07 May 2022

Rapid prepping of dissertation presentations

We need to set deadlines before we know what the timetable will be. And one of the biggest things in my diary towards the end of term are the dissertation presentations. We set a deadline for the students to upload their presentation slides, and then the actual presentations are a bit later. I had put the deadline a week before I wanted the actual presentations to take place. I need a bit of time to get organised; when we have a conference, ideally all presentations are organised by session and easily accessible. And that needs time! Additionally, I normally create a conference booklet with all the abstract the students have written of their talk. And that needs some time as well. But a week should do it.

The deadline was on the Wednesday, at noon. And the presentations ended up being scheduled the next Tuesday and Wednesday. That Monday was a bank holiday Monday! And on the preceding Thursday I would be in the field, and on that Friday I would have the presentation of both my first and second year students. So there wasn't much time to get ready!

As soon as the deadline had passed I first downloaded all the presentations and put them into dedicated folders on OneDrive. I renamed them all with the last name of the student who made them. Most of these presentations are called "dissertation presentation" and it is difficult to find your way in that. I gave the various chairs of the various sessions access to their dedicated folder, and hoped all would be well.

The next thing I had to do was make this conference booklet. I made one for each session (I had 10 sessions in total); there was no point in giving people abstract of presentations they would not attend. But it was impossible to get it all done before the weekend. I was absolutely swamped with emails from students about the upcoming presentations, and I also had to be ready for the other presentations and the field day. And I had a book launch in the evening.

I took the Saturday off, but that meant all the work had to be done on the Sunday. I wasn't keen, but it had to be done! I finished all the booklets, and then I needed to print them. And I needed to print mark sheets. And feedback sheets. A lot of printing!

When everything was ready to print I went to campus. I thought the most efficient thing to do was just go to the main campus and print somewhere there. When I was already on my way, though, I realised it was a Sunday and that on the main campus, I didn't have out of hours access to the buildings. That was a bit of a bummer. As I had counted on university computers, I have not brought my laptop, so going to my office would not be an option.

I parked at one of the nearest buildings and checked if I could get in. I couldn't! But on the other side of the road was the library. Surely that would be open at all hours? It wasn't.

Now what? I decided to try Pontio; it is, after all, not only a University building but also a cultural centre. Surely they were film screenings that day, and the door would be open. And it was. No where to find a printer? I checked the lecture theatre I had only recently been in for a book launch was open, but it didn't have a printer. Where would one be? I know there were computers on the top floor so I went there. And there are indeed found a printer. So I grabbed an empty computer and got to work.

Printing booklets for 10 sessions, and mark sheets for 25 members of staff marking 178 students, and feedback sheets for all these students, was a bit of a job. It was 4 o'clock when I left. And then I went home and had to get online in order to email all the staff exactly what they could expect when they would show up for their session. And I had to put the finishing touches on making piles for all the sessions: the correct booklets, the correct mark sheets, and the correct number of feedback sheets. And by then it was dinner time. And my head was spinning and I didn't want to work anymore. But I felt good that all the paperwork was now ready. Bring on the actual presentations!

When they will be over, it will be time to get down to do some marking. I have some earlier marking left to do, and of course after the dissertation presentations come the actual dissertations, they need to be marked as well. But for me the big thing is these presentations! Watch this space to see how they went…

Stack of conference booklets

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