Frequently Asked Questions

This is an evolving collection of my answers to typical questions that I receive throughout the semester. I have written this document as a policy statement to ensure transparency and consistency to the ways in which these issues are handled in my classes. Please keep in mind that I may make minor adjustments to this FAQ from time to time. Also note: failure to read this FAQ or failure to raise concerns about its content by the second meeting of our class does not free you from the consequences of this policy.

1. When are your office hours?
2. Can you meet me at a time not listed on your office hours?
3. Can I talk to you right before or after class?
4. How quickly will you respond to my email?
5. Did you get my email?
6. What do you mean by email etiquette?
7. What do you mean by close the loop?
8. If I submit a paper via email, what format can I use?
9. Will you review a draft of my paper?
10. Is it still possible to get a certain grade?
11. Why can't I access the online gradebook?
12. Did (or will) I miss anything important in class?
13. Are we taking a quiz today?
14. Can I make up a missed quiz?
15. Can I have extra credit?
16. Do you add five points to every final exam?
17. Can I take an incomplete?
18. Can I use a laptop, cell phone, or other mobile device in class?
19. Will you sign my grade-check?
20. Can you write me a letter of recommendation?


1. When are your office hours?

My office hours are noted on first page of the syllabus and on the first page of the course website - and you may sign up for a block (sign up only for one at a time, please) by visiting my sign-up site. NOTE: Because my automated sign-up system relies on Google Calendar, check your Google Calendar settings to ensure that you're in the correct time-zone.

2. Can you meet me at a time not listed on your office hours?

Maybe, but there are no guarantees. My professional duties include classroom preparation, academic scholarship, committee meetings, and various other university responsibilities - not to mention the time I spend in the classroom. Thus I have a full schedule. While I will try to make accommodations in exceptional cases, I cannot promise an extra office-visit opportunity beyond the ones that I offer.

3. Can I talk to you right before or after class?

No and yes. I love to chat with students. However, I dedicate my attention before class to course preparation. Indeed my first priority when I walk into class is set-up of any technologies that will augment my teaching and aid your learning. So, unless I’m clearly done with my preparations, please don’t ask to chat. Right after class, I may have a few moments for brief questions, but I cannot address lengthy issues at that time.

4. How quickly will you respond to my email?

If you submit a clear and succinct question, I will endeavor to answer it within 24 hours. Indeed, I will try to respond to your question immediately upon reading it. Even so, I recommend that you don’t expect rapid response to email questions sent after 5 p.m. on weekdays - or sent any time on weekends or holidays. I will respond to those messages early in the next business day.

5. Did you get my email?

I respond to every student email that I receive, but due to the complexities of electronic communication your message may not reach my in-box. If you send me a message and don’t hear from me in a reasonable time (see question above), double-check the email address that you used and try again. Further problems? Leave a message on my office phone and we’ll diagnose the email problem together. Of course, I am more likely to respond meaningfully to your electronic communication if you follow basic rules of email etiquette.

6. What do you mean by email etiquette?


First, please write a specific subject line (not just “help!”) - and state your name and class in your message. Second, keep your questions brief and focused. I receive several dozen emails a day and do not have time to parse lengthy missives. Third, unless you are starting a new topic thread, always reply to my most recent email to you - including the text of our previous messages. Doing so helps me understand the context of your current message. Fourth, check your messages for spelling, grammar, and punctuation. While some appropriate degree of informality is acceptable - and we all make the occasional typo - emails related to our class constitute professional communication, and they require reasonable editing for accuracy, brevity, and clarity. Finally, do not forget to “close the loop.”

7. What do you mean by close the loop?

The person who initiates an email exchange and receives a reply (particularly when the reply is an answer to a question) should close the loop by acknowledging that reply. A simple, “Cool,” or “I got it,” or “Thanks” is sufficient. But students who fail to close the loop with me - who send me emails, receive replies, and fail to acknowledge them - may find that my responses to their future queries will be less forthcoming.

8. If I submit a paper via email, what format can I use?

The default expectation is for papers to be submitted by hand in class. If exceptions are made (by mutual agreement) you may select one of the following formats: doc, docx, or .rtf. Difficulty making the switch? Use your program's export tool.

9. Will you review a draft of my paper?

I cannot serve as your editor or proofreader, but I will provide feedback on your draft work under certain circumstances. Initially, I will only look at drafts during my office hours. Please do not send me a draft via email and expect me to review it without you being present or at least speaking with me on the phone. Secondly, I will offer a strict line-by-line review of spelling, grammar, and other mechanics for one page, but I will not parse through every page of your draft in search of errors. That is your job. If you need help with the details of academic writing, I recommend that you visit the SJSU Writing Lab. So what can I offer? I will read your draft to determine whether it meets the basic expectations of the assignment, I will comment on its general composition, and I will answer specific questions that you have.

10. Is it still possible to get a certain grade?


Students often ask this when they’re concerned that their low performance on previous assignments means that they may not be able to earn certain grade, regardless of their intentions to improve their standing. Fortunately, you can discover your status by checking the online gradebook. Simply add the maximum score for each assignment that remains to be completed to the points you already have, and you’ll know how many points out of 500 you can earn. The syllabus offers a list of point values and their associated grades.

11. Why can’t I access the online gradebook?

This is usually an easy fix when you perform three checks (and, of course, presuming that our class uses an online gradebook). First, check that you’re typing the name you wrote on your first quiz (or first assignment in a class with no quiz); that’s where I get the names to place in the gradebook. Second, check that you’re using the correct PIN [password] that you created for this class. Third, check that you’re capitalizing your name properly. The first letter of your first and last name should be capitalized; the other letters should be lower-case. Thus, I would type Andrew Wood - not andrew wood or ANDREW WOOD. If those checks fail to work, email me. The problem might be on my end.

12. Did (or will) I miss anything important in class?

I’ll let you in on a professional secret: this question frustrates faculty members more than most any other. Every professor thinks that their class is important. Asking this question implies that we waste time in class, and I don’t imagine you want to cast that aspersion. Having said that, I certainly understand that you don’t want to get behind after missing a day. Thus I place the readings, activities, and assignments on the syllabus and website. I also note any changes to our schedule (and changes to our schedule are extraordinarily rare) on the website. To get notes or learn more about specific material covered in a class that you have missed - or plan to miss - ask a colleague.

13. Are we taking a quiz today?


In classes where quizzes are assigned, all quizzes are unannounced. Please do not ask me to make a special announcement.

14. Can I make up a missed quiz?

No. In classes where quizzes are assigned, quizzes are typically offered at the beginning of class, when you are expected to be in your seat. If you show up late or miss the quiz entirely, you cannot make that quiz up. Fortunately, I offer seven quizzes and post your four highest grades in my final gradebook. That means that you can miss three quizzes and still earn 100/100 points on the quiz component of your grade by earning 25/25 in the remaining four quizzes.

15. Can I have extra credit?

No. I’ll let you in on another professional secret: In student/teacher translation, I interpret “extra credit” as “extra grading,” and I do plenty of grading as it is. I do not have time to grade another assignment than the ones I have already created. Moreover, I am certain that you have plenty of opportunity to earn all 500 points available in this class. I work hard to ensure that you do. Extra credit would simply mean that you get more chances to earn points than your colleagues, and that is not fair to them or to me.

16. Do you add five points to every final exam?

Yes. I add five points to every final exam at the end of the semester (but only in undergraduate classes where I assign a written final exam - and, in the case of humanities honors classes where two final tests are administered, only for one of those exams). This is not extra credit; this is insurance against the risk that one or two questions might have been poorly written, or in case you discover a new concern about a grade you received earlier in the semester. Given that we are generally unable to perform a complete analysis of these sorts of questions at the end of the semester, I add five points to your final exam score to ensure fairness. But I will not add one point more. So if you need another point to get to the next highest grade, remember: you already receive a five-point adjustment in your favor.

17. Can I take an incomplete?

Yes, in some cases. The university catalog states that an incomplete can only be given late in the semester when unforeseen circumstances (military deployment, family emergency, medical crisis) force you to halt your coursework. Under those circumstances, I will grant an incomplete. This means that you and I will fill out a contract specifying your assignments and due dates (none of which will extend into a forthcoming finals week). I should also note that failure to manage your course-load does not constitute suitable justification for the granting of an incomplete. Due dates and assignment descriptions are announced on the first day of class, and you need to plan accordingly.

18. Can I use a laptop, cell phone, or other mobile device in class?

Yes, presuming that you use them responsibly. Learn more by reading my Mobile Device Policy.

19. Will you sign my grade-check?

Yes. While I prefer that you email me in advance, I'm happy to sign your form after class. Simply print-off your most recent online gradebook summary and bring it to me. 

20. Can you write me a letter of recommendation?

Yes, if I have time and if you meet the criteria for this service. Learn more by reading my Recommendation Request Page.