This is one of those 'doh - how did it take me decades to notice that?!' ideas.
This term, I have the pleasure of guiding 500 students through an introductory research methods course. I am working with 6 graduate student TAs. Each TA is contracted to have 2-3 hours per week of office hours. One of those is spent on administration / email / etc.
In the past, the TAs have each scheduled 2 hours per week of office hours every week. They've let me know that they are an underutilized resource. One or two students would wander in from time to time. Then, after the crickets chirped for weeks, in the last few weeks of the quarter, all of the office hours would be chaos as the students want to review their exams and are facing the clear motivation of the end of term rush. The result being that everyone is frustrated and time was used inefficiently.
2 hours per week for 10 weeks = 4 hours per week for 5 weeks
This term, I asked two of the TAs to bunch their office in the last half of the term. They did no office hours for the first half and are now scheduling 4 hours per week for the second half.
Let's plan together to give the students the help they need WHEN they need it!
With our shift to remote instruction, a real silver lining has been a change in the way we can offer peer tutoring. I have recruited undergraduates to be peer tutors on the instructional team for years. They help with some administrative tasks, help to run exam viewing sessions, and offer peer tutoring. The peer tutoring was never really practical face-to-face. They didn't have a space to offer it. It was awkward.
Enter Zoom and remote instruction - ta dah! - now they have a space to meet and everyone is OK with remote meetings.
Canvas Calendar completes the silver lining, providing an easy way for peer tutors to offer 1-on-1 tutoring appointments and for students to sign up for them.
The nuts and bolts:
Extra credit refers to points that are not required. They benefit the students who complete them but do not hurt the students who do not complete them. There are a number of ways of adding extra credit to student grades in Canvas.
Option 1. Extra credit on existing assignments.
This is a very easy way to grant extra credit. If an assignment is worth 10 points and you want to give an extra credit point, you can simply enter 11 points for the students who earned the extra credit.
Option 2. Create an extra credit assignments.
Create an assignment worth 0 points.
Enter the students earned extra credit as the score. As the denominator is 0, any points will be extra.
Option 3: Extra credit weighted category.
If you are using weighted categories, you can add an extra credit category and set it to be worth x% of the course grade. This will display your course as out of (100% + x%) 10x%. Then add extra credit assignments, worth points and enter the students earned points. If a student does not earn points for an assignment, be sure to enter that as 0.
Caveat – set the extra credit category to be worth 0% until there are graded assignments in all of the other categories. If you do not have graded assignments in the other categories then this category will act like part of the regular grade and will negatively affect the grades of students who have not completed it.
I created this how to video for our campus teaching conference.
I created this short video for our campus teaching conference. I hope it helps!
How to accommodate students completing a lower-division course during an impending campus closure in response to COVID-19.
My campus leadership informed students that
Research Methods in Psychology
4 exams with MC and written responses (drop the lowest)
8 homework with MC and written responses
The students had already completed 80% of the graded work; I had plenty of information on their performance. I did not want to add to the campus increased demand for online proctoring. I had no room to increase the workload for TAs - they really do work 20 hours per week over the term.
I wanted to allow all of students who were happy with their grade (already earned an A, taking it P/NP and already earned a P, aiming for a C and already earned a C) to choose to remove themselves for the remainder of the quarter. I wanted to add a take-home test that wouldn’t encourage cheating or intellectual property looting. I wanted to allow the struggling students the same opportunity to drop the lowest exam grade and demonstrate that they have learned this material.
1. I will continue to offer the class normally until I am told not to
2. I allowed students to choose to reduce the number of required exams to 2 (out of 3) rather than 3 (out of 4).
3. I am offering a take-home exam. To reduce cheating, it will be ‘find a recent article and summarize it.’ Easy to assign but a burden to grade.
9% of the class intend to continue per the syllabus
57% are ending now
20% want to sit one more in-person exam (they had already missed an exam or want to raise their grade)
14% are interested in the take-home exam
I am expecting ~30% of the class to sit the midterm. This will mean that there is plenty of space in the classroom and reduce the grading load on the TAs. I am expecting ~20% to submit a take home exam.
Here is how I presented the options to the students
A new instructor called at 8:12am the other morning absolutely beside himself. He had walked into his 8am class with Midterm 3 ready to distribute to the students. All was fine, so far. It was not until he and the TA were handing out the exams that they realized that Version C was printed with the correct answers in bold font.
He realized that
Did he do the right thing?
1. This is now going to completely overshadow any previous nightmares of showing up to SATs in pajamas or showing up to your oral defense and seeing your parents in the front row.
2. His decision certainly eliminated any impact on the students. The students had prepared for this exam and had shown up ready to take it. Some might have been counting on this exam to raise their average from previous exams. By calculating this exam as 100%, every student's grade will be raised. If he had just removed it from the gradebook, the students who were 'counting on' this exam to raise their grade would have been denied the opportunity to raise their grade.
3. As long as he has multiple ways of assessing student learning, needing to abandon an exam (due to a fire alarm, power outage, instructor PDF mishap, TA misplacing exam papers, etc.) should still leave enough information about student content mastery to assign final grades.
Teaching at a competitive state university, I see a lot of freshmen arrive on campus with a 4.0 (or higher!!) grade point average (GPA*) from high school. This has ceased to impress me because so many of them report that they earned that GPA by 'protecting' it. They tell me that they would only enroll in classes when they knew they could earn an A. They tell me that they would drop a class if they were earning anything less than an A.
Did they do well in their classes? Of course. But what have they missed by focusing so intently on protecting that GPA? That strategy was successful in high school and earned them a place in this competitive university. They are often intent on continuing doing what has worked so well in the past, but I beg them to reconsider this strategy at university.
When they have their degree in hand and are applying to a job or a place in grad school, the candidate who reports that they earned a 4.0 in high school and university by not taking any risks is simply not going to be successful. I would hands-down hire the candidate with a battered 3.0 and a compelling narrative about struggling and taking risks and learning from failure. Nobody wants a grad student or employee who will abandon a project that doesn't instantly succeed. We need people with the grit to preserver. And you can't get that grit by protecting a 4.0.
So, call your parents (or call your student) and lay out a plan that will include you enrolling in a class that you are not sure about. Stretch yourself into a topic out of your comfort zone. You may find something that changes your life or you may only find out what it takes to struggle. Bring home a 'C' and bake a cake to celebrate your amazing achievement. Believe me, it will make for far more interesting conversation during a job interview than reciting your strategies for protecting your 4.0.
The Economist had some far more eloquent thoughts on this topic.
*For those who aren't familiar with this system, in a modular high school system, students earn grade points for each unit in each class in each semester. The average of these grades is reported. These are often calculated on a 4.0 scale:
A = 4.0
B = 3.0
C = 2.0
D = 1.0
F = 0.0
Students will graduate with a GPA higher than 4.0 by taking Advanced Placement classes that allow them to earn off-scale points.
Here are some ways to time in class that aren't too gimmicky or obnoxious
1. Three minute break: have students request music and play a song. Announce the genre and name of the student who made the request.
2. Discussion time - use powerpoint animation to move a dot from one place to another.
Students seem to believe that instructors have an amazing power and can make special accommodations one-on-one. The requests for 'grade bumps' range from flippant to tragic.
Here is a recent response to a more tragic request.
I am sorry that you and your family are experiencing such trauma. Please consider speaking with one of the counselors available through Student Health and Counseling. Your mental health and well-being are so important. I understand that your final grade in this class does not fully reflect your ability; under different circumstances, you would have performed differently.
It is against University policy for me to accept additional work after the end of the quarter or to treat individual students preferentially. I am no longer able to change your grade or to submit the paperwork for an Incomplete. The department chair and dean would simply not approve that action at this point. Please speak with an academic advisor in the Psychology Department or in the Dean’s Office to explore your options. They have far more options available than I do.
Department of Psychology
University of California
One Shields Avenue
Davis, CA 95616
Associate Professor of Teaching Psychology
267 Young Hall