Tidbits, Resources, and Discussion for ELI Faculty

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Help Me Understand

Faculty, I need you to help me understand something.

As you know, summer courses begin Monday. But at this point, some ELI faculty have not yet copied their courses over into their summer shells. It is likely that some of these will still not be done Monday, at which point we will begin getting confused student calls and I will have to begin contacting deans. (Not having your course copied and available for the first day of class is equivalent to not showing up to the first day of class for a face-to-face class, in my view.)

The notice that faculty needed to copy their courses into their summer shells went out quite some time ago (at least one month, probably longer). The instructional designers sent out a tutorial on how to do it. They didn't hear much back.

This week, they've been inundated with questions and confusion about what to do and how to do it. They are stressed, exhausted, and frustrated from having to respond to this flurry of last-minute activity and the need to very quickly make changes (such as creating new exam passes when you've changed an exam, checking that links in the course work, making sure the new "student support" information appears in each course, etc.) that they should have had a month, rather than a day or two, to complete for the courses they are responsible for.

So, please help me understand. What explains the fact that so many faculty are not taking care of their administrative tasks for their ELI courses in a timely manner? I know you are all busy--but everyone's busy, so that can't be all there is to it. Is it confusion about what to do? Is it lack of caring about ELI courses because they are overload courses or something "on the side" of a campus load or another full-time job? Something else?

And in addition to helping me understand why folks aren't carrying out their tasks, please help me understand what I or other staff members could do to help faculty understand ELI policies and practices and complete their needed tasks on time.

I've got my own ideas about both of these things, of course, and many of you shared some useful thoughts with me at my "meet the director" meetings. But I'm eager to hear more of your insights on these issues!


Diane Thompson said...

Jennifer, over the past several years increasing numbers of tasks that ELI used to perform for faculty are being done by faculty. I know that over the years more and more of my time is spent on administrative activities (ranging from keeping track of students in multiple sessions to rolling over Blackboards) and that leaves less time for the kind of interactive teaching I try to do, let alone time to upgrade my content knowledge.

When I started at ELI long ago, all I had to be responsible for was creating my courses, keeping them current and grading my students. The rest was dealt with by course specialists. Thus, I was able to focus on my teaching and knowledge, not on all sorts of administrative activities.

I do understand that the expansion of ELI has not provided enough staff to continue to do these tasks for faculty, but I believe that the faculty are as frazzled as the staff. Perhaps ELI needs to fight for more course specialists and more IDs, so that these tasks can again revert to ELI, where they will be done in a timely manner.

Michael Sherman said...


Guilty as charged and will be apologizing directly to my content manager. I will work these notices into my Outlook Calendar in order to keep up better.

Not an excuse but i too spend a lot of time on content management as the technical fields need to keep up with the latest and greatest practices and reviewing alternate textbooks for comparison. That in additon to my full time job and additional part time classes does fill up the day.

Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa... Will do better in the future.

Michael Sherman

Anonymous said...

I will admit that I only finalized minor changes and made my course sites AVAILABLE late last week (prior to the weekend). I had copied my spring materials into my summer course sites several weeks earlier.

The delay in getting the course sites fully ready for summer are due to, as you note, being busy with end of spring semester work. that has to take priority and, once spring grades were in, I was able to devote my full attention to getting my summer courses ready to go.

One thing that might help is if the course shells could become available earlier in the prior semester (i.e. more than just one month before the new semester will begin), when we are less busy with end of semester work.

However, another impact might very well be that each semester, I think of a few things to tweek here and there to make the course work better for students or to better clarify directions (I do NOT consider these to be course "revisions" but maybe ELI does?). These ideas continue to arise over the course of any given semester and these are some of the tweeks I make to my course sites for the new semester toward the end of the previous semester. It is not until the week before the new semester that I really begin to incorporate all these changes - again, due to increased work from end of semester duties.

Aggie said...

I try to update my courses in the month before the current semester starts. It is always a lengthy process, partly because it is hard to remember how to access all the Blackboard features I need to update.

For the summer I used the tutorial to refresh my memory and that helped quite a bit.

I never make my courses available until the weekend before the semester starts. After all, I would not be available to brick and mortar students until the first week of class.

I think the administrative burden of keeping up with all sorts of due dates for 3 different cohorts for each class gets greater every semester. Add the problem that so many students rush to post 3-4 weeks worth of work at the very last minute to meed a course deadline.

Don Goral said...

I find that the pressure of daily responsibilities make any long term project difficult to keep up with. I tend to catch up during weekends and vacations, except that vacations are almost impossible, unless I quit teaching in the summer.

I generally manage to keep up with student demands, and I feel that is my primary responsibility.

For this summer, I still have to compose the midterm exam and the final exam for one course I revised, but these will be ready before the first student needs them. I realize that this does place an extra burden on ELI staff, and I will try to be more efficient in the future.

I have given up on multiple start dates. The extra hassle in record keeping for a small number of students and the overlap between semesters is not worth any possible benefit of schedule flexibility for students.

Laura said...

I think Don put it well: the presure of daily responsibilities and the priority of keeping up with the demands of our current students, make working on the next semester's course site low on the totem pole of priorities.

Until, just as with our students, that deadline begins to loom large a few days before the semester is to begin. And then, as with our students, techncal glitches and the unexpected or unanticipated extends how long we thought it would take to get the new course ready to go.

CTE said...

Some faculty should not be teaching at ELI.

Anonymous said...

I hope CTE did not mean any of US! But I see the point: just as not every student is cut out for ELI/distance learning, not every professor is cut out for ELI/distance teaching!