Teaching, like most over endeavors, is about communication. After almost fifteen years of lecturing at a post-secondary level, I have found that clearly communicated expectations create the best foundation for learning: if everyone knows what is expected of both the teacher and the student, and if everyone is aware of the consequences of not meeting those expectations, then achieving the standards set becomes almost second nature, and everyone can concentrate on learning.
I currently teach at a polytechnic, with the goal of sending graduates directly into the industry. As such, expectations in my classes mirror those of the industry itself:
- Attendance of all classes is mandatory. Students must attend all classes, for the full duration of the class, unless explicitly told otherwise by the instructor.
- Students must show up prepared and on-time for classes. Class work begins on the hour, at the start of class.
- Professionalism is a 20% component of every class, divided into two equal parts: attendance and attitude. Professionalism marks for full-time courses are given twice per year: halfway into the semester, and at the end.
- Students have a ten-minute window of attendance at the start of class. If students arrive during this time they are marked late, rather than absent.
- A student will lose 1 mark out of 10 from their professionalism grade for that half of the semester for each late attendance of class. Late students will not gain extra time for any quizzes or in-class exercises that may be taking place, but they do have the right to sit them, as well as to hand in any homework that is due.
- After ten minutes, a student is absent from the class, and loses the opportunity to sit quizzes, submit in-class exercises, hand in homework, or receive grades for any evaluated component. An absent student loses 2 marks from their professionalism grade for that half of the semester.
- Three absences will suspend a student from class until they meet with the Academic Chair of the program and complete an Academic Probation. Three absences means that the professionalism mark for the student will be 0 for that half of the semester. A fourth absence will result in the student’s expulsion from the class, and an automatic grade of F.
- Excuses for lateness or absence from class are not accepted, as a rule, unless accompanied by a doctor's note, a certificate of death, or a police report. “I was stuck in traffic”, “The train was late”, “It was snowing”, “My alarm did not go off”, are, among many other possible reasons, not accepted.
- All the same, it is appreciated that you do make the “I’m going to be late” call: if a serious road or transit stoppage does occur, the multiple calls from students with the same story allow me to determine that not only is it a real and acceptable reason for being late, but that the accident is a situation truly outside the student’s control or capacity to plan for. That, I can make allowances for.
- There is no opportunity for “do-over”, “make up” or “extra” work during the semester to improve your grades.
- Classes require your full and undivided attention. Working on other projects, conversing using IM, checking your eMail, sleeping in class, playing games, and checking Facebook and other social applications will not be tolerated. Repeated behavior of this kind will mean your expulsion from the class for that day, and an absent mark. (Students are free to do all of those things before and after class, and during the breaks we take during class).
- Civility is expected. Curb your language.
- A certain amount of self-study is expected. The reality is that no course in new media will be able to teach everything you need to know for the industry: if I attempted to do that, I would have to make it a four-year degree, with the consequence that your skills would be outdated by the time you graduated. What I can teach are the fundamental principles of good design and development, and a solid understanding of technology and techniques. Students need to expand on this material themselves, as they will be constantly learning in the industry in order to keep their jobs. As a rough rule of thumb, a student should expect to spend an hour outside of class working on their own material for every hour spent in class, separate from time spend on homework, assignments, etc.
- Cheating is absolutely not tolerated. Plagiarism, cheating and any other form of academic dishonesty will be dealt with swiftly, and in the strictest possible terms: a student will immediately receive a 0 grade for the evaluated component, a 0 for professionalism, and have a record entered into their academic transcript. A second academic dishonesty offense will result in a 0 for the course, expulsion from the program, and another record on your academic transcript. Don't cheat. I will know.
- Concessions are not made for self-diagnosed learning disabilities: that assessment must come from a professional.
- Communication via Twitter, Facebook and eMail is welcomed outside of class hours. Please be aware that they are for different purposes: Facebook and Twitter are most appropriate for casual, non-urgent questions. eMail is for official correspondence, and should contain appropriate language, grammar, and content. Please be aware of these distinctions: if I do not feel your eMail is structured or clear, I will send it back to you with instructions to re-write it until it is.
- If you want your eMail to be responded to quickly, keep it short: five sentences or less. Don’t try to tell a story: just get to the point.
- Finally, labs and computers at the institution are not “yours”. Please keep the facilities as clean as possible for others: do not eat in the classroom, ensure all drink containers have closed lids, place garbage in the bins provided, keep feet off the desks, and tidy up after yourself.