Course registration has been going on for next quarter, and my Applied Electronics for Bioengineers course has more students wanting (or needing) to take it than we had planned for. The largest previous class was last spring, with 45 students, so I had planned for a modest increase to 66 students this year (3 lab sections of 22 students each). That filled up before the first round of registration was over, so I squeezed in 6 more students making room for 72 students (3 lab sections of 24 students each). Those slots are now full and there are 12 students on the waiting list. I can’t increase the lab sections any more (24 students in the lab is already crowded as there are only 12 benches).
I can’t add another lab section for several reasons:
- The lab space is shared with another class that has 86 students enrolled (with a capacity of 120) and it took a while to negotiate even the 6 weekly slots for my 3 sections.
- My lecture hall only seats 75. Somewhat surprisingly, there are a couple of larger halls available in the MWF 2:40-3:45 time slot, though only one is a reasonable walking distance from my office (particularly given the amount of stuff I often carry to lectures for demos). (If I’d been looking for a T Th slot, it would have been impossible at most times, as all larger halls are already scheduled.)
- I’m already scheduled for classes, meetings, labs, or office hours 25 hours a week, not counting my Academic Senate committee or my undergrad directors’ meetings (which haven’t been scheduled yet). I’ll probably be in the instructional lab TTh 1pm–7:30pm, making my lab hours be 13 hours a week. (Students will have 190 minutes a week of lab, but there are three back-to-back sections, plus I need to set up and clean up.)
- I don’t have a TA, so I’ll be doing all my own grading (8 problem sets and 5 large design reports for this course, and 2-3 design reports for the freshman design seminar). I will be able to hire undergraduate group tutors to help me answer questions in the lab—having two people in the lab to ask questions of makes a big difference. I think I’ve got three tutors (one per section) lined up, but the official hiring doesn’t happen until some time in December.
The problem comes from a combination of factors:
- requiring this electronics course of all bioengineering students (to reduce the pressure on the EE circuits course)
- growing enrollment in bioengineering
- growing enrollment at UCSC generally, without corresponding growth in instructional resources (instructional labs, classrooms, TAships, … )
- my deliberately not taking up a TAship for this course in previous years, to free up scarce teaching resources for more junior colleagues (though I fear that some of these resources have been squandered on courses taught by other senior faculty who didn’t really need TAs for their classes that were small or had only modest grading loads).
It looks like next year we’ll have to plan around 100 students: the 84 students that seem to be the steady-state demand, plus 12 left over from this year, plus a tiny amount (probably too little) for growth. That means that I’ll need 5 lab sections of 20 next year (or, with squeezing, 4 sections of 24). I don’t think that I’ll be able to do all the grading myself for that large a class, particularly not with supervising that many labs. So I’ll probably need a TA, who will have to come from another department, as none of the grad students in our department have electronics expertise. I might be able to get by with undergraduate group tutors and graders (though I’ll need enough hours from them that this might run into union limits—I believe the TA union considers it improper to have more than 20 hours a week of undergrad assistance).