Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sunday Email Reminder

I just sent around a note to students who still have assignments pending for Week 2, which is something I do on Sunday morning, so I thought I would write up something here about the email reminders I send. As you can see, this blog is going to evolve in a higgledy-piggledy way because I am writing up these posts prompted by whatever I happen to be doing at the time... but in the end I'll be able to rearrange, fill in the gaps, etc. I've never really documented my classes in this kind of detail before, so I am excited to be doing this!

Brief Description. On Sunday mornings, I send out an email to students who have not completed the week's work.

Details. My classes have a strictly week by week design (schedules here: Myth-Folklore and Indian Epics). There is a cluster of assignments that I list as due on "Friday/weekend." Most students put them off until the weekend. I'm always glad when I see students getting those out of the way on Friday or on Saturday, but most students put the work off until Sunday, and on Sunday morning I send out a reminder to the people who have assignments pending. I send the same email to all the students with work pending, although some of them may have done at least part of the work. Here is the text of the email:
This is just a reminder that if you did not finish the remaining Week 2 assignments on Friday (or if you forgot to do a Declaration), you need to do that this weekend. For more information, see the announcements:
http://ouclassannouncements.blogspot.com/
Plus, I occasionally add a message that varies from week to week. This week, for example, I included happy thoughts for the 3-day weekend; otherwise, I would have put "BOOMER SOONER" for our football victory yesterday, and so on. It's never more than just a sentence that I add, though, since my goal is to keep this absolutely short and sweet, the idea being that the focus is really on getting them to go look at the announcements.

History. Over the 10+ years that I have been teaching these classes, I have made increasing use of these types of emails. This is my Sunday-morning end-of-week email, but I have some kind of email that goes out to stragglers on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings; I'll say more about those other emails in another post. It takes very little of my time and the emails are clearly a big boost to the students. Admittedly, though, I was surprised when I first started teaching at how few students take the opportunity to create their own schedule for the class and instead depend on me to set the deadlines. More on that below.

Goals. I have several goals for this simple little activity:

  • Alert students. This is obviously the main goal: alert students to work they need to do OR Declarations they need to complete (sometimes they have done the work but have forgotten to do the Declaration; more on that in a separate post).
  • Link to announcements. The daily announcements are an incredibly important part of the class, and this is one of my best opportunities to share the announcements link with students who most need to be reading those announcements.
  • Update Storybook in Gradebook. I won't go into the nitty-gritty of this now, but the one item in the Gradebook which is not under the student's control is the Storybook item, and I use the D2L flags to let me know which students have turned in that assignment even though it is not recorded yet (more on that in a separate post). In order to know which students need this email, I have to update the Storybook Stack and the Gradebook records.
  • Show commitment. I want every student to realize that I am committed to their success in the class. Sending out the email is a way to let them know that I am keeping an eye on everyone's progress and that I want everyone to do well! 

General Thoughts

These daily reminders (I'll explain how the others work in a separate post) are an important part of the class, and I don't think I would even want to automate them (not that D2L even makes such a thing possible, sad to say). By doing the reminders every morning, I get an anecdotal impression of how many students are working ahead of the due date and, unfortunately, only a very few students work ahead. The majority of students rely on the due dates set by me, which obviously has all kinds of disadvantages: those due dates are not necessarily convenient for their own personal schedules, they are not likely to do their best work when under time pressure, and they might even run out of time and not be able to complete the assignment.

Because this a topic of great concern to me, I did a whole series of posts at G+ on time scarcity last semester, looking at my classes week by week in the Spring 2014 semester. You can see the final post in that series here, and it contains links to all the prior posts: Time Scarcity Report for Spring 2014.

As you can see in that post from last spring, I am going to try tracking the grace period emails that I send out this semester; that is a separate kind of email than this Sunday reminder, though, so I will explain about the grace period in another post.


For the diligent, a week has seven days;
for the slothful, seven tomorrows.

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