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The flash drive ate my homework

December 11, 2009

Related "Non Sequitur" comic

Students are increasingly using technology as a justification for not turning in work. Gems like “My printer ran out of ink” are becoming more commonplace with each passing semester. Several faculty have approached me with questions and concerns about such excuses, because they don’t feel confident to dispute the students’ claims from a technical perspective.

In “Technology Policies on Course Syllabi,” Billie Hara of ProfHacker offers some very helpful statements that can be inserted into a syllabus as a way to head off this concern. They can also provide the basis for a solid reply when you mistrust the legitimacy of a technology issue.

Hara also cites an article at Inside Higher Ed about, a website where students can buy a deliberately corrupted file to turn in as “proof” that technology failed them. This “business” was created as a goof, but some people use it for real.


  • Do any of you have a policy in your syllabus that covers technology excuses?
  • What’s your favorite technology-based excuse for not turning in homework?
2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jurjio permalink
    February 7, 2010 6:50 am

    Chris, killer security measures (although saving every 10 minutes is borderline paranoia, no?).
    My TA recommends on his syllabus to get an encrypted USB drive, especially if we’re carrying sensitive data (my department at school handles sensitive GIS info so it’s a must for some of us).

  2. Chris Clark permalink*
    December 14, 2009 2:37 pm

    Okay, I’ll get the ball rolling again. Here’s the statement I just drafted for my spring syllabus:

    “This course relies heavily on access to computers, specific software, and the Internet. At some point during the semester you WILL have a problem with technology: your laptop will crash, a file will become corrupted, a server will go down, or something else will occur. These are facts of life, not emergencies. Technology problems will not normally be accepted as excuses for unfinished work. Count on “stuff” happening and protect yourself by doing the following:
    • Plan ahead – start early, particularly if scarce resources are required
    • Save work often – at least every ten minutes
    • Make regular backups of files in a different location from the originals
    • Save drafts of work at multiple stages
    • When editing an image, set aside the original and work with a copy
    • Practice safe computing when surfing the web and checking email
    • On your personal computer, install and use software to control viruses and malware”

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