Online Exams

14 03 2012

Today, I was proctoring an exam for the class in which I teach.  The coordinator for the course really likes giving exams online using our universities provided exam software.  I don’t like it so much.  This morning I had 6 students (out of 54) have problems submitting their exam.  They hit the submit button, but instead of submitting their answers it sent them back to the log-in page.  Unfortunately, the only way for them to receive credit for the exam was them to retake the exam.  It was painful to watch them have to go back through and answer all of the questions again.

It also never fails that some students forget their laptop or their laptop freezes up in the middle of the exam (these students generally have to start all over as well).  I may be old-fashioned in this way, but I simply prefer paper exams (with scantrons if they are all multiple choice questions).  The reason the coordinator likes the online exam format is to cut down on cheating.  It is very easy to randomize questions and answers so that no two students have identical exams.  The software can easily sort out the data to give you an item analysis for each question.  I love that aspect of online exams, but the variables are just too much for me to handle.  It doesn’t take that much more work to randomize paper exams to give 3 different versions so that you can make sure neighboring students have different versions of the exam.  If it is a scantron exam (which all of our exams are), we have the software to simply scan the bubble sheets and provide us with an item analysis for each question without that much work (it’s not anymore work for the professors…just the administrative assistants).

I know that when I coordinate my course (next Spring) I will be using scantrons for all of my exams! I can’t handle another exam like this morning.  After that experience, I can really use a break. Too bad I’m 12-month faculty…no Spring Break for me.  However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  I am going to a week-long conference the last week of this month! It can’t get here fast enough.  Not only will it be nice to get away from the office, but it will be nice to get a solid night’s sleep (We have a 2 1/2 year old and a 4 month old in our house).  The oldest sleeps through the night without any problems, but the 4 month old still gets up about one time per night. Even though my wife usually gets up with her, it is still not a solid night of sleep with two baby monitors buzzing near your head and the slightest noise waking me up.

It will also be nice to be at the conference so that I can work on expanding my professional network. I’ve tried to be get my networking started before the meeting by posting to professional social networking sites (i.e. LinkedIn and the society has its own networking site), but no one has responded to anything.  Hopefully, the networking will go better in person!


Helping Students

14 04 2011

I love helping my students. However, I can’t for the life of me understand why so many students wait until the night before/day of an exam to START studying and come ask me questions. I received and e-mail last night at 10:30 asking for clarification on one of my slides…I ignored it and slept like a baby. It is so nice being on the other side!
My office has already been bombarded by a handful of students this morning, and I am sure it will pick up as the exam draws near. Luckily, one of their former professors, who moved elsewhere at the semester break, came back to give a few guest lectures for this exam. So the students are stressed out about her part more than mine (even though my material makes up about 45% of the exam with the rest being shared between 3 faculty members).
The students can smell the end of the semester and they are starting to get antsy…especially the 3rd year students, as this is their last semester of academic coursework. I am starting to get antsy as well because I only have 3 more lectures!!

Spring Break and Pi

14 03 2011

Ahhh, Spring Break is finally here! Oh wait, I don’t really get a spring break. It is nice to not have the students around the building, but most (those that didn’t take vacation) of the faculty are still around hanging out in our offices doing some “work.” It will be a most enjoyable week.

I was making my daily rounds to various blogs, and came across the post from Gerty-Z that got me to thinking about my experiences during my interviews. I posted this in the comments:

I am a male, and was on the academic job market last year. I had two on-site interviews, and during both I was asked about my family situation. It didn’t bother me to answer because my wife is not a scientist and would have no problem finding a job in any city in her line of work. At the job I ending up taking (at a private institution), they actually invited my family to come to the interview with me. It was within driving distance, so it wouldn’t really cost them anything extra. They did this because family is very important to our university and college. They wanted to make sure my spouse found the city and amenities to her liking as well.

We actually just had another candidate come up and interview for a position last week. She has a family, and her husband actually came up here with her to the interview. He is a non-scientist as well, so he was mainly coming to check out the area and see what job opportunities he would have.

That being said, I came into the interview expecting to be asked this question, because every blog I read said they would ask (legal or not). I’ve always wondered how they get away with this when it is clearly illegal. Now, if someone puts the information out there for the world to see in there cover letter, that is their problem.

So, what are your thoughts on this issue?

Happy Pi Day everyone!!

A Great Experience

4 03 2011

My seminar at my undergraduate alma mater yesterday when great! It was so nice being able to share my experience in graduate school and how I became interested in teaching with a group of undergrads and my old professors. Now that I am thinking about it, this was the first time I have ever really shared about my experience in graduate school in its entirety, and it was amazingly therapeutic.
You see, for the most part graduate school was a rather nice experience, but there were times when I just wanted to give up and call it quits. My work sometimes seemed so repetitive and then of course there were the times when nothing would work for months on end. I guess I never really vented those thoughts and frustrations openly in the past.
I told the group from the get-go that I was going to open and honest with them, and I was. I think they really responded and appreciated that aspect of my talk. I feel as though my old professors did as well. They thanked me afterwards because they said the students need to know exactly what they are getting in to with graduate school as many of them (including myself) did not.
I am glad that it went well, but now it is over and I must prep for my next lecture…have fun everyone!

Invited Seminar

2 03 2011

Last semester my undergraduate institution invited me over to give a seminar to their undergraduates. Well the time has finally come…it is tomorrow! I am very excited and a little nervous. I am going to be talking about career paths for chemistry majors and talk more in depth about my experience in graduate school and applying for academic jobs. Hopefully it will get some kids to thinking about what they want to do when the grow up.
I’ll post a recap on Friday!
I know what you are thinking. Two posts in one week?! Yes, it is possible.

My Head is Spinning…

23 08 2010

Where has the time gone? I started my job on July 1, and it is almost the end of August! The fresh crop of 1st year Pharmacy student’s were on campus last week for their orientation, and today classes started for everyone. Things are really jumping around here now. During the summer, I could keep my door open and not see a sole almost the entire day…now, if I want to get anything done, I have to keep my door closed because there is always someone in the hall outside my office. My first lecture is a next week, and I am still putting together the slides. I thought I was doing so well, but then I realized there is so much more I need to talk about!
The lectures that I am doing are part of a team taught course. This is great for me because I don’t have to worry about the syllabus (as I am not the course coordinator [CC for short]) nor do I have to worry about putting together the exams in their entirety. I just have my hand full of lectures and that is it, well that and a couple of exam questions that I send to the CC. While I am enjoying this lack of responsibility (so to speak), I feel as though I have to run everything that I talk about by the CC. He has told me numerous times that I don’t have to do this, but I keep having this feeling like I am still in graduate school and he has to approve everything that I say. He tells me to just give my lectures however I want to as long as I provide the students with the information that they need in order to be successful in their careers. I am hoping that this feeling will go away in due time, but for now it is really annoying.
I am sure that in the next couple of years I will get the pleasure of being a CC myself, and then I will get to enjoy all of the “perk” of being the one in charge, but for now I will just enjoy giving my lectures.

Stay tuned for more from A PhD’s Life.

It’s Official!

14 05 2010

Well, the choice has been made! I have decided to accept a position as an Assistant Professor at a College of Pharmacy! I’m very excited to start my new position! It starts July 1st! Not a lot of time to mess around…I’ve got stuff to do!