24 August 2012

Putting classes in drydock

Occasionally, ships are put into drydock. There are certain repairs and upgrades you just can’t do when the ship is in continuous operation. One of the biggest taks is just scraping accumulated crud off the hull. All the barnacles, tunicates, and other encrusting and enfouling critters.

My classes start Monday, and I’m way behind in preparing for them. One of the reasons is that we’re switching over to a new version of our online course management system (moving from Blackboard Vista to Blackboard Learn). There isn’t an easy way to import material from the old Blackboard into the new Blackboard, so I am going to have to do a lot of work re-entering the online component of the class again.


I’ve taught most of my classes several times now. While I try to change them and improve them every year (“constant improvement in the samurai way”), these tend to be little, incremental changes. I have rarely made deeper, structural changes and substantially revamped a class. I haven’t done things like remake the slides from scratch, or rethink the assignments I was asking them to do, and maybe chuck some out.

I can see where the stereotype of the professor getting up and pulling out the yellowing, aging lecture notes from twenty years ago comes from. The temptation to keep recycling a class and reusing material and giving the same assignments is strong. And I don’t want to be that guy.

While I was annoyed about the switch in course management systems at first, I realized that maybe this was an opportunity to refurbish the course. Put the class in drydock and scrape off all the accumulated crud, and start over.

How often do you put you class in drydock?

Photo by formatted_dad on Flickr; used under a Creative Commons license.

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