Finals week Fall 2020

It took a couple days to fill out my work journal again.  Since my last post, I tried to complete “2 hours” of a Node.js online course in LinkedIn Learning.  It took my a full 3 days to get through it.  Part of the delay was that you have to stop the videos to do typing and debugging, so 2 hours is more like 4-6 hours.  But still, with 3 days to kill you’d think I could knock it out in one morning.  Nevertheless, inexplicably and yet predictably, I get interrupted with things to do every few minutes and I can’t often get around to the things I want to work on.

I had signed up for an online IS conference and so I watched some presentations. The presentations for non-teaching tracks were less exciting than I had hoped.  One of the most memorable ones was some early research on using a bot (artificial intelligence) as a teammate (not just a class TA or tutor) in an online team for a class.  Interesting idea, but in practice I still don’t understand how that would work in an IS class.

I don’t wish to complain, but the ticky-tack stuff (filling out forms, surveys, paperwork) of being an academic is maddening because it requires a lot of focus sometimes and chews up all your time.  Case in point, this week I needed to sign a legal document related to a chapter for a book I wrote earlier this year.  I literally had to do it three times, and each time it was super annoying.  For the first time, I printed out the form, filled it out (since it needed a signature), then learned how to use my scanner at home (which is new), then sent it to the party that wanted it.  They responded that a scanned version wouldn’t be acceptable.  Using Adobe Acrobat Pro in its several varieties allows me to fill things out digitally, but I feel like I have lost days of my life over the last few years trying to get it to run on my mac.  One day it works, another it doesn’t, then the license is expired, then the software is expired, etc.  Therefore, my stomach churned at the idea of figuring out how to do this “simple” task.  Fortunately, I remembered that there was an online platform at school that would possibly allow me to fill out the form online.  So, I logged into the school service (which requires login after login and password after password), and then fought with the system for 20 or 30 minutes because I had to figure out how to upload a file and then edit it (there were multiple editing options).  Finally, I got it all filled out, downloaded again to my mac, and sent out digitally.  Then I got a response from the person I sent it to saying that I had filled out the wrong portion of the form.  I had filled out the secondary author portion and not the primary portion (which was pre-filled with what logically seemed to be the logical first author).  So finally, I went through the process again, this time learning how to integrate the online pdf service with my Box account so I could avoid uploading/downloading to a virtual computer in the cloud.  So it’s weird, these things aren’t supposed to be hard, but like I say, they chew up a lot of time and there seems to be an infinite number of headaches like these that distract from the primary job and my interests.

Oh dang, I just realized I forgot to fill out a portion of the form where I include the title of my chapter. Great…..round 4, here I go.

Yesterday we had a school meeting called a town hall.  It is basically a college-wide meeting that happens via Zoom.  It takes an hour and happens regularly on Thursdays and it provides updates on things that affect us like COVID-rates, administrative policies that are being implemented, etc.  Being a religious institution, it is nice that the Dean has some inspirational thoughts that she shares.  On the other hand, as has been said by church leaders, it takes an amazing meeting to be better than no meeting, and for my personal preferences, I usually have a backlog of work to do that is a year’s long and I would prefer no meeting most of the time if I had a choice.  Well, they say the meeting is optional, but over 150 people attend and it feels like every last employee in the college is there and so it doesn’t feel optional.

Since it is finals week, I also got several emails about grades that include things like: can I skip the final, or, what can I do to bring my grade up.  Sometimes it takes a lot of time to research the what-if scenarios I get asked about.  It’s all good though, there weren’t too many inquiries.  Now I’m just waiting on a TA to finish grading the essay question included in the final exam and also some industry judges to finish ranking the student projects and then I can do the final grading for the class.

Work Journal and a Day in the Life of a Professor

Today I had the idea to create a work journal, and to publish it on my blog.  One thing I’ve struggled with as it relates to my public work blog is what to write on here.  Today I was having another struggle, which is trying to determine how best to use my time today, so I figured I might write about that.

Over the course of the semester, each day is like drinking from a firehose, and yet, each day is different.  Most of the time I feel like there is too much to do.  Then, suddenly, I find myself on day 4 of finals with two more to go, and I’m playing the waiting game because I can’t finish grades until that is finished.  How should I use my time? Since I’m always busy, should I just relax? Should I start preparing for my classes that start a month from now? Should I level up my skills in a dozen different interest areas even if they don’t perfectly align with the classes I teach next semester? Should I work on a research project that is currently in process that requires many months of data collection? Just thinking about it gives me analysis paralysis—but that is exactly what a day in a professor’s life is like, too many options, too much to do, and yet nothing specific to do on a day like today.

This week I actually have the opportunity to be in several different conferences simultaneously.  I am signed up for AWS reinvent, I am signed up for our #1 IS academic conference called ICIS, I see that our local Silicon Slopes community has some events going on this week, and I just attended a CIO summit for an organization called SIM (Society for Information Management).  Today I did a little shopping while virtually attending the CIO summit via Zoom.

Here is a list of the key take aways and quotes that I pulled from that meeting:

-Some leaders will attend up to 70 meetings in a short time period during a time of crisis

-Networking is incredibly important for your career in leadership

-Learning about leadership is also incredibly important for your career in leadership

-You should be good at telling a story

-Have a buddy on the board of directors before you make it to the C-suite

-Never let a crisis/disaster go to waste

-The travel industry notes that there is an incredible amount of pent up demand to travel right now

Survey on Student Learning

A student asked me today to answer some questions, by email, about effective student learning. My grammar isn’t clean in these responses, but I thought I’d share them:

  • What do you enjoy most about teaching?

I enjoy feeling a connection to the students, who are amazing people.  I enjoy becoming a part of their circle of friends and seeing them grow.  I enjoy knowing that students have acquired a skillset and become something new.

  • What is your greatest frustration?

My greatest frustration is trying to make things perfect in my own mind.  Sort of like a chef or a movie director who obsesses over their creation, I obsess over the content of my courses.  There are so many options, so many ways to deliver things.  No matter what I do, it can always be better.

  • What do you think makes students successful?

Students who simply do all of the basics that they are asked to do are successful. If I ask them to read, to take a quiz, do a homework assignment, be present in class, and if they do all those things, they can succeed both academically as well as professionally.

  • What advice would you give to a student trying to improve themselves as a student?

With respect to students that already have a 3.7+ GPA who have made it into our program, I don’t think that they have any strictly academic deficiencies that need to be addressed.  I have full confidence that students will read/watch videos, do their assignments, work in groups, and prepare for exams and do so at a very high level.  However, being a student is temporary.  What most students are working towards is becoming employed.  I think that the development a student needs to have as they progress is to:

-retain their ability to be comprehensive in getting work done
-learn to be genuinely interested in some areas and put their passion there
-become honest that some areas, while of interest to others, aren’t their passion
-come to see work in more of a social/human interaction context as opposed to being purely technical/task oriented

  • If you could only give one more lecture what would it be on?

I enjoy what I do each day. It is fun to teach about technical topics.  However, it is sort of like watching a movie: it is entertaining but it isn’t real, it is secondary to the real things.  I think that reality, that being the gospel of Jesus Christ, is really what life is all about.  Everything that happens in our personal lives and at work each day are truly just part of the plan of salvation, and you have to put that first in order to be successful in life.  In every environment that you are in, people who live that truth end up being leaders and making the world a better place for everyone else.

Fall Student Orientation

We have a lot of fun each fall welcoming the new Information Systems students into our program. Here is a karaoke remake of I Want it That Way to IS Will be Your BAE.

BYU Challenges

My first semester as a BYU faculty member has been wonderful. Incredible people at every level, especially the students. The one significant challenge here is how to design courses in such a way that all the former valedictorians that are now in my class can’t all get As. Students do everything they can to get perfect scores in every class, sometimes by studying for other classes if they can get away with it. We faculty members notice and this meme reflects our reaction.

Finding a TA

I need to get a set of lab TAs for next semester. Unfortunately, most students that have taken the course and done well have scheduling conflicts next semester, so they can’t help. I’m getting turned down so often by prior students that I’m feeling like this guy.