This semester I am back in the classroom. I learn a great deal from students about their relationships with faculty. It helps me better support faculty when it comes to technology.
Last week during one of our conversations we got off on a tangent about the LMS. Students didn’t understand why faculty don’t use the online gradebook. I explained the various reasons I often hear from faculty. But the one “truth” is that our LMS does not have a stand-alone gradebook. Thus, faculty have to “create” assignments which are then “read” by the gradebook. It is a two-step process. It is not terribly intuitive and it takes some time. Too much time for some faculty.
The response from the students? “Why don’t they just tell us that?”
Good question, indeed. Of course students have no idea what it takes to make our LMS gradebook operate. I knew that. What I didn’t know is that faculty aren’t telling students.
My own experience in the classroom tells me over and over again that talking to your students and telling them your level of expertise does not label you a luddite (well, it COULD but you have to push through that!) but it does make you human. Faculty don’t have to dwell on the fact they can’t make the LMS work in front of their students. I know it can be embarrassing to confess our limitations. However, we live in a world that requires collaborative efforts on many fronts. That means not everyone has the same strengths, so we partner with others. Admitting your technology limitations (which can simply be “I don’t know the LMS yet and the gradebook is complicated. But I promise to have regular updates on your grade available to you”) can alert students that we all have strengths and weaknesses. Not to mention having this conversation would address students (mis)perceptions about a faculty member’s technological abilities and teaching philosophies that turn up on those pesky course evals.
The learning that goes on in the classroom should be practiced “together”…neither student nor faculty member is expert in everything. Find out together where the strengths and weaknesses are by talking about it. And if you are a faculty member that doesn’t use the gradebook on pure principle that students should be able to calculate their own grades, then tell them that. (But know that many of your students will not understand you. They have been using electronic gradebooks all through K12. It does not compute in their brains that you don’t use one.)
I used the LMS gradebook in this story but other academic technologies could appply. The point is ‘fess up and explain yourself. And, of course, seek out your local instructional technologist.