Add/drop seems innocent enough: A week or so at the start of the semester in which students can move freely in and out of classes. Maybe they weren’t able to get into a class during registration, but–mirabile dictu!–a spot finally opens. Maybe you’re interested in a particular subject . . . but not at 8am MWF. Maybe that professor reminds you of your dad’s drinking buddy, and you can’t take him seriously. That’s all fine.
At my school, add/drop lasts about a week–but then students can drop without penalty for roughly three weeks.
This presents some challenges:
- If you have semester-long group assignments (such as, for example, a wikified class notes project), then you need to manage the groups more aggressively than you might expect. For a long time, I thought I could just divide things up alphabetically the first week, and everything would be ok. Not so much: Any statistical clustering (for example, 3 students drop whose last names start with R, S, or T), and a group is decimated. Organization is key. (ProfHacker, heal thyself!)
- If you have an absence policy: Say a student adds a MWF course at the end of the first week. Have they been absent 3 times? Zero times? (Discuss.) I’ve seen people argue both sides of this very passionately.
- Sticking with that student who added the course at the end of the first week: What do you do if they show up at the next class without contacting you for a syllabus or assignment?
This semester, add/drop is uniquely challenging because I have a gen ed course with a mandatory study abroad portion. It’s clearly stated in the online description, but most students just look at the requirements the course fulfills + the spot in the schedule and sign up. Since anyone who doesn’t sign up for the trip will be disenrolled from the course, every single day for a week now I’ve had to say, “if you didn’t expect to go to London . . . .” They all drop, and then 15 new kids sign up in their place. It’s been frustrating!
That’s an extreme case, though. How do you handle the ebb and flow of students? Any tips or ticks?
Image by Flickr user madpai / Creative Commons licensed