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Next semester my schedule has two courses that meet at (almost) the same time. One course meets Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 9-10 am and the other one meets from Monday to Wednesday and Friday at 9-10 am. This is a weird arrangement that I have never heard of. I could talk to the administration people requesting a schedule adjustment but I am wondering if I can creatively teach both courses as scheduled.

Here are some ideas:

  1. I will be with course A students for the first half of the hour and will be with course B students for the second half of the hour.
  2. I will record some videos on the material that I do not have the time to cover because of the lost 30 minutes and have my student secretary play the recorded videos while I am not in the classroom.
  3. I will also use the time that I am not in the classroom for tests, quizzes, etc. and my student secretary can help me with this.

Has anyone had any similar experience? Is it even possible to teach both courses at the same time?

Edit

Hypothetically if I do not report this schedule conflict, who will likely bear the blame? I, or the dean, or the department chair, or the one who made the schedule?

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    If you're aware of the conflict and don't report it, you deserve blame even if it's not originally your fault. Why would you think to not report something like this? Why play that game?
    – Bryan Krause
    Apr 24, 2023 at 15:57
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    @Zuriel "Malicious compliance" as a meme is used to describe a situation where some authority is being unreasonable. In this case, you're just being a jerk if you decide not to report the issue. If you're not capable of acting like a moderately compassionate human with respect to your students unless the behavior is specifically outlined in your employee's manual as forbidden that would be sufficient for me to say you should not be teaching. Or, alternatively: "AITA"? YTA.
    – Bryan Krause
    Apr 24, 2023 at 16:54
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    @Zuriel The "authority" has likely made a scheduling error, because universities are made up of humans who have to deal with the complex scheduling task of matching up large numbers of students, instructors, courses, and classrooms, and mistakes inevitably occur. That's not anyone being unreasonable; it's just an error that needs to be fixed, and chances are good that you're the only one who's aware of it. It doesn't sound like that's at all your fault, since you presumably didn't do anything to cause this mistake, but it is something you need to report promptly before the problem gets worse. Apr 24, 2023 at 18:01
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    @Zuriel I would be unreasonable if they found no problem with this and insisted that you make it work. If they aren't even aware of the problem, they are not unreasonable. If you try to make it "their fault" by hiding this issue from them, you're the one causing the problem. I don't know how else to say this: you need to grow up and act like an adult here rather than pretending you don't have any influence or agency. You've been given some role of respect and responsibility in society as an educator, and this is how you approach it?
    – Bryan Krause
    Apr 24, 2023 at 18:36
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    @Zuriel Malicious compliance only "works" if your compliance "harms" the people responsible. Your students didn't (accidentally or intentionally) schedule you to teach two classes at the same time, and don't deserve the consequences of you failing to push back on what is likely an unintentional mistake.
    – chepner
    Apr 24, 2023 at 23:03

1 Answer 1

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No. Just, no.

With a scheduled course, students are entitled to your undivided attention during the class meeting time. This may even be an accreditation requirement. There is no way you can teach two different classes at the same time.

Here are possible explanations I can think of (incorporating some from comments):

  • It is just a mistake.

  • One of the courses is planned to be cancelled or rescheduled, and the official schedule has not yet been updated to reflect it.

  • The two courses are actually the same course, cross-listed under two different numbers. Students registered for either one would all attend the same lectures, except one set of them would also come on Tuesdays while the others wouldn't (possibly a lab or something like that?). This is possible, for instance, if the two courses are on identical topics but are listed under different departments, or at different undergraduate/graduate levels.

  • They actually meet during different ranges of dates, which may be listed somewhere that you didn't notice.

  • One or both courses are asynchronous online courses or something of the kind, whose "meeting times" are fictitious and may just be assigned for some technical reason.

Either way, you should immediately contact the people responsible for scheduling. If there's a mistake, it needs to be fixed ASAP before more confusion results. And in any case, you need to know what you will actually be teaching.


(University schedules, though they look very precise and formalized, are often created with more human effort and fewer automated checks than most people might guess. Funny story: My first semester at my current job, there was another faculty member with a similar name to mine, and due to an autocomplete mistake, they assigned all of his classes to me, on top of the ones I was actually supposed to teach. So I was pretty startled when I checked the schedule and found my teaching load was more than double what I had been told - and most of them not even in my subject area! But of course it was obvious that it was a mistake, and it was fixed quickly when I reported it.)


Hypothetically if I do not report this schedule conflict, who will likely bear the blame? I, or the dean, or the department chair, or the one who made the schedule?

All of you - there's plenty of blame to go around. And in general, every employee of an organization has a duty to respond to potential problems that come to their attention, by reporting them through appropriate channels.

But for you in particular, I will bet a lot that if you search your email inbox, you'll find that at some point you received an email from a superior saying "Here is the proposed schedule for next semester; please check the courses assigned to you and report any issues right away". So if you deliberately fail to report the error you discovered, you've disobeyed a direct instruction. In some settings that could be a firing offense.

This is your responsibility and you can't evade it. I really hope that question is purely hypothetical, and not something that you seriously considered for even a moment.

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    Another possible explanation: At our school within a term there may be different staggered date windows for different sections. So e.g., sometimes people get confused by one course running March to June, and one June to July, both of which show up in the spring semester listing. OP should check the dates carefully. Apr 23, 2023 at 4:57
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    And another: Say the two courses are meant to be delivered hybrid-asynchronous (i.e., prepackaged lectures with no actual joint meetings), and the times indicated are just dummy placeholders. But OP would surely be made aware if they weren't actually teaching in person. Apr 23, 2023 at 5:02
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    @DanielR.Collins Similar, but just for completeness, my wife's program interleaves weeks. Apr 23, 2023 at 19:38
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    A much simpler example why this is so. What if you have a class twice the size? We're not even talking about a DIFFERENT course, we're just talking double the number of students. Even this very basic arrangement wouldn't work well simply due to the significantly increased workload, never mind having an entirely different course...
    – Nelson
    Apr 24, 2023 at 1:30
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    The two courses are actually the same course, cross-listed under two different numbers. I've seen this with a lab course that counted for more credits for some students than others (on closely related but differently named degrees). The course titles weren't identical; the 80% that both cohorts did was.
    – Chris H
    Apr 24, 2023 at 15:43

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