So much time in teaching is spent on trivial but time-consuming tasks. Having taught for a couple of years now, some things have gotten easier, but many chores remain. I’ve tried various free tools, and there are many proprietary solutions, but none satisfy. The following are personal – and poorly documented – hacks that are useful to me.
- Grade sheet
- I used to use a sophisticated Excel spreadsheet I found on the Web, but the author has since taken it proprietary/commercial, plus it didn’t support a simple point system (e.g., 100 points allocated throughout the semester). Also, my sheet now accommodates some of my idiosyncratic policies for class responses and attendance (e.g., dropping the lowest X grades, Y freebie absences).
- Grade Reports
- This Python script makes use of the XLRD library to read an instance of the above, and generate a report for the whole class or a single student, to the console or as a messages in my drafts mailbox.
- Class Calendar
- Given the duration of the semester, the days on which a class meets, university holidays, and the class on which an assignment is due, this generates a calendar for the syllabus. (A surprisingly time-consuming manual task.) I hope to incorporate Jewish holidays into this if I can find such a library.
- Mailbox Prettyprint
- Instead of using the inaccessible and proprietary BlackBoard product, I ask students to e-mail their responses which are automatically sorted into a mailbox. Before class, this script will prettyprint all responses sent since the last class to an HTML page, including (now) MS Word attachments.