Every summer, I take the time to evaluate some of my work practices, procedures, and strategies. This summer (and, actually, part of the spring) I’ve focused that evaluation on our college meetings, training sessions, and social gatherings. I broached the subject of changing the structure of the Course Schedulers Meetings at our April meeting and at the retreat, introduced the lunch walks, and coordinated a few “hands-on” inventory computer lab sessions. I would like to take this opportunity to flesh out some of my ideas and approaches to the upcoming academic year in order to gain some feedback.
The first “project” to take shape was the lunch walk and/or field trip to University museums or collections two times a week. These activities fell under the broad umbrella of intellectual and physical wellness touted by many entities both on- and off-campus as ways to cope successfully with the stresses of April/May, one of our busiest work periods. In my opinion, they were a success. We, Victor and I, almost always had at least one other scheduler join us and for a couple of the walks we had as many as four. With the hot temperatures of summer upon us, we decided to take a break but they will return in the fall. In addition to return visits to favorites, such as the Blanton, the HRC, and the Visual Arts Center, we also plan to visit the Football Trophy Room and the Courtyard Gallery.
The next change was to begin organizing hand-on lab sessions. We held two such sessions for the spring inventory update period that were quite fun in addition to being productive. We hope to coordinate a few more for Spring 2015 Chair’s Proof but finding available computer labs in central locations has proven difficult. If you have an available departmental computer lab, even a small one (fewer than 10 stations), please me know if I can schedule it for this purpose. And, yes, I checked GPCs, LAITS, and ITS computer lab availability. Who know July and August were busy periods for these types of rooms?
Another idea to take shape was to change the structure of the Course Schedulers Meetings (CSMs) to something much more task-oriented than informational and social. Similar to the hands-on lab sessions, these monthly gatherings would be centered on a specific topic or training experience. Many of you expressed interest in these types of activities and I agree they may be of greater benefit than the traditional CSMs. These would be held at least once a month and would still have an informational and social component. Examples of the technology or organizational systems that we could have sessions on include: using Qualtrics to set up surveys to gather information from faculty members; using Google© forms to set up a web-based room reservation request form for departmental classrooms; and creating a Filemaker Pro© database or “enhanced” Excel© spreadsheet to keep track of scheduling information.
So, what do you think of the additions we’ve made and the changes we are proposing?
Important Dates and Deadlines* for Summer 2014:
- 5–First Class Day (f, n, and w sessions)
- 5–Deadline: Small Class Petitions (f, n, and w sessions)
- 5–Deadline: HB 2504 (f, n, and w sessions)-departmental level
- 6-Deadline: Small Class Petitions (f, n, and w sessions) for classes that fall below minimum after 1st class day
- 10–Fourth Class Day (f, n, w sessions)
- 11–Final Exam Reporting system Opens (f, n, and w sessions)
- 12–Deadline: HB 2504 (f, n, and w sessions)-public site
- 17–Deadline: Final Exam Reporting (f, n, and w sessions)
- 23–CIS Request system Opens
- 27–Deadline: First (f) session CIS requests
- 3–CIS f survey period begins
- 4–Staff holiday
- 9–Deadline: CIS first session surveys
- 10–Last Class Day (f session)
- 14–First Class Day (s session)
- 14–Deadline: Small Class Petitions (s session)
- 15–Deadline: Small Class Petitions (s session) for classes that fall below minimum after 1st class day
- 17–Fourth class day (s session)
- 17–Deadline: CIS Nine week (n) session requests
- 18–Final Exam Reporting system Opens (s session)
- 21–Deadline: HB 2504 (s session)
- 21–Scheduling: Spring 2015 Chair’s Proof Opens
- 23–CIS n session survey period begins
- 24–Deadline: Final Exam Reporting (s session)
- 24–Deadline: FaSET closes
- 30–Deadline: CIS n session survey period
- 4–Deadline: Second and Whole session CIS survey requests
- 7–FaSET reopens for EoS snapshot
- 8–S and W survey period beings
- 8–Deadline: Spring 2015 Chair’s Proof
- 15–Deadline: S and W survey period
- 18–Deadline: FaSET EoS snapshot
- 27–First class day
- 27–Deadline: Small Class Petitions
*Dates are subject to change and updates are made periodically.
My Dream Schedule
By: Student Worker #1 (and Supervisor #1)
In my last blog I told readers how I was able to register for the course of my dreams: The Rhetoric of Superheroes. This will be the first time I will take a class just for fun (because he’s a freakazoid with two majors, possibly three, that do not allow for a lot of electives.) I think all students, if they have room in their schedule, should take a class just for fun. All classes at UT have academic merit so if a class is interesting to you then it will always be worth your time. Students (and employees with tuition benefits) should make a list of classes that they would like to take one day and strive to take a least a few of them before they graduate.
Here is my list of Dream Classes:
Of course there is the RHE 309K: The Rhetoric of Superheroes (Um, yay?!?).
In my previous blog I discussed how great of a class this is for me.
PED 107D: Beginning Golf
If you want to go far in life, you have to be able to play a little golf. (He’s such a nice young man, really.)
E 321P Shakespeare Through Performance
You get graded to act out scenes from Shakespeare plays. Probably not everyone’s ideal class, but definitely something I would be interested in taking. Honestly, the best way to understand Shakespeare is by performing Shakespeare. (Whatever!)
HIS 343L: History of Russia since 1917
In my personal opinion this is some of the most interesting parts of history in just one class. This class is very appealing to me especially after taking three years of Russian language. (Look at me! Look at me! I speak Russian.)
UGS 303: What Makes the World Intelligible?
How could you not take a class taught by THE Bill Powers (UT President Extraordinaire)? Could you imagine a letter of rec from that guy? Plus I am sure if Bill Powers takes time out of his busy schedule to teach a UGS class it must be incredibly interesting. (Future Namedropper Course)
UGS 303: Sleep, Do We Get Enough of It?
And the answer to that question:
(That gif is sooooo cute!) Well, its about time! Where do I sign up? I am told that this UGS course was fairly easy and students got out of class early pretty regularly, probably to take naps. I will have you know that I am a pro at taking naps so I will surely ace this class. (This is true.)
And finally where would my college career be without a little:
EDP 363: Human Sexuality
This has been a “must take” class for years here at UT. Whenever asked “what elective should I take next semester?” the answer will almost always be Human Sexuality. I highly doubt this class is anything like Coach Carr’s Sex Ed class depicted in the movie Mean Girls so you should not feel extremely uncomfortable while taking this class. (No comment.)
These are my top classes to take here at UT. Comment with your dream class.
A ‘SMOC’king Good Course
By: Student Worker #2
GOV 310L is an introductory course on American Government and just about every UT student will take or has already taken it. So why write about it? Isn’t it just another required course that you’d be better off taking at ACC or online at Midland College? Well our staff has proven once again that every course at the University of Texas has value. Through UT’s synchronous massive online course (SMOC), students now have the option to participate in an online version of GOV 310L that still requires the same regular attendance and assessment as a traditional lecture.
I sat down with Professor Eric McDaniel to discuss his experience teaching with the Texas Online World of Educational Research (TOWER). Professor McDaniel has taught GOV 310L roughly fifteen times here at UT and admits that the class had started to become a bit stale. With classes of around four hundred students, it’s difficult to keep students engaged and to maintain an investment in them on a personal level. Professor McDaniel claims that using TOWER has revitalized the way he teaches this course.
Professor McDaniel’s goal in teaching this large required course is to help students understand the inner workings and basic rules of how our government works. He wants his students to leave his class understanding that a government is just like any other organization so that, when something goes wrong or the public is dissatisfied, they can understand why. Having TOWER at his disposal has furthered this goal by allowing him to provide more information per lecture, while also making his class more engaging. The class is streamed live, so students are still free to ask questions during lectures, but with his TA’s standing by to answer the majority of questions via chats, Professor McDaniel is free to cover more information and go into greater depth in a single lecture. He describes this as one of the greatest benefits of teaching online. Although he regrets losing the opportunity for face-to-face contact with his students, being able to delve deeper into topics that he is passionate about, rather than being forced to rush through them, has allowed him to share that passion more effectively with his students.
Using an online format has also made the class more engaging, particularly for non-government majors. Not only is it far easier to integrate media into the course, but also to provide up to date references to relevant current events. This gives students far more tangible evidence as to why what they are learning matters. Professor McDaniel said that another great benefit has been the opportunity to team-teach with Professor Daron Shaw. By splitting each lecture up beforehand, Professors McDaniel and Shaw are each able to focus in on the areas that they are more concerned with and more equipped to cover. For example, if they are lecturing on public opinion, Professor Shaw might provide methodological information on how public opinion is measured, while Professor McDaniel speaks more theoretically on where public opinion comes from, making for a more informative and engaging lecture overall.
Professor McDaniel says that his experience in teaching with TOWER has changed the way he approaches both GOV 310L and his other classes. And while he admits that teaching with SMOC is not as well suited to upper division courses that require more in depth and specialized discussion, there are many aspects of how the course is taught that he plans to apply to his other courses. For example, he not only has more experience with the use of media in teaching, but also more media resources available from what he has used in his GOV 310L class. Through teaching this class, Professor McDaniel has also seen the value of keeping students accountable for what they are being taught by using weekly assessments and quizzes. He is also striving to be completely transparent and provide students with as much feedback as possible, seeing that it helps students to understand why they have the grades they have.
SMOC courses present a unique opportunity for both students and professors. And while Professor McDaniel admits that taking a course that uses TOWER requires a certain level of maturity and responsibility, he believes that the majority of students here at the University of Texas are up to the task. In his own words, teaching with TOWER is helping to “bring sexy back” to political science by making the course both more engaging and more rewarding for students and faculty alike.
One Man’s Search for the Perfect Class
By: Student Worker #1
Everyone has a guilty pleasure most people have several. I am no exception. I must confess that my guilty pleasure is superheroes and comics. Yes, I know this can come as a shock to some readers because I am sure you have always pictured Student Worker #1 as the strong and handsome one. For that I thank you, but I cannot deny that I can be a pretty big superhero nerd. Why am I telling you this? The reason is because a few weeks ago at the office discovered something incredible: UT is offering the “Rhetoric of Superheroes”.
Throughout my college career I have been searching and waiting for this class to be offered. It all started freshmen year at orientation during one of the many cheesy skits the incoming freshmen were required to watch. Through their corny jokes and their forgotten lines one of the OAs mentioned that he registered for a class called “Rhetoric of Harry Potter”. The thought of a class like this blew my mind and I wondered if UT could ever offer the “Rhetoric of Superheroes” as well. But there was nothing. Not only that, due to my double major I had little flexibility to take extra classes. Things were looking grim. When I started working here in the fall I wrote my first course spotlight on the “Rhetoric of South Park” and discovered that there are several rhetoric topics, but none of them were about Superheroes. I figured that the Rhetoric of Superheroes was a lost cause and I should just move on. However, one day changed everything.
I was checking through the inventory of new topics courses for Fall 2014 and my jaw dropped. There amongst many other new topics sat the class I have dreamt about since freshmen year…”The Rhetoric of Superheroes”. I quickly turned to Lisa with huge enthusiasm and yelled, “Could this be true?” pointing at the screen. Lisa looked at the screen unfazed and said “I don’t know. If it says it’s on there then it’s on there.” I was a little shocked Lisa did not tell me right away that this course was offered since her and student worker #2 (who’s secret identity is one of my best friends) are well aware of my guilty pleasure for superheroes. Sure enough, I checked the course description and the class was everything I hoped I hoped it would be.
The class fit perfectly with my schedule in the fall and as a senior this was the perfect time for me to take a class just for fun. To be completely honest if I did not work here I would have not found “Rhetoric of Superheroes” in the course schedule. Moreover, if I did not write blogs about interesting course titles I would not have stumbled upon these unique rhetoric and writing courses. Not only will this class be fun, but the “Rhetoric of South Park” blog has shown that this class will also be beneficial for my academic career by improving my critical thinking and writing skills.
Although this story seems a little silly, I believe it shows how working here has changed my perspective on campus life here at UT. This story also shows that working here has its perks and can help you achieve your academic goals even if it’s a geeky goal.