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Summer calculus tidbits

So I started my summer calculus class yesterday, which meets three nights a week from 5:30-7:45 PM and consists almost entirely of commuter students. I haven’t taught an evening class since graduate school, nor have I taught a class of non-resident students in nearly as long. Noteworthy thoughts (well, I’m noting them whether they are noteworthy or not): 

  • I like teaching evening classes. There’s a kind of “after-hours” vibe to such classes that makes the atmosphere more intimate and relaxed. 
  • I like teaching commuter students. Some of these folks are commuting in from nearly an hour away, which means it’s costing some of them between $5 and $10 per class meeting in travel expenses. Many of them have day jobs which consume all their time between 8:00 and 5:00. In other words, the resources that are normally available to students in luxuriant abundance — time to study, time and accessibility for office hours, availability of college resources like computer labs and tutoring services — are a lot more scarce. And therefore the students tend to have a much higher sense of making the most of what’s around them than regular-semester students (even the ones who I have had during the regular semester). I like that. 
  • Two of the students in the class are from other local liberal arts colleges, and it’s interesting to see the differences in approach and student culture (even after one class meeting) between them and the students from my school. 
  • Angel, our course management system, has been virtually non-functional for the last few days. Sunday night I sat down to put together the Angel site for the course, and it went completely offline 1/3 of the way through. I took that as being the final straw, and I took it upon myself to pull the trigger on Option 1 from the last time I got intolerably tired of Angel. That is, I create this Wikispaces site for my course. I am not entirely sure that I am allowed to do this, since some of my higher-ups balked when I used an off-site wiki hosting service for two course wikis (mainly because of the text ads and the potential for people not related to the college to edit a college-affiliated site). But with this many commuter students, we’ve got to have some sort of reliable, web-based service for posting documents and announcements and links. I’m finding that the Wikispaces site is just what I have been wanting, and there have been some nifty additions in functionality since I used them last. I’m doing a 30-day trial of the non-free version just to eliminate the text ads (because the class will be over in eight weeks) and allow for private viewing. If I were using this during the regular semester with 10 students, which is what I have now, I could simply tack on a course fee of $2 a head and pay for four months of the no-ad version easily. 

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Filed under Course management systems, Life in academia, Student culture, Teaching, Technology, Wikis

Textbook-free Modern Algebra update

It’s been a while since I last said anything about the textbook-free Modern Algebra class experiment. This is mainly because the class itself is now underway, five weeks into the semester, and it’s only now that I’ve got enough perspective to give a reasonable first look at how it’s going. So, let me give an update. (Click to get the whole, somewhat lengthy article.) Continue reading


Filed under Abstract algebra, Education, Math, Teaching, Textbook-free, Textbooks