from January 2014

On Making It Easier for Professors

One participant noted that courts are challenging customers. Another says, the unexploited niche here is to make these guys' job easier, show them you can solve a problem they really have. I am consistently surprised by how often products are imagined without this essential component. For years I have been talking about the idea of using the ethnographic eye/imagination to identify real problems that can be solved and then using technology to provide the solutions. Far, far too many products are snazzy technical solutions that have to hire talent to try to find and persuade problems to match.

Some examples.

Grading is an obvious one, but there's more to it than creating an elementary-school style grade book or a mechanical rubrik. One piece that would be helpful to a professor is a tool for grading individual assignments, exercises, or tests that could organically grow out of the original process of formulating the exercise. It might ask "what do you expect from students on this one?" and "what is the minimum acceptable?" and so on. Further, it could prompt for the feedback one might give. Now both of these (expectations and feedback) are things that teachers partly only discover on the back end. Thus, another side to the tool would be something that learns as you grade. You cannot expect that the entire feedback regime will be developed a priori (even if that might in principle be a great idea).

Related to grading is a mechanism for capturing open-ended, narrative feedback. I would love a tool that allowed me to debrief after a class session noting what went well, what did not, who contributed in noteworthy ways, etc. It might be structured as a little survey I give myself - it could be built on the syllabus - feedback for me from me. Could be coupled with student feedback too.

Syllabus builder

Office hour appointment maker and conversation tracker.

Quiz and feedback tools that can be integrated into word processor, web editor, or powerpoint (etc.) and look same across these platforms and tie automatically into something that archives the data and makes its analysis straightforward.