Handling Electronic Communication

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[Last updated January 2005 by Brandon Burr]


What are the electronic ways to communicate with the students and how to use them.

There are three electronic ways to access all the students:

  1. With a mailing list of all the class
  2. Via the newsgroup
  3. With a web page

The newsgroup looks very nice, but many students forget to check it. We strongly encourage you to maintain a class mailing list (see the Courses website), where to send important annoucements (change in class or office hours schedule, corrections on homeworks, etc).

Include the newsgroup in the class mailing list, as the address su.class.csXXX@news (i.e. the name of the newsgroup with hyphens instead of dots, at this special news server).  That way, the newsgroup will automatically archive all announcements.

Questions via email

Provide the students with one and only one address to send their email to, and take turns to reply to the email (whether the instructor is part of the turns or not is his choice). Email load varies wildly depending on the number of days left before the homework is due.

Try to keep the response time as short as possible (2 hours). If a question is too conceptual, don't hesitate to ask the student to come to office hours, but in this case always remind him how to find when the office hours happen (e.g. tell him to look on the web page).

For taking turns, a good solution is to create an account on a special machine, and have a script that automatically forwards the emails to the staff on duty (see Class Email account). <<The department or Leland should provide this standard>>

See also the TA information sheet for good advice on replying to student email.


See the TA information sheet about the creation of a newsgroup. Don't send crucial or time dependent information on the newsgroup only, as many students don't check it regularly.

Web page

Here is a model web page that is simple and contains all the important information (Would be happy to accept contributions for other models). For more fancy web pages, select models everywhere and nowhere.

Most likely, you will want to set up your page on www-leland. These are the instructions for doing so.

Wherever your page is, make sure it is referenced:

At last,

Handouts on the web

If you put handouts on the Web, it is a good idea to put a pointer to a page that indicates how to view and print these handouts. Feel free to point to http://www.stanford.edu/group/sutacs/print-info.html, which I will try to maintain as well as possible. There are named tags on this page that you can point directly to (e.g. put a pointer to this page followed by #postscript to go directly to the postscript section).

The temptation is great to have a neat list of available handouts in web format, but it is a hassle to maintain. Often, in the middle of the quarter, the TA starts to delay a little bit the update of the web page because he doesn't have time. It is less work, and nearly as practical, to have a separate "handouts" directory with a link to it from the main web page. Just toss in the handout files there and they will automatically appear, without you having to edit any webbery.

Don't post solutions on the web/net. Students are incredibly good at browsing the web to find predigested solutions to anything you ask. Don't mess up the courses of everybody else in the world.

Leland class account and authorizations

Leland account: every instructor receives a from from sweet-hall where they specify:print quota, disk quote, and email account of TAs (Leland).

-> Sweet changes the permissions on the cluster.

-> The TA can then access and change the class web page

The form is .............. in /usr/class/reg.form in Leland. If your instructor forgot, and he probably did, you can fill it in yourself (make cc: to the instructor to remind him how lazy he is).

Say anonymous ftp should be authorized if you would like auditors (all your fans in the World) that don't have a Leland account to be able to access your stuff. (advertise ftp.stanford.edu as the ftp machine -- it is the same as Leland by the way)

Once you start modifying the class file, keep everything from the previous class in a new subdirectory (say fall96 directory) which is made world accessible.. Because students who have taken incomplete will probably need some data. [[What if it contains solutions?]] The new web page should also have a pointer to the old web page.

Miscellaneous Stuff (to be sorted)

Students often ask questions that are not in your realm, you may want to have a pointer to this software questions page in your web page.

Put a pointer to spcd.stanford.edu web page in your web page. Put the link to the web page that spcd maintains for your class. It has the schedule of broadcasting for your class. Very good. Where to find the videotapes too is there.

On your web page, spend some time at the beginning of the quarter, to find a few links on the web relevant to your subject, that will allow interested students to get more food for thought. Examples of useful links would be:

Don't put the course description on the top of your web page. The goal of the web page is to be useful primarilly to students who are taking the class, not as an advertising to the outside world that tells what the class is about. The Stanford bulletin says so. You can have a separate page with this information (put a back link in this case).

Textbook: Many textbooks have their errata on the web. Check out the publisher's page and the authors' page.

Wanna put course slides on the web (from Powerpoint or SliTeX, or Presentapro)? Ask Toli, he has great scripts (here is a demo of what he did with a postscript file of slides).