When Good Ideas Are No Longer Good Ideas

I was dealing with a classroom problem that was bothering me since last years final exams. My second year class did not perform how I thought they should have.  All the tools were there, everything seemed like it was delivered on a platter, but they just didn’t do great (as a whole).  I tried to identify the issue and strategize how to get more of my students to want to learn.  I targeted my tutorials and spent my summer planning how to utilize this particular time to mentor my teaching assistants to get our students to engage in the course material. So I made tutorials mandatory (they weren’t before and the attendance was abysmal).  But with a class of over 500 students, taking attendance I knew was going to be challenging.

Then there was the fact that my previous TAs felt the need to re-lecture in tutorial and students were wanting to listen even more than they already had in our regular classroom lectures.  That bothered me as well. So I worked with my teaching team to develop case studies related to the lecture material for our TAs to work through with their tutorial group of students.  But I wasn’t satisfied with that alone and wanted to get the students to participate in an online repository where students submit their own multiple choice questions.  Their peers then answer these questions and then I take the “best” questions and create quizzes.  I took it one step further and set the tutorial groups up like teams and each tutorial team generated a quiz that would be delivered to another tutorial group. Great idea! I’ve become very interested in gaming and together with a colleague we hope to study how competition through gaming will affect student engagement in the course.

However, it is only 2 months into the year and I am EXHAUSTED! The online repository system had a slight failure that coincided with my first assignment deadline and caused me to have to email a number of individual students to see if they had happened to post their assignment during the time when the backup server failed.  Then I waded through over 1000 student generated questions and pulled the top 20 from each group, created a question bank on our learning management system (but I did this 7 times over).  After over 500 students took their first quiz, I certainly had a number of emails of students not happy with one answer or another and then updated and upgraded quiz marks accordingly. Hey, I was SO tired and I missed a couple of slight quiz errors.

We aren’t finished October and I am thinking I have made myself too much work.  I am not scared of hard work but I won’t know if the changes I’ve made to this course are worth it or not until the end of the school year.  Time will tell. For now, I will agonize my way through the extra administration.

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