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"E Mail As A Teaching Tool: More Perks Than Problems"

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2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.1.1 - 5.1.13



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Julie E. Sharp

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2230

E-mail as a Teaching Tool: More Perks than Problems Julie E. Sharp Vanderbilt University


Faculty in the last few years have expanded their teaching capabilities to include the latest advances in technological tools, some of which are time consuming to learn and problematical to use. This paper describes e-mail as a relatively low-tech, effective way to enhance the teaching function. Drawing from my trial-and-error experience, I discuss practical methods for enjoying the perks of using e-mail as a teaching tool, techniques to eliminate a few minor problems, and recommendations to faculty from an informal survey of 31 engineering students.


Engineering professors recently have used various forms and combinations of electronic communication to teach their classes and help students outside of class.1-5 Some of these methods include using the Internet, class Web pages, e-mail, and message boards. Increasingly, it is becoming easier for faculty to “e-teach.”

One software program recently available to my faculty, called Prometheus, seems to be quite useful. It allows faculty without HTML knowledge to create a Web page by answering a series of questions. They can then post handouts, syllabi, reading material, and problem solutions, restricting viewing to only their classes. Students can post questions and responses to a message board and can submit assignments as files to be reviewed and/or graded.

Prometheus, however, requires some faculty training and is not problem-free. Training requires faculty to attend several workshops. Students report technical problems with downloading files and being bumped offline, necessitating multiple log-ins during one transaction. Sometimes a student has trouble understanding the status of a message on the message board, whether it is a new thought or a response to a previous message.6

In contrast, using e-mail as a teaching tool to supplement classroom teaching is a simple, low- tech but effective way to enhance student learning. Whereas six years ago, some faculty still refused to use e-mail,7 now most use it to communicate with colleagues, students, publishers, and grant-funding agencies. Most engineering faculty are familiar with at least one type of e-mail software, so training is unnecessary.

In no way should professors limit themselves to e-mail or think of e-mail as a strategy to rival more sophisticated technological advances. However, sometimes in the rush to try new technological possibilities, one may overlook a simple but effective strategy. Teaching with e- mail requires little effort but produces a big pay-off.

Sharp, J. E. (2000, June), "E Mail As A Teaching Tool: More Perks Than Problems" Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri. 10.18260/1-2--8334

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