Thursday, September 16, 2010

students and email

I know a lot of people have off-limit hours during which they don't respond to student emails. Many people only email a few times a day. I'm more of a "see what's in the box every time I switch activities" kind of person, which I know is not as efficient but sometimes lets me jump on things that come in, in time to help someone out or benefit myself. I'm not so much worried about my time spent on email as I'm thinking about the fact that I generally respond to student emails whenever they show up, and I wonder if I'm cultivating this "immediate gratification" attitude in my students as a result.

My reasoning is that I tend to lose track of email if I don't respond within a reasonable amount of time (a few hours, at most). Things otherwise get buried and I never get back to them. I want my students to feel valued, and one of my personal pet peeves is people who don't reply to/who lose track of emails, so I try to respond in a timely manner. Often, that means I have to do it as soon as it shows up.

People tell me that I should just make email folders and sort things to be dealt with later. I really think that I spend the same amount of time replying to a student's question as I would filing that email into a folder somewhere, so I figure I should just reply and get it over with.

What it all comes down to is that I just wrote back to a student at 11:45 at night...and I can imagine that some other professor someday will be cursing me when a student shows up one morning complaining that their midnight emails had not yet received a response.

Am I the enemy?


Alyssa said...

I don't think so, but that's because I'm the same way. I don't like having a bunch of unread/unanswered emails in my inbox. Mostly I'll answer them when I read them, unless there's something I have to do and/or think about before responding (or if the person I'm emailing tends to take a long time to respond, I'll purposely take longer! LOL).

I figure do whatever works for you - in the end you're going to spend the same amount of time on email anyway. At least doing it like this breaks it up a bit!

JaneB said...

Me too! It works for me, and that's what really matters.

I once replied to a student at 3am... well, I was up, and it was a small task that I could DO. Delaying and organising is all very well, but for ME it takes longer and once an email gets onto page 2-3 of the inbox, it's much less likely to be dealt with, which isn't fair on students...