Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Time to Judge the Essay Contest

When I was cleaning my office on Tuesday, I found some publisher swag including a video lecture series of some guy teaching calculus. If everyone in our department taught calculus as well as the dude on the video and gave reasonable exams, my job would be a lot easier. And video dude is at a disadvantage because his lectures have been remixed and reordered so that the publisher could bundle them with several different calculus textbooks. However, he does have the advantage that he is not forced to bundle his content into 50-minute blocks. If it only takes 18 minutes to cover this idea and then 65 minutes to cover that idea, he can do it. And the students can pause or rewind. And video dude isn't distracted if they text while he's teaching. If we were pushed into offering online-only calculus, I would make this video series a required purchase for the students.

So how to give away three copies of this complete DVD set. It is, in fact, a double feature with about five DVDs' worth of calculus and roughly four DVDs' worth of Math For Business. The publisher probably sold it with the same ridiculous mark-up that they charge for textbooks. But, like textbooks, this is the "old edition" of the DVD and now worthless on the open market. This is the product rule from 2004, which is somehow not as fresh as the product rule from 2010.

I've turned to my new favorite barrier to asking: the essay. Now when I need to cut down on the number of students asking for something and to filter down a pool of students, I ask them to write a 200-300 word essay about how this will help further their educations. It's not like I'm asking for 1000 words about Moby Dick. I'm looking for roughly one page about themselves.

Now I have to read through the submissions (as I've received roughly twice as many entries as I have DVD sets) and pick the winners.