POSC 386 Message for April 27

Here is today’s video message:

And here is the script, and here is the sound-only version. Enjoy!

One important announcement: Join me on Monday at 2:30 for an online conversation with a state judge from Pennsylvania. This will give us an opportunity to get a first-hand account of things like judicial selection and judicial work (including in the times of COVID-19) in the states. Or at least in one state. Check our Canvas modules for the Video conferencing link.

I also provide a quick summary of our discussion of judicial appointment mechanisms. Is the federal appointment system that different from a merit system? You will find out!

Examining Exams

Here is a CFI Teaching Toolbox email on final exams in these COVIDious times, co-authored by my colleague Emily Gravett and me.

Special Edition Teaching Toolbox:

Examining Final Exams

by Andreas Broscheid and Emily O. Gravett

One of the main concerns we’ve heard from colleagues about online teaching is connected to the integrity of grades. Online exams and other assignments give new opportunities for cheating: Students can use Google to look up answers without actually having learned the material; they can email and text each other during exams; they can take photos of test questions and distribute them widely; they can outsource their work to others who are more knowledgeable and more than happy to be paid. After all, on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.

Common responses to such concerns include timed tests that make it difficult for students to cheat, as cheating takes time, and various forms of online proctoring, for example, through video conferencing systems monitored by professional services. Yet these approaches can be problematic. Timed tests are not only a barrier for some students with disabilities (who theoretically can get extended time through an ODS access plan, though not all students have the economic resources to get the required medical tests to receive such accommodations in the first place), but also for students who do not have the economic resources for fast or reliable internet connections. (Try taking a timed exam from a McDonalds parking lot!) And forced video proctoring violates student privacy, as we—or the proctoring services—spy into their living spaces that now double as work spaces, and data security, as their movements are tracked and sold to third parties. (For more about problems with video proctoring, see this recent Washington Post article.)

Some disciplines and programs may nevertheless force instructors to use such “brute force” strategies against cheating, even if these strategies discriminate against otherwise already disadvantaged students and do not fully prevent the problem. We hope that the current crisis leads to a reconsideration of such policies, but faculty may have no choice but to follow suit in such circumstances. For those who have the academic freedom to avoid timed and proctored exams, we offer the following suggestions and considerations, in addition to those from JMU Libraries:

Continue reading Examining Exams

We apologize for the inconvenience

For the last couple of years, one of my favorite radio shows has been one that’s called Crap From the Past. It’s a one of those things that make me love America: amateur radio shows on public radio that are not very scripted and can be either very terrible or very glorious. CFTP is often very glorious in a cheerful mayhem kind of way that I can identify with. But it can also be very terrible. My spouse finds the show infuriatingly annoying… The show has been on the air on various stations since the early 1990s, hosted first by a physics grad student and then by a physics PhD (same guy), and all shows are available on the internets at Archive dot org.

This episode should be the soundtrack for this semester.

More on jigsaws and video lectures

In my post from March 31, I mentioned an assignment in which students in my US Judiciary class were asked to create mini online lectures on aspects of the Supreme Court process. I think it was a smashing success: Six of the seven student teams have created their videos, and a seventh is on the way. Not only that: the other students are busy watching and commenting. I uploaded the videos into TechSmith Relay, since this has two advantages: First, the videos can be restricted to the class only, so that student privacy can be guaranteed and FERPA won’t come knocking on my door. Second, there is a feature that lets students comment and ask questions about a specific point in the video. Neat! I can see video views, and there now in the high 70s and 80s. Not bad for 29 students. (OK, some of those views must have been me, but still.)

Continue reading More on jigsaws and video lectures

POSC 386: April 8, 2020

Here is today’s message:

(I hope you all appreciate the checkered shirt and red-and-blue bow tie.) Here is the script, and here is the audio-only version.

If you’re in POSC 386, check out the video lectures that you and your fellow students have created. They’re amazing! Leave questions and comments!

Stuff to do until the week is over:

  • Watch my series of eight short lectures on the Court’s decision whether or not to grant a writ of certiorari (about 28 minutes total)
  • Participate in a debate about a current case and whether the Supreme Court should grant cert.
  • Leave questions and comments.
  • Work on your second exam essay(s).

As usual, everything can be found in the Canvas modules. Have fun, be well, and stay in touch!

POSC 386, Monday, April 6

Here is today’s video message for my class:

Here is the sound-only version, and here is the script.

In brief, I am impressed by the video lectures that were created by the class. I hope that everybody had fun creating the videos and has fun watching them.

This week, I offer a synchronous online class meeting where we can discuss questions and comments about the Supreme Court process. Students who for various reasons cannot join the synchronous session or prefer asynchronous work, can alternatively leave a comment or question in the videos on Canvas.

I am producing and posting a series of video lectures on the writ of certiorari and the question of what leads the Supreme Court to grant or deny cert. Watching these videos will be followed by an online debate about a current case in the US appeals court: The case of the former mayor of Allentown, PA, who is incarcerated for corruption and has asked to be released because he fears to be exposed to the Corona virus. The debate question will be whether the Supreme Court should grant a writ of certiorari in that case, should Pawlowski (the former mayor) petition for it. Here is a bit more background on why this case may have some broader significance.

Stay safe!