student emails

It’s great that students can so easily email their lecturers, isn’t it? Except when, completely hypothetically of course, you have 70 students in a class, 20 of whom don’t feel the need to turn up to lectures (most lectures aren’t mandatory in Norway, it’s a remnant of the old ideal of the independent student who should have the right to learn as she pleases) yet they all email you questions – you know, the “I won’t be able to attend any of the tutorials. What’s the assignment? Can you give me feedback?” kind of questions. And the frantic “Did you get my email?” the next day if you haven’t answered.

As a student tells the New York Times in a piece they ran on this today,

“If the only way I could communicate with my professors was by going to their office or calling them, there would be some sort of ranking or prioritization taking place,” said Cory Merrill, 19, a sophomore at Amherst. “Is this question worth going over to the office?”

Yeah. That’d be awful, actually having to spend time thinking about whether a question was worth asking, wouldn’t it?

I try to plot out research time (50% of the job after all) and keep it sacred by not checking email, or if I do check email – sometimes I need email for research – I filter all the student emails into a separate mailbox to be dealt with later. I wonder if it’d be easier if I simply had “office hours” for dealing with student questions which were clearly communicated to students and that I kept strictly.

Oh, and after learning the hard way, I now try never give any indication that I read student emails outside of regular work hours – such as, you know, answering their emails in the evening. I think my worst ever student email experience was the SMS question about XHTML tags and browser compatibility I got on a Sunday afternoon while walking in the mountains. No, I hadn’t given out my mobile number. Yes, I removed it from the phone book after that.

PS: MA students are different. I have four or five MA students at a time, not 70.

21. February 2006 by Jill

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