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I am asked to start from scratch and develop a new under-graduate course this fall. I still have about 2.5 months left but since there are tons of research commitments ahead, I am basically a bit unpositive on whether I can get all the course development task done before that.. The central hurdle is to make slides for about 12 weeks' teaching load.

I am writing to inquire some conventions on course development. In particular, can I pay someone to make slides in my situation? If so, then:

  1. do I need to acknowledge certain authorship for such cases?

  2. where should I find such services?

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    Why don't you consider paying someone to do your research for you? Because the same reasons apply for teaching. – Dmitry Savostyanov Jun 10 at 7:28
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    @DmitrySavostyanov That's obviously different. Doing research is explore some thing new and unknown. Let me put it in this way, typically you can reuse some "legacy" slides (if exists) in your department when teaching a course, can you reuse other people's unpublished paper? – lllllllllllll Jun 10 at 7:30
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    Why don't you use the blackboard instead? – Massimo Ortolano Jun 10 at 7:55
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    Do you want someone to create the slides from scratch or just someone who formats your detailed notes and makes diagrams, illustrations and stuff? The latter is a classic student TA-job, while the former will be quite questionable. – mlk Jun 10 at 9:10
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    Who actually learns the most during a course? Answer: the teacher. Sorry, but you need to struggle with figuring out what material to be covered when and how. That is the hard part. Then the slides are easy. If you don't do the first bit, you won't be able to deliver the lecture and answer the questions. – Jon Custer Jun 10 at 13:20
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In my disciplines of math and computing, most of the undergraduate textbooks come with instructor resources including prepackaged lecture slides, to assist with exactly this concern. I find that the quality ranges from bad to barely-adequate. About half the time I can use them as a starting point (and otherwise need to restart from scratch). So unless you are developing a very nonstandard course, you could research textbook options and pick one that comes with lecture slides as a start. I would expect to be editing, refining, and customizing those slides for future semesters as you learn more about teaching the course.

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    Hello Daniel, thank you very much for the answer. This is what I am doing right now. – lllllllllllll Jul 11 at 13:24
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Theoretically you can, but practically I doubt you will find someone qualified who is willing to do it for a reasonable price. Designing a course is hard work and pretty individualized. Look at how many different ways there are to teach the same course. Everyone does it differently and I hate teaching to someone else's syllabus and cannot image using someone else's unaltered slides.

As for acknowledging the author, you probably need to let your department know that you have outsourced this aspect of your job. You will need to make sure that the material is appropriately licensed so that you and the department can use it as needed.

As for telling students, I believe there is a fair amount of leeway regarding the reuse of material. Specifically, for many courses, you are not presenting "original ideas" so it is not plagiarism in my opinion. That said, when possible, redirecting students to the original source can be helpful.

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    There's also the issue that it would have to be the right person, because it could take nearly as long (or literally as long) to make sure you communicate your desired slides to them, review their work, give them feedback on what they've done, rinse, repeat... – T.J. Crowder Jun 10 at 18:00
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    I would also hate teaching from someone else's unaltered slides. And yet: I know multiple other college professors (different colleges, disciplines: economics, psychology) who work with departmental common slides for larger undergraduate courses and who are prohibited from altering them (with the intention of focusing new faculty on research tasks). Bewildering to me, but such things exist. – Daniel R. Collins Jun 11 at 14:56
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    Thank you for your insightful inputs! I found a textbook which comes with some slides (although probably cannot directly reused given the quality), but I will start from there and refine the materials. Less than two months the new semester will start, and I am working on three papers and a few funding proposal. gee! – lllllllllllll Jul 11 at 13:26
5

In effect, it sounds like you want to sub-contract course design, or at least part of it. In theory, I don't see an ethical issue with this as long as nothing happens that will disadvantage the students taking the resulting course. The important issue is that the students get a high quality course, whether delivered by you or someone else or developed by you or someone else.

Of course it will be your responsibility to judge accurately whether the resulting course meets appropriate standards and to guarantee that it does when delivered. You are, in effect, taking on a management role in course development and are completely responsible for the result. But the process is less important than the result, IMO.

It will also be your responsibility to deliver the course in an appropriate (say, flexible) way. Students, as usual, need reinforcement and feedback no matter how the materials were developed.

I will note, I hope accurately, that courses delivered by Open University UK are (a) high quality and (b) developed by large teams, including, in many cases, the production facilities of BBC. The process is very involved and takes quite a bit of time, but the results are high quality. I suspect that other online courses have similar team development structures.

Normally it is good to acknowledge such help, but that can be a contractual issue and may need to be if it seems unwise to have students contacting the developer for any reason.

Sorry, but I can't help in finding such a developer.

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    +1 for the first few paragraphs. I imagine, however, that presenting slides from Open University, even if allowed under the licensing agreement, would lead to complaints from students who feel ripped off that they're paying for free content. – cag51 Jun 10 at 20:38
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    @cag51 Why do you assume students are paying to study? There are countries where university is free. – Federico Poloni Jun 10 at 21:43
  • Good point. But still, I think students attend a university to hear the original thoughts of a brilliant professor rather than to be provided with freely-available tools (that said, I personally disapprove of using professors for low-level courses like calculus) – cag51 Jun 10 at 23:23
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    Actually @cag51, a "brilliant professor" can give a student true insight into analysis in a "low-level" calculus course. A grad student instructor may not (is unlikely to yet have) the true deep insight in a transferrable way. – Buffy Jun 10 at 23:27
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    @cag51, my comment about Open University was just to point out that slides and other materials might be prepared by others than the professor of the course and still be valid. It wasn't to suggest that those, specifically, should be used. And the people who do prepare them are certainly paid. I don't know if they have visible credit/citations or not. I can find out if anyone needs to know. By some definitions most content is "free". If you teach a calculus course, for example, you didn't invent the derivative. The expression of the content is another matter, of course. – Buffy Jun 11 at 0:14
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If it was not stated implicitly that you are required to write your own slides, you may outsource the task. However, don't expect students to be attentive and rate your teaching positively should you fail to provide a suitable syllabus, which may create stress for yourself.

I personally find that this would not provide you with advantage, as assuring quality of the slides, managing your commissioner, and teaching the material might be a harder job than if you've done it yourself. Not to mention trying to find the right person to do this for you. If I were you, I'd talk to those who have previously create new undergraduate courses to get a feel of what may be expected of you as a teacher.

I have personally experienced getting taught by an individual who didn't put much effort into teaching our class, and a lot of students have raised complaints about him apart from generally not treating him very nicely during his lectures due to the frustration of feeling like he isn't trying at all. I believe it was stressful on his side to go through a room of 100 plus students who despise his lectures, and I don't wish it on you.

  • Thank you very much for your insightful inputs! Eventually I found a textbook which comes with some slides (although probably cannot directly reused given the quality), but I will start from there and refine the materials. – lllllllllllll Jul 11 at 13:27
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Does your school have a Faculty Development Center or something that helps people improve their teaching skills? They may be able to suggest resources.

Some that come to mind:

  • Many publishers have slides that go with textbooks - they may know which ones are worth examining.

  • They may know a colleague you can work with (maybe brainstorm together, one summarizes the bits to include, the other is more graphically oriented, and you share notes & slides?)

  • They may know "master teachers" in your field (some are better at research than instruction, and it's ok if you're one or the other), and connect you for some mentorship.

  • They may have strategies that you can use, so there's less "information" on each slide, but more "teaching cues" -- prompts for the students to discuss or solve. This may lead to less advance-prep, and you can adjust the content to fit the latest findings.

Basically, don't worry about getting help. In the non-academic world, people hire content-creators and editors all the time. Find out what resources you have available, starting with your own university.

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    Thank you very much for your insightful inputs! Eventually I found a textbook which comes with some slides (although probably cannot directly reused given the quality), but I will start from there and refine the materials. – lllllllllllll Jul 11 at 13:28
  • Sometimes just having a not-blank page is what you need! – April --Un-Slander Monica-- Jul 11 at 21:45

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