Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

unreasonable expectations

This post by a student who's frustrated by professorial use and misuse of PowerPoint got slashdotted and as a result has a boatload of comments. The best/saddest/most intriguing of them is this one:
I’ve been a computer science professor for many years at a very good university, and in most of my classes I try to *only* use slides for images or diagrams that are so complicated or precise that I would not want to reproduce them by hand. Everything else is either me talking or writing on the whiteboard. Sometimes I have handwritten notes to remind me what topics I wanted to cover.
My students, for the most part, HATE this. It completely turns their expectations of a class upside down. After a few weeks, I start getting a deluge of “when are the slides going to be online” from the students who never attend class and don’t realize that there aren’t slides. Even students who *are* in class complain bitterly that they don’t have “anything to study from”. I’ve had students complain (in groups, sometimes with signed petitions) to my department chair and to my dean, saying that not providing slides creates (and I quote from one recent complaint) an “unreasonable expectation of attendance and/or note-taking”. I have fielded angry phone calls from PARENTS saying that their student isn’t doing well in my course because I’m not providing him/her with the “expected study aids.”
You gotta love that, don't you? "Unreasonable expectation of attendance and/or note-taking."


  • It's obvious from the student side of the lectern that the expectation of study aids created for them is not unreasonable. Maybe it's a fishbowl distortion, but clearly students have been enabled for a long time by profs who created the demand and then others who acceded to the manufactured demand. Of course, if one were discussing a sports team, no one would dream of suggesting that attendance is optional and the player/participant could learn solely from notes and/or slides created by the coach.

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