As an academic in the university, how do you organize your self from the beginning of a semester?

For example:

  • How do you take the absent students names?
  • How do prepare your materials?
  • How do you write a syllabus for students and do you hand them out?
  • What computer programs do you use to plan your lessons?

I started my career as a lecturer last semester and I found myself not organized so I need to learn from your experience.


How do you take the absent students names?

I don't. If a student finds my lectures boring or useless, they shouldn't waste their time coming to class. (As others point out, there are very good reasons to require attendance in laboratory-, studio-, and discussion-based classes.)

How do prepare your materials?

Coffee and LaTeX. Lots of coffee and LaTeX.

How do you write a syllabus for students and do you hand them out?

When I started out, I modified the syllabus from the previous iteration of the course, which was taught by an experienced instructor, so I could be sure to include all the necessary details. I used to hand out the syllabus on the first day of class, but now I just post it on the well-advertised course web site.

What computer programs do you use to plan your lessons?

I write everything in LaTeX (specifically, TeXShop) and distribute everything as PDF files on the course web site. (See the first question.) I also use SubEthaEdit to edit the course web pages themselves.

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  • 11
    And don't forget coffee stains in latex: hanno-rein.de/archives/349 – Suresh Jan 10 '13 at 6:55
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    For a lecture course, compulsory attendance is admittedly pointless. However, for a language or lab course, having such a system is probably necessary. – aeismail Jan 10 '13 at 9:15
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    Unless the end of the lab has a test, attendance should not be compulsory. A university has a broad audience, some people might be following the class but already taken the labs, and they'd just waste their, your and the other students' time. It's university - if they think they can pass without the lab, and they can't, well... that's a lesson too. – Konerak Jan 10 '13 at 12:52

One issue is not mentioned above, and is very important.

Make sure to state and post policies ahead of time for:

  • how you'll deal with late submission of homeworks
  • what your policy on cheating/plagiarism is
  • any related university policies that students need to be made aware of.

These are more important than you might imagine. At the very least, having the policy allows you to be consistent when dealing with student excuses, and prevents you from having to make up policy as you go along. If someone is caught cheating, it will be important to have an up-front policy that you can point to, otherwise it will be difficult to penalize the student.

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  1. For teaching it is a must that you prepare a syllabus. Actually you should also have a time schedule for your syllabus. I would also rethink about the order of the topics and the depth of my presentation as well as the example and exercises that I want to give students.
  2. Besides syllabus, I suggest you explain your methods of evaluation including your exams, homeworks, class presentations, etc.
  3. Giving a list of useful books and other reading materials is also helpful, especially in advanced courses.
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This semester I'm teaching a brand new course at my university. It's an elective course, so I can be much more of the "mad scientist experimenting."

I have a generic list of topics, and a general plan for the number of lectures during the semester. That means I can organize things loosely, rather than specifying in exhaustive detail what will be covered in each lecture before the start of the semester. Some topics have taken me much less time than I anticipated, and others have run much longer.

I have been using a combination of LaTeX and MultiMarkdown to prepare my lecture notes. I have also made the conscious decision not to use slides, but instead to go "old-school" and lecture at the blackboard. I've found this makes the pace of the course slower, and allows me to focus on the major concepts, rather than trying to cram too much material into a single lecture. However, I do publish the lecture notes following the end of each lecture, making it easier for students to keep up with the material.

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