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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Email in the classroom

A front page article in Tuesday's New York Times made the rounds on campus, and generating some interesting reactions. It focused on the increasing role of email in student-faculty relations, and I think it hit on a relatively sensitive issue -- what is happening in faculty-student relations given the increased use of email and related systems in our teaching.

I've tended to experiment with the use of online technology for the past few years, and now I am committed to it. Systems like Blackboard, eCollege, D2L, etc. have made it easier, although they vary in feel and function. We use Blackboard at the University of New Hampshire, and my intensive use of it seems to being going well with my undergraduate class. I apply a very elaborate approach to grading and evaluation in my undergraduate courses, and I am always surprised how well the students take to the complexities and demands of my course. Interestingly, I find the more elaborate and demanding I become, the more they seem to like it.

But for me one of the most positive outcomes of this approach is the breaking down of communication barriers -- or at least I sense that my students are less reluctant to let me know if they are having problems. It isn't that I am now on a constant "chat" basis with my students, but I fell pretty confident that if there is a problem or issue, they will feel comfortable letting me know. This is especially helpful this semester since I am "on the road" a good deal of the time....

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