So many questions!

May 10 2016 Published by under Uncategorized

Last week was my last class period for the semester and the final is later this week. Now is the time when the students start studying and coming up with all sorts of questions. In a class of around a hundred students this adds up to a lot of questions. To help we have a review session run by our trusty TAs and I also have office hours. Both of these are fairly exhausting for the TAs and for me, since it involves answering a relentless barrage of questions from students. A few years ago I instituted a class policy to not answer any questions related to the class material over email, mainly because I find myself answering the same thing multiple times and my inbox goes crazy. Instead we set up a course discussion board (using a great free tool called Piazza) where students can post their questions (anonymous to their classmates, but visible to me) and the instructor, TAs and fellow classmates can post answers and followups. This provides an archive of questions people can look up before asking the same thing again, and everyone can benefit from seeing the answers. By the end of the semester, about half the questions are being answered by other students, so I don't even have to do it, just check that its correct (it allows the instructor to endorse an answer). I've been very happy with Piazza and the students also like it based on their course reviews. That said, I've had colleagues have bad experiences with discussion boards, especially when students use them to ridicule other students or complain about the course. So I guess your mileage may vary, depending on the students in your class.

One response so far

  • ProdigalAcademic says:

    I've had good years, where students answer each others' questions within minutes of posting and bad years, where I have to repeatedly step in to remove off-topic inappropriate comments. Course discussion boards are a great tool, but do need frequent monitoring.

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