July 2014 archive

5 Ways to Make Life Easier for You and Your Students: The Best Ways to Provide Students with Course Material

IMG_9949If you want your students to stop coming up with excuses for why they couldn’t do the homework (they missed lecture last class, they lost the worksheet you handed out, they weren’t clear on the directions, they’re confused, etc.) and you’re looking to make life easier on yourself in general, here’s the secret:

Make your course content abundantly available and easy to understand in multiple ways.

Below are some of the 5 best ways to distribute course content for both face-to-face and online classes:

#1 Email: Each semester I simply email my students what they’ll need at the beginning of each unit. This includes reading material, directions for assignments, directions for speeches, grading rubrics, worksheets, sample assignments that show what I’m looking for, and my lecture slides.

#2 Learning Management Systems (LMS): I provide the same electronic documents online through Blackboard, Canvas, Sakai, or whatever LMS the school uses, that way students have no excuse for not accessing assignments and lecture material.

It’s also a time-saver to submit your students’ grades here with the LMS. I initially used Excel to record grades, but students want immediate access to their grades (and it took quite a bit of time keeping students individually updated) so I made the switch.

#3 Paper copies: I also have paper copies of all the electronic documents split up and stapled together by course unit. I pass out these ‘packets’ for them to borrow during the class period while we discuss each unit, and they have electronic access to all the same material when they go home, or they can print it themselves.

Many colleges are trying to go ‘paperless’ these days, or at least trying to cut down on some of the printing teachers do, so this helps me help them- and I save time not having to visit the campus print shop each week.

Most importantly, I keep every one of the above documents, and anything else I might need for my students, on a personal flash drive/thumb drive (attach it to your keychain, otherwise I promise you will lose it), and I frequently back it up on a hard drive.

I reiterate: back it up on a personal hard drive.

Not backing up all your long hours of work and those changes you just made to those new lecture slides is a soul-crushing mistake you only make once.

#4 Recorded lectures: I’m hearing more and more about the convenience of recording your in-class lectures these days. For online instructors, your students get the opportunity to watch and pause the recorded lecture as needed, which helps if they need to take notes or take a break.

I also like this idea for face-to-face classes.

I know you’ve all had this experience: a student walks in after the missing the class period during which you gave a really important lecture, and asks, “Did I miss anything?”

Blank stare.

I know it’s frustrating. Did you miss anything? Really? It’s a tiny bit insulting, but it happens. Giving your students access to your lectures in video format would make them more accountable, and you wouldn’t have to condense your 30 minute lecture for absent students who later expect you to sum it up in a single sentence.

Recording my lectures is one of my goals during the next school year.

From what I’ve heard from other instructors, the best ways to do this is to write a script for the lecture (makes you sound better in the video and is necessary for students with disabilities that may be in your class), use Camtasia (available at Techsmith.com- you can use the 30 day free trial, or ask the secretary of your department if they have a similar program you can use, it’s pretty pricey to buy yourself), and then load your lecture on YouTube publicly.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m kind of excited to experiment with this.

Lastly, keep in mind that everyone learns differently.

#5 Learning Styles: It saves me and my students some time and frustration if I incorporate activities and have them get involved with what we’re learning (hands on/kinesthetic), incorporate lectures and video (auditory and visual), and use lecture slides and handouts that don’t just include text, but sketches and pictures to help understand assignments (visual).

If I cover the basic learning styles, I know everyone’s taken care of.

These are just 5 great ways I’ve found for distributing course material in the classroom. I hope it makes life easier on you and your students! Feel free to email me if you try some of these, I’d love to know what you think- and let me know if something else works for you!

If you’re interesting in reading more about my own personal tips for happiness in life and the college classroom, check in with new posts weekly at happyprofessor.com or take a look at my Kindle ebook, Happy Professor: An Adjunct Instructor’s Guide to Personal, Financial, and Student Success on Amazon.com (if you can find a free copy, go for it).

Happy teaching!

Necessary (and Totally Legitimate) Shortcuts for Developing Any College Course

IMG_0150If you’re a professor, you may be wondering how anyone can possibly manage to start teaching numerous college classes with course content that they’re satisfied when they don’t have a lot of time.

This tends to be the reality for most adjunct professors who pick up various college courses whenever they’re offered, and sometimes teach around 7 classes a semester.

Below are some shortcuts to use for your face-to-face and online classes.

Textbook publisher’s website: The best way to create course content is by going to the textbook publisher’s website. It will have quizzes, lecture slides, and pretty much anything you might need.

SlideShare: You can also access lecture slides at SlideShare (slideshare.net). The other day I was searching Google for lecture slides about Hofstede’s cultural dimensions for class, and most of the options that came up were from SlideShare. I had more than enough to choose from.

Whenever I’m asked to teach a new course at the last minute, the above-mentioned necessary shortcuts are my best friends until I can adjust the course in future semesters and make it my own.

If you’d like to learn more, check in with new posts weekly at happyprofessor.com or take a look at my Kindle ebook, Happy Professor: An Adjunct Instructor’s Guide to Personal, Financial, and Student Success on Amazon.com (if you can find a free copy, that’s cool, too).

Feel free to email me at erin@happyprofessor.com.


Community College Success for You and Your Students

cropped-IMG_01691.jpgLooking for a way to motivate your students, relate to them, and help them succeed in college and life?

Read Isa Adney’s latest article in the Huffington Post “How Professors Help Community College Students Transfer.” She mentions that all it takes is one encouraging professor to impact a student enough to keep them moving forward in their academic pursuits.

Just one.

Sure, it takes a little extra time as an instructor to take a personal interest in your students, but isn’t it worth it?

If you like the article, I also recommend taking a look at Adney’s website communitycollegesuccess.com and her book Community College Success (I’ve not only recommended to students, but I’ve read it twice).

When I go through phases where I start forgetting what it’s like to be in my students’ shoes, I pick up this book and read a few pages to remember what they’re going through and what they might need.

It’s a gentle reminder that students, especially community college students, could use a little guidance and a friendly face once in a while.

If you’d like to learn more about how to help your students become successful and motivated, check in with new posts weekly at happyprofessor.com or take a look at my book, Happy Professor: Adjunct Instructor’s Guide to Personal, Financial, and Student Success on Amazon.com (if you can find a free copy, even better).

Feel free to email me at erin@happyprofessor.com.

Happy Professor is available on Amazon!


Ebankserin-72dpi-1500x2000 Happy Professor: An Adjunct Instructor’s Guide to Personal, Financial, and Student Success is now available!

What started out as a ‘just for fun’ summer project, is now available in Amazon’s Kindle store for $0.99 (or free if you borrow it through Kindle’s Lending Library).

If you’re looking to get into adjunct teaching, spruce up your own college course, or add a more positive perspective to life in general, you may want to take 2 short hours to read this book.

If you’re interested in reading more about my own personal tips for happiness in life and in the college classroom, check in with new posts weekly at happyprofessor.com.

Happy teaching 🙂


10 Ways to Be a Happier, More Successful Professor

IMG_3159As an adjunct instructor with motivated students and a generally positive outlook on life, other professors (and people in general) tend to have one question in common for me:

How are you doing this successfully?

It’s not always easy, but here are 10 tricks to being happier, and more successful, as a part-time or full-time college professor.

1. Come into the classroom with a good attitude.

I have a long story I could share here, but I’ll spare you. Basically, remember why you chose this profession in the first place. If you enter the classroom in a good mood (and stay in a good mood despite whatever else happens!), I guarantee your students will be visibly happier, more motivated, and cooperative.

2. Be friendly and respectful of your students.

The more respect you give your students, the more respect you’ll gain from them.

If you’re approachable and friendly with your students, you’ll most likely get more participation from them, more appreciation, and they’ll be more likely to approach you with questions about course content.

The end result?

They’ll be more successful as a learner, making you more successful as a the instructor.

3. Delegate classroom responsibilities.

Not only does delegation make your classroom more efficient, and result in you having more time and less frustration on your hands, but it makes your students feel important and part of the learning process.

As a suggestion, set your students up in groups, and when the class has an activity, designate one person in each group to be the leader. If you have a small job you could give someone else during class time, make the opportunity available to your students.

Once the class gets used to this routine delegation, most students will be excited to participate.

4. Make lectures engaging.

Incorporate relevant personal stories, TED talks (check out ted.com), Khan Academy talks and interviews (khanacademy.org), or movie clips as discussion points during lecture.

Just a quick break from some of the ‘dryer’ material can help keep your students engaged and happy.

5. Network with colleagues.

Making friends at your school will most likely make you more successful as a teacher because you’ll be more socially satisfied, feel a sense of belonging at the college, you’ll have someone to bounce ideas off of, and it’ll make attending school meetings more pleasant.

6. Take faculty development courses.

Taking faculty development courses in the areas you’re most interested in (ie. Global Community, Podcasting, Intro to Online Teaching, etc.) will teach you new skills, reinvigorate your drive as a teacher, and introduce you to new faculty members who are interested in the same areas.

7. Take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Do some sort of workout, meditation, or relaxation technique at least twice a week to clear your head and boost your energy level. Also remember to maintain a balance in your life.

It’s okay to work a lot (I know we all do!), but be sure you’re staying connected to good friends, family, and maintaining your health.

8. Learn how to live with less (this equals more money in your bank account).

It doesn’t matter if you make 30k or 100k a year, I know people who make both amounts and complain equally that they need more money. It’s not the money they’re actually looking for, it’s more satisfaction out of the simple things in life.

Trust me, it’s a great feeling to see that bank account grow and not feel compelled to spend it all.

9. If you’re bored with the content you’re teaching, find a new angle. It’s in your hands!

If you’re tired of giving the same lectures, add a short video clip a few minutes in, and center a fun and relevant discussion around it.

You could also add a new lecture and eliminate an old one. You could even spend less time on some material you’ve focused on for the last couple of years and focus more on other content that’s just as important but never seemed to fit in time-wise.

It’s all you.

10. Take a break once in a while.

I know during semesters when I teach around 8, I’m not quite sure how I’m supposed to slow down when the summer finally comes. I’ve usually become so accustomed to being around students and working around the clock that I have a hard time putting on the brakes.

However, let yourself relax, and consider taking an actual vacation. You’ll come back a more refreshed, better instructor.


These are just ten ways to increase your success as a professor.

If you’d like to learn more, check in with new posts weekly at happyprofessor.com or take a look at my book, Happy Professor: An Adjunct Instructor’s Guide to Personal, Financial, and Student Success on Amazon.com (if you can find a free copy, go for it).

Feel free to leave a comment or email me at erin@happyprofessor.com.