Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Time Management Vs Just In Time Class Schedules

I'm just so-so with my time management. A lot of my work is thinking, which takes long uninterrupted stretches of time, and the ability to put distracting thoughts aside. So when there are a lot of interruptions or suddenly important demands, it messes with my mind. Time slicing isn't really conducive to productivity anyway, but planning ahead mitigates some of the distraction and allows you to allocate time in good sized chunks.

A really irritating practice is when instructors at the college level (many of whom have taught a given course for decades) say they are going to announce assignments and due dates on the Web at some undetermined time and day every week. "It'll be up to you", they say, "to check the course Web site to find out what the assignments are and when they are due."

Where else is this sort of lazy, just-in-time assignment and frequent polling of due dates considered acceptable? I can't think of one other instance.

When you consider the trade-off, it is pretty inconvenient and a very inefficient use of time. If I'm a super-efficient student, I cannot read ahead, because I don't know what the readings are to be; I cannot practice the right problems either, or get a head-start on the next section. Consider also the laziness of the technique: a student who checks the Web site frequently incurs a time penalty for doing so, because the posting of assignments usually won't be made at a predetermined time (even if this is promised) and it takes time and is a distraction to have to get to a computer and to look up the Web page and sign in to yet another Web application (a different one for each class is not unusual) and find out there's nothing new. Everyone in class is doing this polling too, for at least a few days during every week of the course.

But the worst part of it is that it is out of sight, and out of sight is out of mind when you have multiple pressing demands placed on you. If I check in on the assignments too early and find nothing posted, how do I know there's nothing to be done? And if a posting is made while I'm away at classes or on a Friday evening heading into a weekend, it is unlikely I will find out about the assignments at all, or so late that I will have to crunch something to fit them in.

I've got three classes this semester like this. A third doesn't announce assignments beforehand, but at least tells us in class day by day what they are and when they're all going to be due a few weeks in advance.

Teachers, make a note: Just-in-time Web postings of assignments SUCK.
You want to post the assignments? Make up a single sheet at the beginning of the semester, and post it to a simple, plain-vanilla Web site.

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