Tuesday, 3 January 2017

catching a dose from the students

The last week of term at The Institute is called exam week. It could have seen me slacking off because a lot of hours are in the lab or at the computer rather than flicking through powerpoints in front of a classful of students. BUT I have 11 final year research project students and 9th Dec was the deadline for their Literature Reviews; that deadline was conditional upon supervisors reading each submission and giving feedback over the next, last, week. For the draft, I insisted on getting electronic-only submissions a) so I could read them, b) to save trees and c) so I could give them feedback with 'track-changes'. That way, they can read my writing as well and just incorporate my apostrophe-nazi comments.

Haven't gotten that far yet with the lab-books, but I don't see why we shouldn't shift those also to e-format. While I have an easy time for marking exam scripts in December and May, I have a harder time through the year having to read and mark dozens of lab-books and assignments each week during the year. A stack of 18 lab books weights about 8kg and I see my colleagues toting armfuls of them up and down the corridor. I used to do that as well, schlepping them to my desk, marking and schlepping them back. But an old stager told me that she marks them the lab where they have been handed in: Mohammed goes the the book-mountain. Now I find a spare hour in my day and mark a batch standing up against the lab-bench. It's altogether more efficient. Another colleague says that she does not, cannot, mark all the books in each class every week, so she reads and comments on a random selection. That doesn't seem quite right to me. Another thing was that nagging feeling that I was taking material out of the lab and putting it on my desk . . . where I eat my lunch.

Now here's someone on the same wavelength. Michael Flamm has "Gone Paperless" and shifted to making his student submit work on-line rather than in lab-books or on hand-written sheets of paper. He notes many advantages to this; one of them being that he can write a cogent comment once and cut&paste it into all the reports that have made a similar error. He also feels that. since the switch, he has gotten far fewer colds and sniffles. All those papers have been sneezed on, had the cat sit on them and handled by hands which haven't been properly washed since the last trip to the bathroom. Eeeeuw.

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