5.10.11

ADJUSTMENT COSTS.

An aluminum bat is not necessarily an improvement on a wooden bat, and laptop computers and printers are not necessarily better than paper and pencil.  A Kansas State graduate assistant counts the ways.
In the old days, a professor would hand you a syllabus printed on a piece of paper on the first day of class. A syllabus is a contract between the professor and the student. The syllabus outlines class expectations, regulations, required texts and supplies, contact information for the professor and due dates for tests and assignments.

You knew what to expect from the class and the professor from the beginning. You planned your time and resources for the semester.

It was laid out before you, like the Ten Commandments from God to Moses. And, much like the Commandments, it took an act of God to change the syllabus.
She's describing a course outline, but I digress.

Perhaps, because giving a new version of a document to the typist, and proofreading it, and getting it duplicated, was a great deal of work. Revision is cheaper now, and Northern Illinois now stipulates that the basis for grading work be specified in the first fourth of the semester. Without that regulation, here is what follows.
Now professors post a syllabus and change it, sometimes daily, sometimes more than once a day. They expect you to check it every single day and adapt your understanding of the world around you and your work schedule, and your finances, and fit this new set of commandments into your life.

In the old days, a syllabus listed the name of the text required for the class. You would buy, borrow or steal the book for the class and be good to go.

Now, professors are requiring a thumb drive or hard drive or DVDs or CDs or camera or flash card or batteries or six reams of paper, not to mention access to a high-volume color printer 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

I would rather have bought a book this semester than deal with what has turned into a complex process of finding, downloading and printing PDF files every week that have been scanned differently, saved differently and look different on every single computer I go to and try to print from.

Have I mentioned the expectation of having constant, immediate access to a printer and an unlimited supply of paper?

Some professors now require you to get a Google account or YouTube account or WordPress account or new Facebook account or join some other random website used specifically for and only for that class. All these accounts, of course, require different usernames and passwords that you'll most likely forget.

Now added to the regular class load and all of the above is watching the latest YouTube video or following the class on Twitter and networking with your classmates on LinkedIn.

Just to make things even more interesting, every professor has a different requirement for the number of times you're supposed to check your email, the syllabus, K-State Online, the WordPress blog and any/all of the other online resources for that class.
That is, if you're an assiduous student. And even assiduous students want to send texts or instant messages or update their Facebook statuses. The others might not bother with all the extra work anyway.

There's a reason gas-turbine locomotives never caught on with the railroads, all the apparent productivity advantages notwithstanding, and it's gratifying to see students pushing back against the belief that computer equipment equates to technical progress.
In the old days, professors would come to class and lecture; it was like watching a live performance. Students would interact with each other through conversation guided by the professor. Thanks to the wonders of technology, students now sit in a darkened room and watch PowerPoint presentations. Posting to an online forum to respond to posted comments your classmates have made is in no way the same as having a actual conversation in the classroom.

Very few of these new technologies are adding to the educational or academic value of these classes, but instead result in students spending more time on busywork and less time on learning.

As a graduate teaching assistant, I receive nearly 100 emails a day. It's hard to sort the students from the spam from the penis enlargement ads from professors from job contacts and from random forwards my mother sends me. Go ahead and ask me if I got your email.

Face-to-face is now my preferred method of communication with students and employees.
Hint: never check electronic mail before noon. At Northern Illinois, headquarters has finally caught on that reducing department duplicating budgets to induce faculty to put course information, including course outlines and homework assignments, on Blackboard (and younger faculty members agree with me that the new front end of Blackboard is a cock-up).  That just means students print things off in the university computer labs.
First, NIU should get rid of the cover pages. It is not that difficult to figure out which document belongs to you. It might take more time, but it will save a lot of paper, and the 5 cents that it costs the university to print each page, according to the computer lab printing stations.

Another (even better) idea would be for the university to encourage professors to find better ways of distributing notes than having students print off PowerPoint slides. If you think about it, having thirty students print off multiple slides for each lecture, is like killing a whole forest's worth of trees for each class by the end of the unit.

I think these solutions would accomplish a lot more than just limiting the number of copies we can print at time, which at least of now, accomplishes nothing.
I understand that the university is going to begin charging students for the pages they print off, sometime in the near future, when enough Huskie Bucks card readers are available.  That might mean students opting not to print out the course outline or the slides.  There is a simple solution to the printing of slides however.  Students come to class to take notes and ask questions.  It is the professor's calling to provoke questions and clarify things.

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