Classes have begun for the fall

The summer was extremely busy and the fall has not been better. I have begun filming my teaching again, which is horrifying. The idea of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning is a an excellent one. In practice, however, it is far more difficult.

I am not great with looking at my own teaching, because it is a dramaturgical communicative act geared towards expressing my identity, my particular understanding of the world, my subjective truths about the subject matter and my understanding of it. The act of capturing the act of teaching and then exposing it to others, and even watching it myself, is somewhat horrifying. I say this because I have already looked at my teaching from spring 2011 and generally what you I saw were the mistakes I made. The things I should or should not have said. The pompous, arrogance that I might know something, when I believe that I and the rest of us in the field know very little.

Because of a bizarre schedule given us by the university, my Monday class could not meet for two weeks and they cut the semester by a week. It is important for administrators to know that doing odd things to the schedule in order to ensure we have made up for the three days or so we are off at Thanksgiving creates long term problems for us from a teaching perspective.

If you start classes on a Wednesday, those of us teaching on Monday and Tuesday are already behind by a week. When that is followed by Labor Day, we are now behind two weeks. Because we are now on a 15 week schedule and we can’t do anything during Dead Week, I am down to 11 weeks to teach some pretty difficult content that is foundational to the entire rest of our program. Either start an entire week early or just accept the fact that Thanksgiving week is a loss and make it a fall holiday.

This semester is also odd, because we are starting up two brand new programs, an online doctorate and a heavily shortened Masters degree that students can complete in 14 months. I spent the summer and spring working on course development and that became a scramble during the last three weeks before the semester began. My little three person team has been struggling to get all the courses moved over into a new learning management system, which is not particularly easy to use.

Further, they shut down important parts that killed the work we had already done at one point and we had to start over. The system was also regularly down for one reason or another, which put us further behind. I’m going to suggest that perhaps it is not a great idea to start a brand new program, introduce a brand new learning management system that no one knows, and require a review of courses before the semester begins. It opens up some uncomfortable questions and problems.

At the same time, at home, I was trying to get my six year old ready to go to kindergarten and my three year old started a new school. That plus sinus and ear infections have me moving slowly.

When I started this post yesterday, I was behind. Since then, I still haven’t had any real period of time to work on my own classes, so they are still a bit of a mess. I’ll spend the rest of today trying to get things into a more workable format.

So, lessons for today:

1. Not a great idea to introduce multiple new programs at the same time

2. Not a great idea to require the use of a brand new LMS when starting a new program

3. When trying to get the semester started, perhaps focus on one’s own courses first.

4. It is not a fabulous idea to do weird things with a university schedule. It has pedagogical and learning consequences.

 

For my own purposes, this is what I look like as the semester begins. Note the lack of humor and hair swept by riding my fabulous motorcycle.

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