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Determining proportion of classes taught face-to-face and by professors

Mama212529Mama212529 6 replies6 threads New Member
Aside from trying to figure it out on a school-by-school basis, does anyone know a way to determine how much a school relies on adjuncts or graduate students to teach (as opposed to tenured or tenure-track professors)? What about the extent to which courses are offered face-to-face as opposed to online?

I suppose one can safely assume there are no graduate student teachers at colleges with no graduate students. Are there any other generalizations that can be made as to whether courses will be taught in person and by professors? Thinking maybe very large schools are more likely to be online and adjunct/grad student; is there a public/private trend? Or does it really vary so much you have to look at each school one at a time?
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Replies to: Determining proportion of classes taught face-to-face and by professors

  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 78992 replies701 threads Senior Member
    How do you count a course with both a faculty member and one or more graduate student TAs for this purpose?

    Note that any generalizations may not be accurate across departments or even across classes in the same department.
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  • TomSrOfBostonTomSrOfBoston 14869 replies1005 threads Senior Member
    I suppose one can safely assume there are no graduate student teachers at colleges with no graduate students.
    Not necessarily. Graduate students at neighboring colleges may teach classes at such schools. Online classes for resident students would be indicated on the websites. Pretty much every college, including the most prestigious, rely on adjuncts to some extent.
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  • homerdoghomerdog 5338 replies100 threads Senior Member
    I think that's going to be very hard to figure out and will change over time and by department. I will say that, if it's very important to you, you should be looking at LACs. Our S is at a LAC and is close to all four of his profs. Classes are small (largest one 35 and smallest 12) and the profs know everyone's name. He's gone to office hours almost weekly to either ask questions or just hang out for a bit. He thinks these times out of class with his profs really add to his experience.
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  • mikemacmikemac 10366 replies151 threads Senior Member
    Mama212529 wrote: »
    Aside from trying to figure it out on a school-by-school basis, does anyone know a way to determine how much a school relies on adjuncts or graduate students to teach (as opposed to tenured or tenure-track professors)? What about the extent to which courses are offered face-to-face as opposed to online?
    I doubt it is possible except school by school. It is not something reported in the common data set.

    Another thing you might want to think about is class size. In larger lectures the students file in and sit silently while the prof talks. This experience is quite different from one in a smaller class where interaction is encouraged or even expected.

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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 7810 replies65 threads Senior Member
    It's going to take some digging on your part. For each school, look up the four year plan of study for your student's intended major, and then reference the course numbers in the course catalogue. You should be able to see from there if there is a prof teaching and if it's in person vs online.

    All of my D's courses are taught by profs but the break out sections and labs are taught by PhD students.

    I will say that she's often felt better about the TAs than the profs. They are closer to the student side and can often explain concepts more clearly. There are even studies that show that there are higher major retention rates for students who are taught by TAs. IMO, that shouldn't be a deal breaker for taking a school off the list.

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  • Mwfan1921Mwfan1921 2546 replies36 threads Senior Member
    edited November 25
    I don't know of any way to get at this data except for school by school, and even then it can be difficult and cumbersome. And things can change frequently by school and department within school.

    My D is at the same LAC as @homerdog's S and she has an adjunct prof (long-term at this school) this semester who is her favorite prof....he is accessible and highly capable. I don't know why he's not an associate or assistant prof, but it seems to not matter in this case.

    And smaller is not always better than large, in person not always better than online, profs not always better than adjuncts and/or TAs.

    There are students who prefer a large lecture over a small class environment for many reasons---it's their preferred learning style, allows for anonymity, student uncomfortable participating in class discussions, etc.

    Some students also prefer online classes, even if they are living on campus....again for several reasons--learning style, anonymity, flexibility to watch lectures when it fits into the students schedule vs. attending at X time every week, etc.

    It is definitely important to know a student's preferred learning style, but in reality at many schools they will have both larger lectures and small classes over their four years.

    Back to figuring out size and format of classes, whether profs have adequate office hours, if Profs/TAs teach class and/or smaller review sessions, how prevalent the use of adjuncts is.....beyond looking at school websites, you could certainly contact schools to get this info, and also look at school write-ups in Princeton Review and Fiske, as well as student ratings/comments on Niche regarding these issues.
    edited November 25
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  • rickle1rickle1 2075 replies18 threads Senior Member
    I know others will disagree and that's fine, but I shake my head and wonder about classes offered online and kids that prefer them online so as to "fit into their schedule". Isn't school first and foremost about the classes (yes I unsderstand the whole experience and growth thing)? So don't the classes determine the schedule as in you work everything else around them? Not sure why someone would go live on campus to take online classes. I guess if they are seeking anonymity, they found it. Also not sure why they would seek anonymity other than to get credits without being engaged in the class.

    I think online is great for part time students, adults who are taking occasional classes while maintaining full time careers, and those that can't afford to live on campus or commute. The MOOC world is growing and that's good but if you're at a college, wouldn't you want to be in class? I know some kids who do it at our flagship and say they prefer the online classes so they don't have to get up and get going or walk 20 minutes across campus, etc. Sounds lazy to me.
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  • makemesmartmakemesmart 1671 replies14 threads Senior Member
    Agree with @momofsenior1 about graduate students teaching, when we were in school, our PhD advisors often lamented about teaching undergrad “imbeciles” and absolutely hated the teaching chores. The ones who taught undergrad a lot were often ridiculed for not being able to secure fundings for their own researches, so they had to teach. This is at a large research U. Not all professors are good teachers, and it is often not that important who teaches, the students themselves make the difference.
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  • Mwfan1921Mwfan1921 2546 replies36 threads Senior Member
    I know others will disagree and that's fine, but I shake my head and wonder about classes offered online and kids that prefer them online so as to "fit into their schedule"

    Not sure it's an agree or disagree issue for us CC posters.....it's up to the student and how they want/have to structure their college experience.
    The MOOC world is growing and that's good but if you're at a college, wouldn't you want to be in class?

    MOOCs are experiencing declining enrollment and generally don't offer degrees. Online non-profit degree granting schools are experiencing significant increases, including in the college age group, at schools such as ASU, Southern New Hampshire, Western Governors, Liberty, CSU, UCF...the list goes on. This rapid growth is expected to continue for a number of reasons, not the least of which is low relative cost.
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  • Eeyore123Eeyore123 1464 replies20 threads Senior Member
    You also have to be very careful about the tenure/no tenure track distinction. Would anyone care that Madeleine Albright is a Professor of the Practice?
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  • circuitridercircuitrider 3408 replies170 threads Senior Member
    edited November 25
    Wesleyan is that rare LAC that awards doctorates in a limited number of, primarily STEM, departments. They do not teach classes, but do enable externally funded research laboratories to run year-round while the principal investigators teach undergraduates.
    edited November 25
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  • twogirlstwogirls 7375 replies7 threads Senior Member
    I think it is safe to say that students at LACs will be taught by professors at least most of the time. As noted above, it seems that some LACs sometimes have graduate students teaching from neighboring schools (I had no idea).

    I think larger universities (public or private) will have a mix, depending on the school. My D attended a large public university and every single class was taught by a professor, with the exception of one small foreign language class that was taught by a PhD student who was almost finished with her degree. She was also very close to her professors, and continues to be after graduation.

    I think this has to be looked at on a school-by-school basis. I just looked up one of our instate public schools that has a reputation for being “LAC like.” It was reported that there are no graduate students teaching any classes.
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  • Sue22Sue22 6321 replies114 threads Senior Member
    Using statistics, even from the CDS, can be tricky when it comes to looking at faculty types and teaching loads.

    For instance schools with a January Term, Short Term, or other special academic calendar may have some short specialty classes taught by professionals in the field. These people wouldn't qualify as full-time faculty and some don't have doctorates. Statistically Madeleine Albright (@Eeyore123's example) would look the same as a newly minted adjunct.
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  • RichInPittRichInPitt 1250 replies17 threads Senior Member
    And even statistics don’t reflect quality. I had several seriously accomplished/awarded professors as an undergrad who couldn’t teach their way out of a paper bag. Grad students saved the day many times.

    I also had a Nobel laureate who was a fantastic communicator and grad students who were indecipherable.

    This is a great area to explore when talking with current students, sitting in a few classes, and especially during admitted students weekends. It’s also one where you’ll probably have maybe 30 instructors of the hundreds that the school has.
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  • tk21769tk21769 10671 replies27 threads Senior Member
    USNWR posts this list:
    https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/the-short-list-college/articles/2017-02-21/10-universities-where-tas-teach-the-most-classes

    I don't have a Compass subscription, so cannot verify if it exposes percentages for more than these 10. Can't vouch for the reliability, either. I recall seeing a number for UMichigan AA that was above 20%, so don't know why it isn't listed. Maybe its percentage has dropped? Or, maybe that number was based on a different definition/method than what USN uses? I would think this is a particularly tricky number to nail down.

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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 78992 replies701 threads Senior Member
    tk21769 wrote: »
    I would think this is a particularly tricky number to nail down.

    But it needs to be clearly defined. That USNWR list refers to the graduate student being the "primary instructor" (probably most common in lower level English composition and foreign language courses), so classes led by a faculty member but with graduate student TAs are not included.
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 7810 replies65 threads Senior Member
    As an aside, once your student is enrolled, it's easy to find the good teachers . In addition to sites like rate my professor, many schools have their own internal rankings based on student surveys. My D pours over those before deciding on her sections.
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  • Mama212529Mama212529 6 replies6 threads New Member
    Thanks, all, for the advice!
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  • CheddarcheeseMNCheddarcheeseMN 3438 replies11 threads Senior Member
    This can vary across departments within the same U. Econ undergrads at U of MN, for example, are rarely taught by tenure track faculty while almost all classes in Applied Econ (a different dept) are taught by faculty.
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