following:

• Attend class faithfully and have an attitude that says, “I’m here to learn, to determine how what I’m learning connects with a bigger picture.”

• Prepare for class by doing the readings and making notes.

• Make notes in class. We easily forget so much of what we hear. Review those notes regularly.

• Keep a planner so that at a glance you can see what is due when . Manage your time, yourself, so that you allow enough spare time that you can still deliver your assignments on time even if an emergency comes up.

• Learn new technology and use it.

• Know that this is your life and you are investing in becoming an educated individual.

• Know that learning is a life-long process, both in and out of the classroom. Have such joy in learning that you are always eager to explore new terrain.

I have a few comments about the use of technology. The days will soon arrive where bricks- and -mortar colleges and universities will have a small role overall in higher education as technology continues to move ahead. An example, to teach my telecommunication students from around the country. I prepare a PowerPoint with the materials I plan to teach. All I do at the specified time is turn on my computer and mount the PowerPoint. They turn on theirs, and the class begins. They talk to each other and to me. There’s a text box for them to insert something they’ve written that we can then discuss. They see me on their screens , and if they opt to do so, all in the class can see them. With this technology, we can use videos and even have live demonstrations.

With the recent cheating scandals and indictments, I’d like to make a few comments about dishonesty. I know there are shortcuts, but cheating should not one of them as you are cheating yourself. There is software that prevents cheating at exam time through keystroke recognition software and the hiring of proctors using a web cam to scan students’ identification and to ascertain students do not leave their computers during an exam. There are also cheaters for hire who will take entire course for a student- for a fee.

Some students are busy at learning how to cheat, and companies are available for a fee to help with the process. Want a paper written? No problem.

In conclusion, the recent cheating scandal for admission to prestigious universities proves that cheating is done by test proctors, coaches. entrepreneurs. Prices are high, and those who are caught just might experience some humiliation, a little time in prison, a fine, or loss of one kind or another. Or maybe not.

Dr. Vivian Blevins is a Harlan County native. She has taught undergraduate and graduate students as well as prison inmates, and now teaches communication and American literature classes at Edison State Community College in Ohio. Reach her at