Wednesday, May 30, 2007

High flyers flee UW-Madison

The LaCrosse Tribune is running a story today about the low salaries that are driving profs away. It notes that the momentum is increasing, as prominent professors get huge salary increases at other institutions.

The turnover here at UWO is quite high, as well, though I don't know how big a role salary plays in that. It would certainly make the job more attractive if the pay were more in line with the national averages!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Friday Fun

A museum revealing the "true" history of the earth is scheduled to open this week. Read all about it in the NY Times!

Sandra Gade and her bunch of Christianists will surely be flocking there this summer! Why go to Disney world when you can see a dramatization of Noah's flood wiping out the dinosaurs and creating all those fossils??

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Google Bans Cheating Sites

The BBC reports today that Google will no longer accept ads from companies selling term papers.

One company says that 80% of its business comes through those ads, so it may be forced to go out of business.

I wonder if it will really make a difference. How many students actually buy an essay when they turn to the internet to copy content? There are plenty of opportunities to plagiarize without paying. The ethic of the internet has stressed sharing of even copyrighted material, so it is hard to imagine much of an impact. It is nice to see google make it a tad bit more difficult, though.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Grzyb wants to talk ratings

Gerry Grzyb is trying to get the COLS list to discuss our low ratings in USNews & World Reports. In order to generate interest (I hope) he suggests we should go back to 4/4 loads to lower our class-sizes and hence, do better in the ratings. Here are his posts:

Since the subject was so clearly in mind the past few days, here's is a link to excerpts from a book entitled The Professor's Guide To Getting Good Grades In College: link

I could only wish that our incoming students understood all of what is contained therein before first plopping down in our classroom seats.

I came across the link while browsing the US News site after quickly perusing the latest ed. of their college guide at the Pick 'N' Save. Do we really suck as bad as the ratings suggest? Among the top 100 institutions of our type in the Midwest, you'll see La Crosse, Eau Claire, Platteville, Green Bay, Whitewater, Stevens Point, and River Falls (I may have missed others--I had to check out before the frozen vegetables started thawing). In the "third tier" (not a good place to be), the only UW campuses seem to be Superior and Oshkosh (at this point you should be saying SUPERIOR??? WE'RE ALONE IN THE BASEMENT WITH SUPERIOR????). Maybe this has been brought up before, but given US News' criteria and weightings, what exactly brings us to this far-from-superior-yet-close-to-Superior position?

And his own follow up:

Ron Hardy tipped me off to recent articles in the Chronicle regarding the US News ratings (thanks Ron!). One common feeling about the ratings seems to be similar to how many feel about the SOS scores, or the brother who thinks he's a chicken in Woody's joke at the end of Annie Hall. The ratings are flawed, even deeply flawed. We're not at all sure if they measure the right things in the right way. But, dammit, they're all we've got and besides, we need the eggs! So perhaps we do have to be at least somewhat concerned about the fact that we're down in the Great Unranked Third Tier with Superior.

Here's just one issue, but it may be one of the most important. The Chronicle notes how class size is a big factor in the US News ratings. As I recall, most departments "paid for" reduced teaching loads with larger classes. If that's the case, and our classes are now significantly bigger, have we "bit ourselves on the butt" by trying to pay for something worthwhile with money we really didn't have? I know the issue is perhaps the most sensitive one on this campus, but I have the feeling that one of these days a business-oriented regent is going to look a little closer at us after seeing the ratings, and raise the same question.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

College Prep Courses Don't Prepare Students

The NYTimes reports today that only 26% of high school students who took the required college prep courses (4 yrs English, 3rs of math, social studies, and science) were prepared to do college-level work in all areas.. They reported that 19% were prepared in no areas.

I don't know exactly what their methodology was, but this is consistent with our pattern here. The statistics for DFW rates in intro courses are even higher here.

I am not sure exactly how we deal with this, but as I grade my finals, the inadequacies are obvious. . .

Thursday, May 10, 2007

National Cheating Scandals on the Rise

There have been a series of cheating scandals that have been making national news of late--Duke University Business School was in the NYTimes and Washington Post last week. writes about the implications of cheating in professional school today.

It is a depressing thought as I sit here grading exams. Have my students been using their cell phones to send answers to one another? How much did they copy on their take-home assignments?

The stigma against cheating seems to be evaporating. How can we explain it and how can we deal with it?

COLS has just subscribed to, so we will now be able to check written assignments against a national database. I suppose it will help, but was a sad use of scarce resources!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Laptops fail in high schools

Although not a technophobe personally, I have often complained about the use of technology in the classroom just because it is available.

The NYTimes ran this article on Friday, reporting on several school districts that gave laptops to all students are giving up the initiative. The data showed no real improvement in student learning, but provided lots of headaches for teachers and administrators.

I think the same thing is applicable for us. If you have ever snuck behind a student using a laptop in your classroom, you are likely to see a rousing game of solitaire or emailing. It may be true that I am just boring, but the university is often providing the resources so that they can physically be in class, but technologically, be miles away. . .

P.S. Last week was a busy one, and I was slow on the blogging front, but as the semester is coming to an end, I imagine the pattern will continue. For those of you reading, please send along information or comments and I'll be glad to post them!