• Confessions of a Community College Dean

    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.


Friday Fragments

Planning, learning communities and the unexpected return of seating charts.

September 24, 2021

From the responses to yesterday’s post, it sounds like other colleges are dealing with the same uncertainties that we are. In trying to put together a spring schedule, there are so many unknowables at this point that it’s hard to claim an obvious warrant for any particular strategy.

That’s both reassuring and not. It’s reassuring in the sense that it sounds like we aren’t missing anything obvious. But it doesn’t really offer guidance.

My thanks to everyone who responded. It seems like we’re all facing variations on the same theme.


Along the lines of asking readers for wisdom, has anyone out there had success building a learning community of one on-site class and one asynchronous online class?

I’m thinking it might get around the time-slot problem that so often imperils learning communities. (As in, many students who can take one of the two classes have a conflict with the other one.) But it may be that the students who seek out learning communities tend not to be the ones who take online classes.

Any light anyone could shed would be appreciated.


I never used seating charts as a professor. I never saw the need. And as an administrator, I had never asked anyone else to use a seating chart. I didn’t stop anyone who wanted to use one, but I considered it a matter of personal taste.

This semester, I sent out a message to the faculty asking them to do seating charts.

The reason is contact tracing. If we get a report of a student who tested positive, we need to know which students were near that student in class so we can contact them. It’s early enough in the semester that folks are still learning names, so we can’t rely reliably on memory. Hence, seating charts.

Two years ago, if you had asked me if I’d ever send a message to the entire faculty asking that they record who sat where, I would have either laughed or looked perplexed. Yet, here we are.

If we don’t know who was next to a student, we have to notify the entire class. That has ripple effects across other classes, as students quarantine and await test results. With seating charts, we can reduce the ripple effects dramatically. If only four students have to quarantine, rather than 25, we’ve reduced the impact on many other classes. We just have to know the right four.

File this one under “I never would have thought of that …”


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