High Hopes for the Semester, part 1

I spent the summer traveling and thinking about new ideas for my courses or updates or changes to current ideas for my courses.  It was a time of great hope and great promise.

The first week of classes was a mixture of ups and downs.

We're so excited to be in your class!
We’re so excited to be in your class!

One “up” is an online exam for the prerequisite material.  We’re fortunate at my college to have a prerequisite course (BIO 181 Cell Biology) for BIO 201 Human Anatomy & Physiology I.  It weeds out most of the students who aren’t ready for a 200-level college science course.  It prepares the rest by teaching them skills and concepts to help them better prepare for A&P.  Last year, I had the idea that, since chemistry/cell/genetics were already covered in the pre-req course, I wouldn’t need to lecture on those chapters and instead have the students take an online exam over those chapters during the first week of class.  It was a rough week with technology issues, test bank issues, student frustrations, and my own adapting to these changes.  This semester looks better.  I have resources for students to aid them in reviewing the pre-req chapters in preparation for the exam.  I (try to) explain as clearly as possible in the first week what is expected in this exam and when the deadline is (Sunday midnight).  I added a new detail this time; you need to take the quiz online once before Friday noon (you get three attempts at the test bank) or you will be dropped from the roster with a full refund for the course.

Oh, woe is me.
Oh, woe is me.

The “down” was the discovery of 5 students (out of 105 in five different sections) who hadn’t even attempted the exam by Friday noon.  Once they found out that I wasn’t bluffing, each contacted me with excuses and begging for a second chance.  I let each one back into the course but emphasized what is expected of them throughout the semester.  I’m collecting data on how effective this project will be and will be happy to share it.  In the meantime, I’m watching the website for glitches, questions, and feedback.

This may sound like a harsh strategy, but I’m hoping that this will set the bar early on and help prepare the students more quickly early on.  It also frees up course time to cover material specific to A&P itself.  We’ll see if this works.

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