On Email

I attended the HEASTEM conference back in January and went to one talk provocatively suggesting that it was time to quit social media ‘cold turkey’.  It was one of the more tempting talk titles to be honest, and the presenter made a really valid point about distractions and social media.

Rewind to late last year and we have this article in Inside Higher Ed talking about how to email your Professor: https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2015/04/16/advice-students-so-they-dont-sound-silly-emails-essay

Concatenating those two seemingly disparate chains of thought, I’d add an additional point into the IHE article: don’t email your academic during class.  Firstly, it’s really disrespectful of whoever is giving the class. They’re giving you their full attention, they’ve planned the session to help you develop and learn, and they can also see, very clearly, from the front who’s fiddling with something on their laps. Experience and sheer bloody wishful thinking leads them to assume it is a phone, but you have to appreciate that from the front of the lecture theatre, a lot of students show abnormal (for a public place) interest in their laps. Secondly, it’s really annoying to be the academic recipient of such messages, particularly if they evolve into email ping-poing.  It is generally safe to assume that there are few circumstances encountered whilst listening to organic chemistry that warrant a near instantaneous exchange of emails with an academic elsewhere. It’s quite a clear sign of someone not giving the class their full attention.

Of course this has happened all over the University this morning as exam results have, yet again, been released around 10.30 am when a significant proportion of our students should be paying attention to class not their phones. This would easily be fixed if they were released after 5pm or before 9am.

So I’d suggest to students that if they want to get more out of classes (and hence more out of their tuition fees) that they consider turning their phone off (unless social media is an integral part of the class – it’s obvious when it is, your academic asks you to do something using it). That way, you don’t make rookie email errors by emailing during class (and believe me, you’ll either get the angry response pointing out your rudeness or a very slow response). You also can’t level up on Clash of Clans or Puzzles and Dragons, but they’ll keep just fine until the break. And you could consider it good practice – how else will you go ‘cold turkey’ in a 2 hour exam when they take your phone from you?


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