How to Automate Your Teaching

A very interesting blog on Inside Higher Ed regarding automation in teaching mentioned the reconsideration of grading practices, hiring your own TA, and though-full use of technology as areas that can be improved using automation for increasing the class effectiveness.

1. Three methodologies have been presented for reconsidering some of the current  grading practices:

  • For large writing assignments, rubrics are helpful (as are Travis Grandy’s suggestions for how to prioritize your feedback). You can also save time by keeping a Microsoft Word document of the comments that you most frequently use, so that you can copy and paste your feedback to students instead of transcribing longhand it every time.
  • For multiple-choice quizzes and other straight-forward assessments, like reading checks, have students grade their own before giving them to you. They get instant feedback on their performance and you save a lot of time, even factoring in the extra minutes you’ll need to give them a once-over to ensure students’  honesty.
  • You can even optimize how you grade class participation: for example, in my language classes, instead of relying on more subjective evaluations of class participation (some of which are inevitably skewed towards more talkative students), I use random cold calling and group activities almost exclusively. My classes are small enough that I can make sure that I call on all students in a single meeting, but if you have very large classes, you can use an app to keep track of who you’ve called on. When I call on students, I expect a good faith attempt to answer the question accurately; as long as students make a concerted effort in that respect, their participation grade doesn’t suffer. In my years of teaching, I’ve never had a student abuse this policy, and it makes my evaluations of their class participation much more straightforward and less time-consuming, since I don’t spend hours racking my brain to figure out how often each student has contributed to class discussions.

2. Consider appointing one student per section to serve as your TA in exchange for extra credit. “This student can do a number of tasks that will streamline your administrative work: take attendance, alphabetize any papers that students hand in (or organize them by randomly-assigned ID number) to speed your grading process, and hand back graded work. Having your TA take over these tasks, provided that he/she is reliable and trustworthy, frees you up to spend the first few minutes of class developing your relationships with students by greeting them and checking in, instead of wrangling papers. Hint: some especially kind students will do this even without receiving extra credit. It’s worth asking.

3. At last the use technology for optimizing classroom time can be addressed by adopting the three practices mentioned below:

  • Buy a large accordion file (or two). Create in/outboxes for each day and each section that you teach, and keep students’ papers in those. Never spend time rifling through your bag/briefcase again.
  • Free up mental energy by creating checklists for anything that you (or your students) need to do for your class on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. You can thank Atul Gawande for this suggestion.
  • Employ social media/apps to remind students of upcoming assignment due dates or exams to study for. Remind and WhatsApp are highly recommended to send group texts. You can also create Facebook groups for your students and have them post questions about assessments there. They can even answer each others’ questions—and you’ll never have to spend five minutes of class time reviewing due dates again.


I think that it is obvious that more technology will be invented. However the most important factor is how this technology will be used to improve the learning experience for the students. The main challenge for the future faculty the effective use of technology. We all know how technology can enhance or worsen the learning process. Moreover, we all know professors that use their slides very ineffectively by either reading directly from the slides or presenting concepts that are not aligned with the slides. I believe that technology is not always beneficial, depending on the type of course that we are teaching. As an example I think that Ted Talks are very much effective because the presenter is directly in contact with the audience and the slides are just in the background for showing some related pictures or content. This also applies to teaching…The future faculty should not be resistant to change. The other factor that will impact the future faculty, is globalization and the fact that universities will not be localized anymore. For this reason faculty should be prepared for designing online courses. This will change the structure of the class and how the in class activities etc. are designed since we need to make sure that we are keeping the participants engaged. In online and broadcasted courses the possibility of losing the listener’s attention is very high due to the lack of physical presence of the professors in class.



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One Response to How to Automate Your Teaching

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