I am a student in Professor Arvan's Econ 490 class, writing under an alias to protect my privacy, using the name of a professional economist as part of the alias.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Class Governance Analysis

Both governances mentioned in the prompt, attendance and use of electronics, I believe are two of which all professors must make decisions on. Throughout my past seven semesters at the University of Illinois, I have experienced classes that varied greatly in class size, attendance policies and electronic usage. I’ve had classes where attendance wasn’t mandatory and worth nothing more than gaining knowledge, where attendance wasn’t required but you received extra credit through iClicker usage and where attendance was absolutely mandatory and regulated by turning in a note card at the end of every class session. Similarly, professors across campus have very different beliefs about technology usage. In some cases, professors allow technology because it is a way to take notes, others allow technology but urge students not to since studies have shown it’s a distraction to students and others, I’ve found typically older professors, have banned technology use all together, forcing students to take notes by hand if they wish to take notes at all. I think there are clearly benefits to each rule put in place and I can see the rationale behind the choices each professor makes.

Towards our class more specifically, the first governance that I will talk about is the choice to not make attendance required. I’ll be candid that when I registered for this class, I had heard through the grapevine that attendance wasn’t required. Being a senior, I was pretty excited to hear this and it was one of the reasons that I ultimately ended up registering for the class. Despite this factor, I was one of the students that attended class regularly, though not perfectly, despite the fact that it wasn’t required and nearly half the class never showed up. Just this past week, there were only seven students in class on Thursday for whatever reason. Although the fact that attendance wasn’t mandatory this semester and the lack of people who showed up might seem discouraging to come to class at all, it actually had the opposite impact on me.

I felt that because I had made the commitment in the beginning of the semester, I created this “reputation” that we talked about in class as a student who showed up to class. I personally knew I realized when certain faces in class were missing of those who regularly showed up, and I’m sure if I was observant of these things, a professor would be to. Ultimately, by not making class attendance mandatory, it inevitably lead to some students never showing up to a class session after the first day, or to show up once every few weeks. I believe that, while all the homework and quizzes were online, that those people didn’t get nearly as much out of the class as those who were present did.

Next, the governance of technology usage in class I think is also an important factor to talk about. Personally, I was in favor of being able to use portable electronic devices, such as my laptop, during class. This is a privilege, yes, but it is one that I have become accustomed to during my time at the University of Illinois. Although I described cases where I’ve encountered professors who banned electronic use, those cases were by far the majority in my experience. By allowing electronic usage, I was one of the students that always had my laptop open. I personal prefer to take notes on my laptop, I find myself to be much faster at typing than I am at writing. Almost inevitably, though, I would find myself surfing the web and finding myself distracted and off task at times because of this privilege. I’m sure many students fell victim to this as well.

One thing that I will say, however, if that I think that by allowing the technology, even though I’m sure everyone knew that it would take away pieces of our attention, kept consistent with other governances of this course. What I mean by that is, overall, this class was portrayed to be one with much lax. As mentioned, class attendance wasn’t required. Additionally, most deadlines weren’t very strict. While blog posts were “due” on Friday evenings, a timeline I tried to stick to every week, they were accepted until Sunday evening and sometimes even later than that. All of this created a rather lax environment, and if students were not allowed to use their electronics during class if they wished to I think would’ve been inconsistent with the lax setting. I think that by allowing the students whom did show up to class this semester the choice to use their electronics was a good move because I think that by being strict with this rule would have the potential to decrease class size, although I’m not quite sure if that would be possible.


  1. That's interesting on the lax nature of the approach and its relationship to the technology use. The thing is, from 2012-2014 the tone in the class was quite different from the tone this year and last. Yet my approach hasn't changed that much, so I'm puzzling through what caused this change. For example, class attendance really wasn't an issue a couple of years ago.

    You do have a quite specific reputation with me - one for getting work done. And the attendance you talked about fits with that.

    I'm going to try to put the two thoughts together here. Part of my lax approach to the deadlines is meant to encourage students to experiment some with how they go about doing things. In your case, in particular, if you found some prompt particularly interesting you might have gone in depth of the topic more than you did. That might take more time than it usually does, so would have been outside your normal pattern. But if you liked the result, it might tell you that for some things depth can be worth the cost of not being so prompt.

    There are a few students who started to blog that way after mid semester. But not many. In any event, the lax enforcement of rules clearly has a downside, as you noted, one which was quite evident in our class.

    1. I know you and I have talked about the deadline approach before, I just don't know if I fully agree with it. I feel that having a blog post due every week gives students an ample amount of time to do the work, especially since the blog posts for future weeks were available on the class website. I don't think most of those people who posted their blogs on Sunday were spending that extra time between Friday and then experimenting with their posts, though I'm sure there were a few who did. I felt that, because I like to turn things in on time, I started my blog posts early enough so I was able to spend time writing the prompt and then going back and looking at it at a different time.

  2. I definitely think that the lax environment helped me out and made me enjoy the class more because it was no longer I have to come in to get my points but I want to go in to learn something. I wasn't able to attend all of the classes as I would have liked because I was taking an 18 hour credit semester. I truly found this class to be more of a relaxing environment where I could clear my mind and have fun learning and listening to the stories about how economics fits in our every day world. I found this class to not be very stressful and in a way help me do better in my other classes that were more strict.

    I think that by you making it a point to attend to all the classes even though attendance wasn't mandatory goes to show your character and where your values stand.

  3. I liked the lax approach because there were some occasions where I forgot about an assignment until it was very close to the due date, being able to turn it in the next day allowed me to not rush what I turned it and make sure it was still quality. However, I think that a deadline should still be enforced, you should mandate turning the assignment in at a specific time, and if the quality is bad take off points. To me, it just is not fair to the students that build reputations of turning in and doing there homework on time to give extra time to students who don't.