Professors adjust to BlitzMail’s uses, abuses

Dartmouth students not only use BlitzMail to keep up with each other, but also to communicate with professors about their classes. While these BlitzMail messages are usually polite, sometimes students can ask their professors seemingly obvious questions or accidentally include them in class BlitzMail lists.

Marisa Taney ’09 described an incident in which she and other students accidentally sent BlitzMail messages about an assignment to a class list which also included the professor.

“I told the prof I have a midterm today and so he said he would give me an extension. He extended the deadline three hours — thanks, like that’s any help,” Taney said she wrote in one of these BlitzMail messages.

Despite the annoyance caused by occasional inappropriate BlitzMail messages, many Dartmouth professors believe the benefits of BlitzMail communication outweigh these drawbacks.

“I think it’s 95 percent very positive what BlitzMail has done,” English professor and department chair Peter Travis said. “It’s easy to communicate about what’s happening tomorrow if changes need to be made.”Travis says he has received unusual blitz messages, however, and recalls an instance when a student blitzed him asking for local directions. “I thought he should have used a travel guide,” Travis said.

Professors also said that BlitzMail proves to be a particularly useful communication tool in large classes.

“I can blitz new articles or readings to an entire class with much greater ease than a few years ago,” geography professor Richard Wright said.

While professors enjoy the convenience of blitzing their students, some said it made them less organized.

“Instead of having to plot things out more precisely via syllabus and remember to cover everything that needs covering, I can always mop up communication messes by firing off class-roster e-mails,” English professor Shelby Grantham said. “Part of me finds that helpful, in that changes are part of life and learning, often productive parts. At the same time, another part of me feels I am growing sloppier in my class planning and class preparation.”Professors explained that although students often use a casual tone they rarely receive BlitzMail messages they consider improper.

“Students ask me silly questions. I don’t think people ask inappropriately toned things, just questions that they could figure out themselves,” Herron said. “Twenty years ago they would have figured them out themselves. If someone had to get up and walk in a snowstorm to my office, they wouldn’t ask these questions.”

Professors have also noticed a rise in the number of messages they receive.

“One worry is now the volume of e-mail I receive. When you are overwhelmed with communications, it’s harder to respond in a timely manner and it’s harder to maintain formality,” Wright said.

For students who might feel uncomfortable meeting with a professor in person, however, BlitzMail provides a less confrontational alternative.

“Students who might otherwise feel shy coming to my office because they think that it’s formal feel much more at ease and feel better communicating via e-mail,” Travis said.

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