Friday, April 04, 2014

Flipped Registration?

For the first time I can remember, the Econ department at the U of I is trying to assist students in the registration process by offering students a session where each instructor would give a brief preview of their course, so students would be better informed when they do register.  With its focus on 400-level courses, this session is specifically targeted at rising juniors and seniors, but should also be of interest to current first year students who are further along than usual, as well as Masters students who are looking to broaden their studies.  The intent in giving this session is unmistakeably good.

However, the logistics are more problematic.  By my back of the envelope calculation, there are at least 450 students (and likely quite a few more) who would benefit from attending this session.  But the large lecture hall where it is supposed to be held has 280 seats.  Then there is the method for how students will be notified about the session.  Is that method email?  If it is, instead of worrying about not having enough seats, it might be more of a concern as to whether a significant number of students will show up.

Then there is the issue of how much information will be presented.  The following table is taken from the Timetable for fall 2014.   The course I teach on The Economics of Organizations is an Econ 490.  In fact, there are 10 different courses all listed as Econ 490.  This means there are twenty different courses in total that need to be covered in the two hour session.  That is a lot.  And while we've been advised to present for 5 minutes only, who ever heard of a professor who sticks to a brief presentation when it is possible to pontificate for much longer?

ECON 411 Public Sector Economics
ECON 420 International Economics
ECON 440 Economics of Labor Markets
ECON 450 Development Economics
ECON 469 Economics of Risk
ECON 471 Intro to Applied Econometrics
ECON 480 Industrial Comp and Monopoly
ECON 481 Govt Reg of Economic Activity
ECON 482 Health Economics
ECON 483 Econ of Innovation and Tech
ECON 490 Topics in Economics

So it occurred to me that instead of giving a live 5 minutes, I'd make a video that students could watch on their own time.  To that end, I made a PowerPoint presentation yesterday and did a screen capture with voice over this morning.  (The PowerPoint can be found linked from the description of the video.)  This is no great shakes and I don't want to maintain otherwise.  But surely it is better than nothing.

There is just one issue.  How do the students become aware of this video?  The obvious (to me) answer would be to provide a link to it from the course timetable.  Yet I've never seen such links in the timetable. I wonder whether the Banner software allows for this.  If it does, what sort of business process would allow such links to be inserted into course entries?  It would seem that the department would have to solicit instructors for links and upon getting a response from the instructor then insert those links just as they insert the course description.

My first year or two of being an Associate Dean in the College of Business, the then Dean wanted students to have such materials available to them prior to registration (think of the syllabus from the prior offering of the course rather than a video).  At the time, I investigated doing it with Blackboard Vista.  The software did allow public pages, but the way we had authentication configured blocked that functionality.  I am not sure what the situation is with the current Blackboard Learn or Moodle.  but that there are multiple LMS being used means that is not the right way to address the issue if done systematically.

There is the further issue whether instructors have given forethought to their fall courses at this time in the spring.  To the extent that there is not much variation in the course from one year to the next, the syllabus from the previous offering would be just the ticket.  Otherwise this is asking the instructor to be prepared well in advance, not very realistic in my experience.

In spite of these issues in implementation, it seems to me that if several people put their heads together on this, something better than what happens at present could be done.  And if that did happen, I could imagine the idea going viral because the need is there.

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