You’re scanning for your teen’s perfect course and you found it! But wait, there are two sections, each taught by a different professor. What if it says “TBA?” How do you choose?? Finding the right dual enrollment courses can be stressful and intimidating, but here are a few good ways to find the best one.
If there are a large number of professors, making a list of the instructors and any relevant criteria needed to make a decision helps organize the search. Many find it helpful to look up professors on RateMyProfessors.com and check the state Homeschooling for College Credit group to see if anyone has given feedback or recommended instructors for the courses.
Homeschooling for College Credit State Groups
We have groups for homeschoolers, managed by homeschoolers for every state, plus several specialty groups for military families, athletes, ASU’s Universal Learner Program, Christian Colleges, and students utilizing alternative credits to earn their degrees. Members often ask for recommendations or give feedback on courses they’ve taken. These are excellent sources of reviews, particularly from a homeschool perspective! Join one of our communities today.
Students leave feedback for their professors for courses they’ve taken. Often they will include details about the distribution of the grading scale, whether the teacher accepts extra credit or has leniency with late assignments, etc. Each professor has an average score of all reviews at the top, with a difficulty level and percent of students who say they’d take a course with this instructor again.
Keep in mind that the scores are an average of all courses, so it can be helpful to read reviews and roughly calculate scores for a specific course the professor teaches, particularly when there aren’t many other choices for a course. Sometimes a professor has very strong scores for one course, but very low scores for another. Some students may grade a professor harshly, but in reading their review, it may become obvious that the reviewer’s opinion may be skewed by a poor grade or unrealistic expectations such as lack of flexibility in turning in late work, attendance policies, extra credit opportunities that weren’t available, etc.
One other thing to be aware of – there is no way to validate that a student took a course, or that the reviewer is even a student. Professors could leave reviews for themselves to bolster their own scores. Disgruntled students could leave multiple damaging reviews for the same course and professor. Or some guy named Ron, living in his mom’s basement with a stack of empty pizza boxes next to him could be amusing himself with tainted reviews. Generally speaking, the more detailed reviews that seem consistent with other reviews tend to be the more accurate ones. Our Homeschooling for College Credit Group members tend to be screened more judiciously and reviews in our groups include a homeschooler’s perspective, though there may be fewer reviews than is found on RMP.
Review Current or Past Syllabi
Course content, policies, and grading schemes can vary widely from one professor to another. Recently, I was searching for an English composition course. Many courses had approximately the same number of papers, quizzes, and used the same content platform, but one course’s syllabus was comprised heavily of books with a large amount of reading and the writing assignments were primarily literary analysis. The latter course could be a boon for some or a semester of misery for others.
Check the professor’s course syllabus for their grading scheme. Is the majority of the course grade from one source, such as exams? Do the exams cover only the current topic or are they cumulative? If the student struggles with tests or remembering topics covered months prior, this might be an eliminating factor. If the student hates writing, perhaps a course with fewer or no papers is called for.
What is the professor’s policy regarding attendance, late work, and is extra credit offered? Will a low grade be dropped? Is there an attendance policy? Can the course be completed at an accelerated pace, similar to a self-paced course? How quickly will the professor respond to questions, and are there any complaints on RMP that contradict this policy? Will grades be posted promptly? Again, feedback in our state groups or RMP can help answer some of the policy questions.
Will there be any group projects? Many students do not like group projects because the other group members could choose not to do their part and bring the entire group’s grade down unless one or more students take up the slack. If there are group projects, sometimes the instructor will implement stop-gaps for underperforming students by setting individual milestones or asking each group member to review the other members at the end of the project. The professor may or may not stipulate these details in the syllabus.
Jennifer’s Advice on “Adjunct Faculty”
When the college lists “staff” or “TBA” that may indicate they’ve added a section (because of demand) before having a professor locked in place. Often this means they’ll need to find a part-time teacher/professor/instructor to teach the class. While this doesn’t always mean you’ll get an an adjunct part-time “freelance” professor, the odds are high that you will.
When I stopped teaching full-time, I switched over to the adjunct category. I served as an adjunct for over a decade and loved it!! It was the perfect job for me as homeschooling parent. But, in truth, most people don’t love being an adjunct and would rather land a full-time professor position.
In terms of course quality, an adjunct usually will NOT get to:
- choose the textbook, reading, or support materials
- write the curriculum, scope or sequence
- write/design the tests/quizzes
- pull strings or override situations in the system
Adjuncts don’t have offices on campus, advisees, access to a deep network at the campus, and may actually be brand new to the college’s system. An adjunct may not know how to use learning system (Moodle, Backboard, etc.) and may be teaching at multiple jobs to make ends meet. (No, an adjunct doesn’t get benefits) Furthermore, they may be “here this semester, gone the next” making it hard to do any kind of research into their teaching style.
It is estimated that about 50% of ALL CLASSES TAUGHT at ALL COLLEGES in the United States are taught by adjunct faculty. There is no one general characteristic to expect when your teen’s class is taught by an adjunct. Yes, you might find the angry, bitter underemployed professor… but you also might find the highly motivated and eager professor who works his rear off trying to make it in a very challenging profession.
As Andrea pointed out above, you can do some research into the individual(s) teaching your teen’s class, but in the end, we’ve all had a dud in the mix. In the end, being able to get through the class and get on with the next class is a valuable lesson that will help your teen bring that goal post closer!
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