For more specifics, check out the Learning Outcomes for the class--they all add up to that goal above.
I think it's time we realized that in the online environment that there does need to be an awareness of boundaries. Two recent encounters reminded me of this. One was a grade "dispute." The student informed me that they "highly disagreed" with the grade they got on a paper. I had given extensive feedback and proceeded to give even more feedback and explain that given the assignment, the submission just didn't meet the criteria. The response?
"We're not getting anywhere."
There wasn't any, "oh, I see now" or "OK, can you help me better understand the next assignment?" No questions or indications that they even read my feedback were present in that response. It was simply a "we're not getting anywhere" and that the student was "saddened" by my response. In other words, the student attempted to scold me into changing the grade.
I don't change grades often, but in cases where a student can clearly show me that they did meet the criteria in ways that I missed, I'm willing to re-evaluate. The problem is that the type of writing I teach is argument writing (regardless of the class you might be taking with me); students are in those classes because this type of writing is new to them and they are beginning writers of argument. And they can't argue their appeals for grades well.
This becomes evident when they say things like "well, we're just not getting anywhere" or "I disagree with the grade." Disagreeing is a gut reaction--it's not an analysis of the grade or of the product. Statements like "I tried really hard" often follow that statement of disagreement. But I can't grade effort. I can only grade the product.
So, you are probably waiting for the delivery of the "how to" promised in my title. Here you go:
1. Before you appeal a grade, read the instructor's feedback thoroughly and take notes. Specifically, what are the big areas they commented on? Things to look for include: a thesis that makes a point (and that directly answers whatever the question/prompt asks for), clear organization, proper essay type (genre) for the assignment, use of appropriate research, and proper crediting of sources. Usually if these things are fine, the grade will be pretty good. If one of these things is poor or missing, though, you can expect a low grade.
2. Once you've taken notes from that feedback, turn back to the assignment sheet. What was the criteria for the assignment? Did you do at least the minimum? If not, you really don't have grounds for an appeal of a grade of C or above. C=competent. That means you met the minimum requirements. The minimum is not outstanding or superb work (that would be B and A levels).
3. Go through course materials that are related to the assignment. Students sometimes complain that they didn't know X or Y in my class but that X or Y is covered in multiple spots in the discussion board posts. You should read all instructor posts--no matter who the instructor is responding to. If you were sitting in a live class, you wouldn't just pop your earbuds out to listen to when the teacher was talking to you individually. Don't do the virtual equivalent of that in the boards. Review the workshop threads and handouts your instructor gave you, as well.
4. If you decide you have grounds for an appeal after 1 & 2, consider how you're going to explain and report your request. Open a Word document and type out what you want to say. Save it. Go take a walk or something and come back to your request. Read over it. Do you make clear connections between your complaints and the course materials to show how your writing does, indeed, address the assignment?
5. Before you put your request into an email, look for the following phrases or wording and cut it out of the email: "I tried really hard." "I spent a lot of time on this." "Do you not like me?" "Do you have a problem with me?" "All of my other teachers said. . " "None of my other teachers expected. .. " "I got an A in my last class in this subject." None of these things are relevant to the product. These questions are all about other things--the writing is what earns the grade, not other things outside of the paper.
Similarly, the following should be cut: "I just want to pass this class. I'm never going to write on the job."
I hate to break it to you, but you will have to write as an adult. In addition, if you ever want a raise or anything else from your boss, spouse, kids, or anyone else, you're going to have to learn how to fashion effective arguments.
"I'm not trying to be an English major."
That's good because we don't have an English major here.
"This isn't graduate school."
It certainly isn't. A 3-5 page paper that doesn't require research isn't graduate level work in this subject.
"X people have dropped the class, so obviously you're the problem."
Note that people drop classes for all kinds of reasons--most of them have nothing to do with the instructor.
Your goal in the email is to express concern and to demonstrate to your instructor that you have given their feedback clear consideration. Show the instructor you realize you are the student and they are the instructor and that you value what they are trying to help you learn. An email that is filled with "my last writing teacher. . . I worked for hours on this. . .obviously people don't like you" statements won't get you anywhere. Instead, I leave you with this example. Note that this demonstrates that you have read the feedback and that you're ready to move forward, rather than that you're letting the grade define you.
Hi, Dr. X. I read over the feedback you gave me on my last paper. After reading that, I realize that my thesis wasn't really clear and while all of my main ideas were in the paper, when I did a post-draft outline that those main ideas weren't really showing up. Can we talk about how I might improve this in my next paper? I'd like to improve and I'd be happy to share a rough draft with you ahead of time to get pointers.
Finally, note that I do a lot of workshop activity in my classes. If you are not taking part in those, you're missing out on great opportunities to make mistakes and learn how to correct them before the papers are due.