Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Because I teach college level courses, my week takes a bit of planning. Involved in the planning is thinking how much my students will need my assistance throughout the week. This gets a bit tricky because of the type of classes I teach and the requirements for each course. 

Yesterday, I worked on my syllabus for my Intro to Stats course. This course teaches beginning college students the basics of statistics and introduces them to the concepts of research. Since this course is strictly online  and means not having any interaction with the students (outside a telephone conference or two),  it means I have to develop step-by-step PowerPoint presentations that answer all questions. If you've worked with PowerPoint, you know the slide presentations can be short or extremely long. My Intro to Stats students will be using Excel to do their statistics. That little bit of information means doing lots of screen shots and then modifying them with arrows and text to help them understand the information I'm trying to convey.  
A Sample of the Screen shots modified for PowerPoint slides
 I learned that if I post their information and assignments on Monday and made it due the following Monday, I would not get them graded in a timely manner. Much to the disgruntlement of my students, I now have their homework assignments due on Saturday nights by midnight. Because there is no interaction between me and the students--outside a few telephone calls, I have to grade differently. Grading for strictly online courses is distinct from grading face-to-face or voice chat classes. For face-to-face or voice chat classes, I only have to explain "why this is the correct answer" once. With online-only classes, I have to explain"why this is the correct answer" thirty times.  That can take me an hour per student to grade stats assignments. And there have been times when I've spent two or three hours in an attempt to understand where the student is coming from and how they reached the answer they did. 

Planning also means looking at the time I'm available to my students so I can answer their questions. Normally, I hold office hours for each class on a different day of the week. For example, my online-only class is on Mondays--the day I post their lessons. Tuesdays was for my Intro to Social Welfare students; Wednesdays for my online voice chat graduate stats students; and Thursdays and Saturdays for the interactive TV and face-to-face graduate stats students. The days I was available to my students were the days I was teaching their classes. This was also equally frustrating because if a Intro to Stats student sent me an email on Wednesday, chances are I would not even get to that email box to see it until the following Monday. 

But Cathryn, why is that? Why can't you just open  up your email box and see what the students are sending?  

Thanks to new technology called Blackboard, I have a separate email box for each class I teach. All the classes are separated, with their own desktop, email box, chat rooms and discussion boards.  So when I'm in one class, I cannot access any other class, unless I close out the class I'm in first. It's made worse because I teach for two separate universities and each have their own distinct, individual Blackboard accounts. To solve this, I told my students to call me if it was important, meaning they cannot complete their assignment without assistance from me or if it involved an issue that interfered with their learning (family crisis). But that also means my phone is always busy--or so the complaint goes. 

So planning my semester means parceling out blocks of time so I can be available to all students. I was going to hold an open office day on Tuesdays until I realized that I would be in meetings all day on Wednesday--which means my Wednesday students will not have access to me until class time. So Friday becomes the open office day for all students.  It also means that Sunday is my only real day off since I hold review sessions on Saturdays. 

All in all, I would rather teach college level than elementary or middle school or even high school. I can't imagine what those teachers go through just trying to plot out each quarter and semester. My classes are fairly easy to put together once I figure out a schedule. My hat is off to those who teach children. 




  1. My hat's off to you for your dedication and all that planning. Knowing I had to be accessible like that would cause me much anxiety.

  2. Well, planning in elementary can be a night. I've learned to streamline and be flexible. Also, and curriculum map is a must!