Thursday, November 28, 2002

Timely delivery not assured

Based on a post by Rachel Lucas, a student at Texas-Arlington, Cold Spring Shops and AtlanticBlog are in disagreement over how long a professor should take to get exams back. Bill Sjostrom of AtlanticBlog has even a problem with students filling in scantrons correctly! I think we should grant him the problem of not having access to scantron machines. I take mine downstairs from the large classroom I teach in -- no appointment necessary, and even in finals week they're back in 24 hours. I can ask for a response listing to be sure we correctly took down everyone's answers correctly. Not sure Bill gets that option. Anyway, if we test on a Tuesday, they're back on Thursday every time.

Now here's a little low-tech solution we use in my department, and one we may not have much longer. We would have students take exams on scantrons and hand-grade them. We lay over a template of a scantron with holes cut out for the answers. Then take a marker and color the punched out area in something like green or purple. Now lay it over and line it up and just look for the marks. Now, it's a problem if someone double-answers -- you can miss those, and the error is in the student's favor. But this takes little longer than the scantron machine. I can let my work-study helpers do it, and have even been known to employ one of my children in the task. Our fear: the little gadget that punches the holes is not made anymore. A regular hole-punch doesn't work because you need to be able to punch a small hole and it needs to be able to reach nearly six inches from the hinge to the punch. Ours is very old and has broken down twice. If anyone knows where to buy another, please let me know!

Just don't ask me about essay exams. I'm teaching two courses overload -- that's what happens when you're a department chair: I'm the residual provider (with no profits to claim, and I've even done one on the cuff for four graduate students) -- and I'm using this weekend to finally get unburied after being hopelessly underwater for more than a month. In a forty-seat class, I think two weeks is OK, but unfortunately I've got two such classes (the second a 20-seat honors course) and I'm running more like three. Forgive me, Rachel!