I often have trouble communicating the notion of time to students. For example, it is hard to convince them how long it will take to, say, write a paper. The notion of a timed test is also a challenge as, without fail, a student will tell me that he or she ran out of time. E. P. Thompson in “Time, Work Discipline, and Industrial Capitalism,” (Past and Present 2 (1967), 56-97) suggested that this is because students are one of the groups who still exist in pre-capitalist modes of production (p. 73). Time and its accompanying “work discipline” have not extended their grasp to embrace the docile student body. Instead, they proceed with their studies as artisans or crafts-people, taking every opportunity to enjoy life and then frantically working to complete piece-work goals. This is even more challenging for an online class where the relationship between the overseer and the artisan is the most attenuated. The only motivation, in this case, is the distant and somewhat mystical end of the semester. This clearly will not do. As part of our job is to complete the process of transforming our fun-loving artisan class into good capitalist automatons, I have discovered a simple trick to impart a sense of foreign (to them) urgency to my online class: a countdown timer.
This one doesn’t let you set the hours so according to this countdown timer, grades are due at midnight on December 22nd. It doesn’t hurt to get them in early, right?