I'm doing the FINAL TIME SCARCITY REPORT today, Saturday, because it is now less than one week before the end of classes for me: my classes do not have finals, so they end this coming Friday, May 2. I'm sad to report that only half of the students are finished. The other half are not done yet, which means they will not have a dead week - a dead week they probably really need in order to get ready for finals in their other classes.

25 students done - 27 still working
Indian Epics:
15 students done - 12 still working

The way the class is set up, if students had done only the required work every week, they would have finished on Thursday of last week; by doing extra credit, they could have finished two or three or more weeks ago. So, the students who are still doing work for the class must have both missed required work and also failed to use the abundant extra credit to make up for that gap. As a result, they now face a deadline crunch in this class, one that might even put their grade in jeopardy because they will run out of time to get done all the work they have left to do, especially when they are facing similar pressures in other classes (pressures which are unavoidable in other classes without flexible scheduling).

I feel badly about that because I have tried to come up with a grading scheme that is as completely stress-free as a grading scheme can be. The grade is 100% under the student's own control, and so is the schedule; there are deadlines, yes, but students can work ahead (see Scarcity Report for Week 13). When students don't work ahead, though, and instead let the deadlines drive their work for the class - arbitrary deadlines set by me which might be completely inconvenient for a given student - my class becomes a source of grading stress, despite my very best efforts to eliminate all stress from the grading. Argh!

This is something I have thought about a lot, and I am really stumped as to what I can do to change the course design. Instead, it's clear that I need more / different / better interventions with students who are struggling. Since I suspect they are facing true time scarcity, I'm not really even sure what I can do, so that is something I will ponder this summer. 

Doing these weekly reports was helpful to me because it is the first time I have ever quantified some phenomena I was aware of impressionistically: I knew there was a Spring Break bump, I knew that few students took full advantage of the flexible scheduling, etc. Now I have some numbers to quantify those impressions.

For next semester's reports, I am going to do something that is a little trickier (since I get ZERO help from Desire2Learn on this one): I want to keep track of the students who use the "grace period" to complete assignments. Here's how the grace period works: I have what you might call a soft deadline and a hard deadline for all assignments; the grace period is the gap between them. So, there is the deadline in the course materials (which is a midnight deadline), and then there is a "grace period" which extends past that midnight until noon of the next day (something due at Tuesday midnight has a grace period that goes until Wednesday noon). This has been EXTREMELY useful for some students because, while they do aim to get the work done by the midnight deadline, sometimes life does throw you a curve ball and they unexpected need a little more time. This way, they get that gift of a little more time no questions asked; it's the grace period, available without having to justify the extension with some kind of excuse.

The problem, of course, is that some students drift quickly into the habit of using the grace period as the "real" deadline, which means that when life throws them that curve ball, they have no room to maneuver. I have the impression that there are some students who use the grace period constantly, maybe even for every single assignment, but I have no easy way to track that now. 

But I think I figured out how to track it: each morning, the first thing I do when I get to work is to send out a grace period reminder for any person who has not finished the assignment. (I really don't care if people do the assignment at 2AM or 3AM or whatever - to me, that's as good as midnight.) So, even though it will be tedious, I will create a spreadsheet of my own to track those grace period emails and also to then track who actually completes the assignment and who leaves it incomplete.

God forbid D2L should help me to do this... but I have no access to the date/time data I need for assignments that would allow me to automate this process. In fact, think about this: if it takes me 5-10 minutes every day to do this, for 15 weeks, that is Desire2Learn's FAILURE to save me 8-15 hours of my very valuable time. Pretty sad, eh? That's why I am so disgusted with all these claims about data analytics. There is no way some third-party can anticipate all my data needs, so what they should be doing is giving me access to all the raw data in the form of a simple spreadsheet so that I can access it myself. ALL I NEED HERE would be the frackin' time/date stamps for the completed quizzes. But D2L has that all locked away where I can never access it... they will show it to me student by student (and even that is so awkward as to be useless), but not in the aggregate with all students and all date/time stamps in tabular format. (If some D2L user knows how I can access that information, let me know!!!)

So, that will take me another 5-10 minutes per day, but I think it will be worth it since I really want to do better working with students who are not managing their class time well, and the best group to target would be the grace period regulars. That will be a totally new venture for me in terms of tracking student data, but I'm ready for something new since I think I've reached the limits with my course design overall, and I need to now start thinking about how to help individual students, targeting those students who are chronically late with their work.

Admittedly, there is a lot of randomness here in any given semester so I don't think I can really compare statistics from semester to semester, but at the same time, I sure would like to see more than half of the students be finished in time to have a real dead week!

Week 4 report:

Week 5 report:

Week 6 report:

Week 7 report:

Week 8 report:

Week 9 report:

Week 10 report:

Week 11 report:

Week 12 report:

Week 13 report:
STUDENTS, TIME, AND SCARCITY. It's not "big data," but here is a number I like to watch every semester at this time, nearing the end of the fourth week. Although there are unlimited opportunities to work ahead in my classes, and even extra credit for doing so, there are currently only 14 students who are one day ahead (or more) on the assignments, 14 students out of 81. That's not quite 20%, which is typical for when I check this number every semester. In other words, the large majority of students (over 80%) are doing their work on literally the day that it is due or, if they miss the looming deadline, not getting the work done at all. 

I like to check this in the fourth week because, as students occasionally report in their blogs, they now actually have work to do outside of class in their other classes as well. Apparently for the first few weeks of the semester a lot of classroom classes don't ask the students to do much, except maybe read, outside of class. I really (REALLY) urge students to work ahead in my class (opening it early, offering extra credit) exactly so that they can have gotten on a working-head track before the work really begins in their other classes:

Yet even with opportunities and the usually irresistible allure of "extra credit," few students can be induced to work ahead.

Bigger picture: I am more and more convinced that we do our students a terrible disservice by labeling classes as "3-hour classes" (i.e. 3 classroom hours, contact hours, all hail the Carnegie unit!). We really should label them "8-hour classes" and then maybe students would realize why it is that a 4-course or 5-course load is considered to be "full-time." I actually had a student send me an email yesterday, very frustrated, where he told me that "there is no way I can get all the work for your class done in 3 hours like my other classes!"

Now, that's pretty scary: surely he is not really enrolled in classes which do not take more time than that. My guess, though, is that because the instructors in his other classes are not explicit about how the students should be spending their time outside of class (other than maybe reading and taking notes on something... nothing "for a grade"), this student is just waiting to cram for the midterm, to stay up all night to write the paper, etc., confident that somehow the class really is going to only take "3 hours" per week overall.

Some students will share with me in painful detail the list of things they are trying to do while going to school. It's not uncommon for me to hear from someone who is working full-time (40 hours or even more, often with a hellish commute), raise a family (usually very young children who need lots of attention), and go to school full-time. Would they really try to do that if they were signing up for "32 hours" of classes, or "40 hours" of classes, instead of just "12 hours" or "15 hours"...? I wonder.

Of course, the university is glad to let these students enroll, provided that they pay their bursar bill. Often the hours they are working is because they have to pay that bursar bill ... along with all the credit card fees and interest that go along with not being able to pay the bill in full in cash at the beginning of the semester when it is due.

Students who drop my class now will lose approximately $500 in fees that they have paid. Sure, we have flat-rate tuition now, but I don't think all the students realize that fees are actually MORE than tuition for a typical class. The university is urging them to add more and more classes to their schedule (hey, it's flat-rate tuition! a bargain! take more class for the same tuition charge!), without making it clear that they are losing out a hefty chunk of money in fees for any class they drop after the first week. I guess it's better than when they lost both the tuition and fees, but not if they have recklessly bumped their hours up to 15 or 18 instead of the usual 12, thinking it is a bargain and that they can just drop the class (or classes) later without penalty. Sure, there's no grade penalty (you can drop until Week 10 with no grade recorded)... but there is still a serious financial penalty for enrolling in a class and then dropping after the first week, and it is a penalty being paid by students probably least able to afford it.

I read a thought-provoking book over the winter break called Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir. 

It draws some powerful connections between poverty (scarcity of money) and the scarcity of time that afflicts so many students... and, truth be told, so many faculty members. I've put it on the list of recommended books to share with my students in the class announcements at some point during the semester. But, of course, it is the students with the least time who are the least likely to be reading those announcements... 
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