Letter: Hard copies of assignments should be eradicated

It’s always devastating to hear the words, “No, you can’t have an extension” from your professor. This hurts even more when it’s followed by, “You need to hand in a hard copy.”

We live in an era of education dominated by technology. Web platforms, such as CULearn, are fully integrated into the university experience. So requiring students to hand their work in on paper is ridiculous.

Every student knows the pain of finishing up an assignment, then realizing you have to go all the way to school just to put it in the department drop box, when that convenient little “add submission” button on CULearn is just waiting to be clicked.

I understand for some professors, marking a couple hundred papers on a computer screen might not be the easiest task, especially if the professor is technologically challenged.

But if that’s the case, the onus should fall on the professor, not the student, to take the necessary steps so they can mark in the manner that they want.

A professor expects their students to have access to a printer, so why can’t the students have the same expectation of the professor?

If a professor wants to mark like it’s 1970, then they can take the time to head over to the departmental office and print off their assignments—especially when printer ink can put a huge dent in a student budget.

You might say that’s ridiculous, what a waste of time for the professor. But isn’t that what teaching assistants are for? To do work the professor doesn’t want to? Not to mention, printers are pretty damn fast these days, so profs could even use their office hours they’re always griping about (that apparently, no one goes to anyway) to print stuff off.

It isn’t cheap to spend four years printing off assignments. A quick search shows a used printer on Amazon will cost around $30 to $50. Factor in the cost of buying paper and replacing cartridges, which cost around $15 every couple of months, and it starts to add up.

Carleton offers printing for 10 cents a page, but even that gets pricey when you’ve got lengthy essays due in each one of your classes multiple times a semester. Plus, if you finish your work at home, now you have to stop somewhere else during the dreaded drop box run.

Never mind the environmental impact of paper assignments. I don’t even want to do the math on how many trees would be saved if 28,000 students didn’t have to use a printer anymore—I just know it would be a lot.

Price and tree-hugging notwithstanding, it doesn’t make sense for professors to not accept students’ work online, when there is a great marking tool in a software the school supplies FOR FREE, to all students and faculty. I’m referring of course to “track changes” in Microsoft Word.

“Track changes” allows for a user to make comments in the margin, cross out sentences, and add comments at the end of a document, everything a professor would do on a hard copy.

In order for a student to hand in a hard copy, they must have knowledge of a word processor to write it, so just like having access to a printer, shouldn’t the student be able to expect the professor knows how to use the technology available to them?

The infrastructure is already there. There’s a website to hand your work in, and a program for the professors to mark on. It’s time for the Carleton faculty to put the cap back on their red pen, log into their CULearn, and start clicking.