4

As an instructor at a large university, you will sooner or later have a waitlist for your class. Is it better (for you) to admit those students into your class or do you better keep the enrollment limit firm?

I favor the latter because it reduces my work, however marginally. What's more, it might improve the attitude of your students towards your class if there is more demand to take your class than you offer.

Is there a different perspective or a refinement of the above?

  • 1
    Hmmm. If you keep them out will they learn to love you since you are in such high demand or hate you for being uncaring about their needs. But you don't talk about the scale. Does it change from 30 to 33 or from 30 to 80? – Buffy Aug 29 at 0:29
  • 1
    Are you talking about a waitlist for an individual class (e.g. one imposed on a particular tutorial session because of a limited number of computers in the room), or one imposed on enrolments on a degree as a whole (e.g. only 200 new Electrical Engineering students each year)? – nick012000 Aug 29 at 0:33
  • @nick012000: single classes. Thanks. – Ambicion Aug 29 at 10:04
  • I don't know your circumstances, but fire code may be a consieration. Don't want 350 people in a 300 person lecture hall. – The Thrifty Engineer Aug 29 at 14:27
  • Is this class taught face-to-face or online? If face-to-face, are there limitations on seats, desks, computers, lab workstations, or any other resources? – shoover Aug 29 at 16:05
9

In my department for lower level courses I have no control over the enrollment of my classes. For upper levels, it's rare the the capacity maxes out but here's a general way I would look at it from an instructor and/or administrator.

  1. How frequently is the course offered?
    There's a huge difference between a course only offered every year or two, and every single semester.
  2. Is the course required for graduation?
    If not, there's far less reason to give the override. If so, why stand in the way of someone's graduation (particularly if they're a senior)?
  3. Are the other sections of the course full?
    If the course has multiple sections, why don't they take one of those? If there is a legitimate reason they can't (a required course at the same time) I might be more inclined, if not, they can take it the other one if they really want it.
  4. Whose student is it?
    My department has one to let majors and minors always take the classes, but those who are not in our department will only get it in exigent circumstances (must have course to graduate). This is because we are penalized if our majors don't graduate on time and we need to always make any marginal spots available first and foremost to them.
  5. Is there a general policy?
    Your department may have a policy for this. If so, use that.

I don't think that there is any benefit to intentionally reducing numbers to increase demand later on. If your class is required, people will take it because they have to, not because it's popular (your department has created an artificial demand). If your class is not required, then students will just find a different class and not bother with yours another semester. The demand for a non-required class only tends to go up if it has the reputation of being easy, fun, relevant to other majors, or some combination thereof.

  • What's the difference between twice a year and every semester? – Maeher Aug 29 at 15:36
  • @Maeher oops in my head I was thinking once every year or two. – user0721090601 Aug 29 at 15:44
  • Ah, that makes more sense. Thanks. – Maeher Aug 30 at 9:36
2

I favor the latter because it reduces my work, however marginally.

This reasoning is selfish - you're doing what's marginally better for you, but can have significant negative effects on the student, especially if they e.g. end up having to delay graduation.

What's more, it might improve the attitude of your students towards your class if there is more demand to take your class than you offer.

I don't know about others, but in my undergraduate experience, if I'm unable to take an elective class because of limited spots, I take some other elective instead. The next semester, I don't go back to take the original elective and move on to more advanced electives. If most students act thusly, this might not have as much impact as you would like - your students don't come back the next year.

On the other hand if it's a core class, then this shouldn't change anything since everyone has to take your class anyway.

Should you do it? That is a question about your personal moral values. Me, I'd take on as many students as I can until I hit capacity. Once every student's experience (or my other responsibilities) starts to suffer, that's the time to stop taking more students. Your values might differ: e.g. you could argue that the objection in the first paragraph above is invalid because if one accepts it, it would also be an argument to donate $10 to a charity such as Médecins Sans Frontières, since the impact on oneself is marginal but it can seriously impact the life of someone in a third-world country.

1

In my experience, a fair amount of enrolled students never show up at all, or the stop showing up after a while. So if you have some more on the list, admit them, in the end it will be better to have some people sitting there and listening, than talking to one or two who still attend.

In my experience a waiting list is only needed if you have to organize rooms with limited capacity. The rest will sort itself out.

And in the end, it's your job to teach, the more people you teach, the more people will know your topic. That should be the incentive of a teacher. Not the amount of work. But that might be my take on the issue.

  • 2
    In my experience a waiting list is only needed if you have to organize rooms with limited capacity — In my experience, classroom seating is rarely the most limited resource; grading time and office hours are the most limited resources. — And in the end, it's your job to teach, the more people you teach, the more people will know your topic. That should be the incentive of a teacher. — Easier said than done. It's easy to lecture to more people, but lecturing is arguably the least important part of teaching. And teachers also have to sleep. – JeffE Aug 29 at 18:15
  • Yes of course it depends on the kind of lecture you have. If its mostly frontal presentation and an exam in the end, i think the most reason to limit the number of students is still the room size. If it is more of a seminar, then the number of students are equivalent to the time needed. In the posted question it sounded more like its more of a convenience to limit the number than a need. Of course you have to sleep, but as i can only state from my experience, i never lost an hour of sleep, no matter how large the lecture was, from 5 to 100 students. But often we had tutors helping out. – Sango Aug 30 at 11:17
  • Expanding on the previous answer: I still prefer to educate as much people as possible. It takes more time and resources, but that is still the prime reason for a university to exist. I had a lot of colleagues (and even professors) moaning about teaching, but i think, if you don't like teaching, you are in the wrong place. Go to the private sector or a non teaching research institute, but if there is teaching involved in your position, TEACH! Teaching is so important, it bothers me if teacher don't like to do it. I may be ranting and not focusing on the question anymore. sorry – Sango Aug 30 at 11:20
  • @JeffE: " In my experience, classroom seating is rarely the most limited resource". That depends on the location and university system. Try to take a psychology freshmen course in France for example. – Taladris Aug 30 at 14:32
  • @Sango I'm currently teaching a junior-level algorithms course with 360 students. Please, do lecture me again about convenience and my commitment to teaching. – JeffE Aug 31 at 15:40
0

It depends on how many people are already enrolled in class, how many TAs you have and if the course is mandatory/important for the students from your department (I suppose it is not a gen ed class)

I favor the latter because it reduces my work, however marginally.

If this is a mandatory/important class, that reasoning is worrisome. You should talk to the department, get more TAs the following year and put the "marginal" workload and some more to them. If you are teaching using slides and having more people in class just changes the amount of grading you have to do, get a grader (TA), it usually can be done even after the semester has begun. If you have a gen ed or that focus on student from other departments (if it is not mandatory for those students), then you could probably stick to the student limit without a problem.

What's more, it might improve the attitude of your students towards your class if there is more demand to take your class than you offer.

If your class is mandatory, people will plan ahead to enroll in it and you will still get all sorts of students. If it is not mandatory, people usually have a sincere interest in the subject and you will just be limiting the number of people learning (through your class) the subject.

-4

Regardless on the number of alumni the work doesn't change much since you can automate much of it.

Example: In my country, first semester classes can have 60+ students and the teacher have no control over that, but later classes often have 'listener' students, which ask the professor to come in and be a part of the class even if they are not enrolled with said professor.

It comes down on how to consider such in your big life and career plan.

Advantages of accepting more students:

  • Grateful students give better reviews.
  • More students raise your profile and status in large as a teacher capable of tutoring many.
  • More chances you'll be considered for project coordination or tutoring, which leads to possibility of grants
  • Chance to use the students as test subjects for research (bigger study population)
  • Chance to get the students to help create extra materials that can be used for future courses, reducing your work.
  • More experience

Cons :

  • More work at first until you automate things

  • More responsibility to alumni

  • Could cause bad sentiment with other staff that feel you are 'stealing' heir prospect students

General suggestion:

Take as many students as you can and make the best of it.

  • Regardless on the number of alumni the work doesn't change much since you can automate much of it. — Yeah, right. Pull the other one. – JeffE Aug 29 at 18:17
  • Automation is easily achieved. You can use moodle or google classroom for teaching materials that you can get the students to do. Exams? google forms and sheets. Assistance? use QR's on real time. Revisions? use software for plagiarism. Ever heard of learning AI's to detect where students are struggling? If you cant or never though about it that doesnt means its unachievable . Consider it as an area of opportunity for you to improve. – deags Aug 30 at 16:23
  • Not every course is susceptible to automation. Homework in my classes consist of design questions, for which students submit a combination of free-form pseudocode and mathematical proof. These cannot be auto-graded. Automatic grading of general-purpose English writing is notoriously awful, and this is specialized technical English. (And as evidence that I'm not just being lazy: Nobody teaching similar courses at other universities auto-grades either; even MOOCs on this topic use human graders.) Now excuse me, I have to make sure 360 homeworks get graded correctly. – JeffE Aug 31 at 15:28
  • You can always automate things in a course. Perhaps not everything all the time but there are plenty of possibilities. an open question is always hard but you could instead grade characteristics of a design question automatically and jsut check the final question yoruself or have it be graded by other students. For inglish you need to vectorize your word sample and then teach your A.I. to grade the correlation grade betwen words. And lastly, 360 HW? youa re either giving too much HW or proving that a teacher can handle quite many students. – deags Sep 2 at 22:09
  • 1
    @deaga Sounds like you have a lucrative business plan. I wish you luck where everyone else has failed. (And I'm teaching a class of 360 students; I can't exactly assign fractional homework. Fortunately, I have a relatively large course staff working for me; hiring, training, and managing them also cannot be automated.) – JeffE Sep 3 at 4:11

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.