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February 21, 2006

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Deborah Cantrell

I have had the same pre-exam e-mail rush that Jennifer describes and have adopted a similar policy of not answering class-related e-mails during the exam period. I, too, found it alarmingly time-consuming to keep up with the e-mail traffic. I also felt like many of the pre-exam questions were questions I would have liked to have been able to address in front of all of my students to get a broader discussion going. In an effort to share knowledge, I try and have a last non-mandatory group meeting before the exam to help bring out those questions -- not really an exam prep session, more of a final reflections session.

Jim Maule

My experience is the opposite. In pre-digital days, there would be lines of students waiting to see me in my office on the day or the two days before the exam. It was frustrating to do rerun after rerun, or to have a student jump in part way through an explanation asking if he or she could listen, because then I'd need to start over. So I started holding review sessions. But that hit the skids as space and time constraints increased. When I get an email with a substantive question, the length of my answer depends on the degree to which the student should be directed to do more thinking. I then post the question and answer (removing identities) on the Blackboard Classroom discussion board for the course. Other students with the same question no longer need to email me. Still other students learn that there was a question they didn't realize existed.

I encourage and compel my students to assimilate and review during the semester so that by the time the final exam rolls around they have 1/3 of their grade under their belt and much less to learn. By spreading the questions over the semester I avoid the bottleneck at the end of the semester.

I call it active teaching and active management. I like it.

Robert Love

One practice that a number of my professors employed was to have students list all questions they have on a centralized server like Blackboard instead of sending them by email. There are a few virtues to this method. First, repitition in questions is avoided. Second, students seem somewhat deterred to ask the "stupid question" when they know their classmates can see it. Third, many of the questions asked ended up being answered by other students, leaving the Professor to merely confirm or correct the response. Finally, as stated in the third point, the format induces students to get involved and often ends up supplementing the class discussions quite nicely.

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