The Furlough Days

Today is the first of a bunch of "furlough days" at the UofA. So I will be trying really hard to not do any work, to show solidarity with my colleagues. Um, even though I already checked (and answered) email. And then I, er, started writing this blog entry. But from this point on, I will not be doing any course prep for next term, or answering email, or even--

Wait, scratch that. This isn't about having "days off" without pay. I can't just just take six days off and do no prep work at all--there's no way I'd be ready for the first day of class. It's about taking a pay cut, to help bail the University out of the great big, deep hole the administration dug, getting caught with their pants down with bad investments in the Great Recession. (Sorry about the mixed metaphor. Meh, I don't care--who's reading this anyway? Besides my mom.)

Anyway, I'll just pretend that I'm not doing any work. If you don't get an answer to your email, here are some classic posts that answer some FAQs:

  • Need some help getting into my classes, which are all currently full? I've got an answer for you.
  • Do you want to get your final grade "bumped up"? Just read this post from last year.
Why aren't you studying? (Like, for next term...)

The Eggnog Latte

Ah, a nonfat eggnog latte. It's a small indulgence that I allow myself every December after classes end. The caffeine keeps me going, because my kids are still conspiring to deprive me of sleep. The latte also helps get me into the holiday frame of mind--which is difficult, because I'm surrounded by so many term papers.

Don't get me wrong, I like these term papers. They're pretty interesting. But marking them takes up a huge lot of time. I do my best to prepare as much as I can beforehand: final exams ready to go, syllabi for next term completed, Christmas shopping done. I don't check my personal email, I don't read the newspaper, I don't watch TV. About the only thing that gets in my way is: snow. It does have to be shoveled. (Of course, it's snowed now for 5 days in a row, grr!)

What I'm trying to avoid is procrastination. I remember being a student and, after classes ended, getting the sudden and overwhelming urge to arrange all my CDs in alphabetical order. It's got to be done, right? Might as well do it now. Psychology Today has a list of 10 things to know about procrastination that you might want to check out--after you're done studying.

Why aren't you studying?
(I know, I know, you're going to ask "why aren't you marking?" Right? Someone else beat you to it. I beat you to it, too. It is OK to take a break--just as long as it doesn't last all day.)

The Copyright

You've heard about the expiration of the UofA's Access Copyright licence, right? It's been on ExpressNews and The Gateway, ya know. OK, here's the upshot, in bullet points (just like in class!)

There are a couple of important implications of all this. One affects coursepacks. As an instructor, I am not allowed to create a coursepack unless the UofA has a licence. (I could track down each copyright holder and negotiate with each directly, but, yeah, that's not going to happen. It's enough hassle to fill out the Access Copyright Log every term.) In January, I teach two classes that don't have textbooks--just coursepacks. So how will that work? In a clever bit of trickery, the coursepacks will actually be printed/published/assembled in 2010, so they are covered under the about-to-expire licence. Ha-HA! Take that, Access Copyright.

The second change is that required textbooks will not be available on reserve. A couple of key words in that last sentence are "required" and "reserve." Any recommended textbooks can remain on reserve. But if a textbook is required, it has to go on the regular shelves (or it will be sent back to whomever lent it to the library in the first place), so you can't take it out for an hour at a time to photocopy it, you naughty students! You can, however, er, take it out for three weeks and photocopy it. I mean, read it. In a typical 14-week class, though, only five students would be able to borrow the book. If students are fast "readers," more students could have access to the book, but even if it takes one day to "read" the book, only about 100 students could take it out. And my class is bigger than that.

Due to popular demand, I've put copies of textbooks for my courses on reserve. This term, it's been especially important for my perception course (PSYCO 267). I've assigned "Virtual Labs" that run off a CD-ROM that comes with every copy of the textbook. But if you bought the book used, it is probably missing the CD--and you can't buy the CD by itself. (You could buy the eTextbook which has access to the labs online, but that still costs about $70.)

In a stroke of good luck, however, I am onto a special opportunity provided by Nelson Education, the Canadian publisher of that book. An opportunity that could potentially save 60 PSYCO 267 students in my class next term quite a bit of money. And I might get the opportunity to do a study I've wanted to do for a long time, but on a much bigger scale than I ever hoped. But, I've probably said too much already...

Why aren't you studying?

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