4th ANNUAL COLLOQUIUM--FOR LECTURERS,
Streamlining Your Workload: Computer Methods To Evaluate and Inform Students
Working Abstract: From the submission of assignments via email to their return and the reporting of grades, feedback to the student can be handled electronically with a faster turnaround time and a resulting increased satisfaction for your students. Learn some proven methods to insure your students know where they stand all semester.
For several years now I have attempted to streamline the time-consuming and often tedious process of keeping students informed of their progress in class and keeping them apprised of my expectations. I will readily admit that this started out as a selfish endeavor but has proven to add to the student's satisfaction (or at least understanding) of my grading and has dramatically reduced the amount of time I spend each semester grading and providing unnecessary communication to students outside of class -- i.e., replying to an email question where the answer is provided online.
As a Part-time Lecturer I am particularly sensitive to the axiom "Time Is Money." Having been self-employed for over 25 years (and for that matter, I still am) I like to know how much time I spend on a task or job and then calculate whether I feel I am earning a fair contracted pay for the time I work. For instance, if I know that I can, on average, spend 6 hours per week per section for the thirteen weeks in the semester I can determine my hourly wage. Depending on the answer, I can feel good about it. When I first started teaching I think I was making just above minimum wage as I designed and tailored my instruction to meet my student's needs and my own. Realizing that, I quickly made some changes to bring my time spent more inline with my pay and my contracted duties.
While this may seem cold and unprofessional, I have received higher praise from students and my chair over the course of this transformation. I can now feel better about myself and consequently give my time more freely to my students when it is needed. It became a win-win situation -- one in which I find myself happy to be going into class each day.
I hope you find some of the uses discussed below beneficial to your job satisfaction.
I have nearly all class materials on the web at a class home page. This allows students easy access to the syllabus, their assignment page, and the instructions for each assignment. This greatly reduces their tendency to claim they didn't know what to do in class. I have links to information and sites that they may find useful as well. I update the pages each semester to reflect date and specific instruction changes.
I use the BlackBoard program which is provided and supported by our campus IT department. It allows me to post quizzes made up from the test bank supplied with my text and have them scored automatically. Students are given a one week time frame to complete a quiz. I am not able to link my database (see below) with BlackBoard to allow seamless transfer of scores but I am able to manually transfer the points in five minutes or less.
Blackboard (and the program WebCT) contains its own grade database and allows the posting of web pages, communication with students, receipt of assignments, etc.. I choose to maintain my own database to primarily allow the online critiquing of speeches using a module I created.
I initially created my own grade database using FileMaker Pro to allow students to check their points earned online. You can view a sample record at: http://grav.csustan.edu:591/OCE/ (click on View Your Points and enter an ID of ts000000.)
The database is manually populated each semester by importing student information from MS Excel. I use Excel as an intermediary program to copy records from the campus BANNER system web pages listing of my class roster, reformat some fields, and then import to FileMaker Pro. Excel can also be used as your grading and attendance program but it doesn't allow the computational flexibility of a relational database.
I further expanded the database to include a speech-critique module to allow student presentations to be critiqued and scored by all in the audience. As a Communication's major and TA I saw firsthand the difficulty instructors had in compiling with anonymity even a few written critiques to return to students as feedback and a grade. By computerizing the critiques, I was able to require that each student (30 per class on average) enter an evaluation for each of their peers -- to include themselves. I made the critiques a graded assignment to insure participation.
Peer critiques are entered into the database and provide 40% of the presenter's grade. Scoring on five questions and comments are posted anonymously for each presenter to view. I also add my scoring for the remaining 60% of their grade and my comments. Feedback is immediate as each presenter can log in to view their scores online. You can view and enter a sample critique at: http://grav.csustan.edu:591/OCE/ (click on Enter A Critique and enter an ID of ts000000.)
The database performs several other functions as well:
The use of filters is essential to deal with the
volume of mail I receive -- often 200+ messages per day. Filters sort incoming mail
into specific folders based on content and also direct junk mail/spam into a folder
for easy deletion.